Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Criterion Games
Release Date: September 13, 2005
Buy 'BURNOUT LEGENDS': PSP
The Burnout series has gotten better over each of its installments, arguably hitting its prime in its third iteration for consoles, Burnout 3: Takedown. Thanks to the ridiculous sense of speed, aggressive driving that isn't just encouraged, but rewarded, smooth graphics, and slick presentation, gamers found very few reasons to eject the disc from their consoles.
Burnout Legends marks the first time the series appears in portable form, and thanks to the PSP's hardware, it makes the translation very well. Think of Legends as a "greatest hits" album, as the game contains tracks, cars, and game modes from the first three titles in the series which helps bring newcomers to the series up to date on this incredible series. Burnout Legends is arguably the best game out for the PSP right now, bar none.
For the uninitiated, Burnout leaves realistic simulation and licensed vehicles for other games to handle, offering instead a high-speed arcade adrenaline rush unlike any other. As you race, your boost meter fills up as you take more risks. Driving in the oncoming lane, nearly missing other vehicles, and drifting will fill up your boost meter a decent amount. Of course, the real fun comes in taking down your fellow racers by slamming them into walls or other cars, vans, or trucks. Do this, and your boost meter itself increases in capacity, up to four times its original size. Boost is essential to winning races or even just remaining competitive: there's hardly ever a reason not to be boosting (save for sharp turns or oncoming busses of doom).
Of course, sooner or later, you're going to crash spectacularly. After about 10 seconds in a race, it becomes abundantly clear why Criterion didn't bother trying to license real cars or trucks for Burnout: there's no way that any respectable car manufacturer would let their products get smashed and blown up so completely. Crashing is rarely a solo affair, as you take entire stretches of highway with you as you tumble out of control, turning your once proud vehicle into a hunk of junk in the space of a few seconds.
When you do crash (never if), you lose a section of your boost meter. Don't be too quick to go crying to your insurance agent, though, as there is life after death in Burnout Legends. By pressing the boost button (which defaults to the R shoulder button) after you crash, you'll enter impact time, which is essentially bullet-time for cars. Now, before you groan at the thought of this overused gaming cliché, hear me out: while in impact time, you can nudge your wreck in specific directions with the control pad or analog nub. If timed correctly, you can steer your once-proud vehicle into an opponent, which rewards you with an aftertouch takedown, doesn't knock off a section of boost meter, and fills you with a genuine sense of awesomeness.
The main event in Legends is the Burnout World Tour, which has you racing around tracks across the globe, unlocking new cars and series of cars as you earn gold medals in each of the 175 events. Events aren't just limited to regular races, either. Road rages have you speeding around a track for a set amount of time with the goal of taking down as many racers as needed to earn the gold medal. Pursuit mode is similar to road rage, except you play the role of an officer of the law who has to chase down a speeding felon. Pursuit is a holdover from Burnout 2, and while a good mode at the time, has been eclipsed by Road Rage mode (which debuted in Burnout 3). Basically, it isn't as immediately rewarding or satisfying as Road Rage is. Eliminators are similar to normal races, with the stipulation that at the start of a new lap, the racer in last place is eliminated, leaving only the top two cars to jockey for position for the final lap. Burning Lap events stick you on a track, give you unlimited boost, a time to beat in order to medal, and leave the rest up to you.
If you should ever have your fill of racing, Legends also has crash mode, just like its console siblings. Crash modes simply sets you on a collision course with massive amounts of traffic and challenges you to cause the most damage possible (measured in dollars). Boosting and impact time are still at your disposal in crash mode, as well as a new addition, the crash breaker. After wrecking into a set amount of vehicles (it varies with each challenge), the crash breaker becomes available at the press of a button, allowing you to detonate your car when you see fit. This carries both the benefit of explosive damage on the spot and extra momentum to use in impact time. All of these elements, coupled with cash bonuses and cash multipliers strategically placed on the course, will aid you in causing property damage in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Burnout Legends looks fantastic. Granted, it doesn't look quite as good as its console counterparts, but the differences are negligible, especially at the high speeds you'll be careening down the tracks at. In fact, that's one of Legends' greatest accomplishments: it has the same convincing sense of speed on the PSP as it does on consoles. It may not be readily apparent, but as you unlock the faster classes of cars, you'll know. Nothing beats driving a Formula 1 racer down the highway at speeds just shy of 200 mph. The cars have quite a bit of detail to them and reflect the light realistically off of their surfaces. They smash up real good, too! The only minor complaint is that it can be difficult to see oncoming traffic in time to veer out of the way on the PSP's screen, especially when on the go. All things considered, you'd be hard pressed to find a better-looking game on the PSP right now.
The controls are as tight as they need to be for a game that requires quick reaction time. The X button accelerates (never let go!), square is the brake, triangle changes the camera from in-car to behind car, and the circle button is your horn. The horn doesn't serve much of a purpose, seeing as how you're traveling too fast for any cars to hear it in time, but it's there if you get bored. The right shoulder button controls your boost while the left offers a rear-view mirror perspective to prepare you for aggressive incoming opponents.
Wrecks sound as good as they look in Legends, and the rest of the sound design is well put together, too. One thing that may annoy you (not to mention the person sitting next to you on the plane, bus, or subway) is the high-pitched screeching noise the cars' tires make when they turn. Luckily, sound effects can be quickly and easily turned down at anytime in the pause menu. Since this game is published by EA, it has EA Trax, which means you can hear bands like Goldfinger, OK Go, and Yellowcard while racing. If this type of music isn't your thing, you can go into the options and turn off selected songs from playing or all of them, if you prefer.
With 175 single player events and ad-hoc multiplayer (support for infrastructure mode would've been great) for up to four players, Burnout Legends will likely stay in your PSP for a good long time.
The last game I absolutely needed for my PSP was Lumines. I've taken a pass on most everything else to come out since launch, but Burnout Legends is a must-have. For it to shine brightest in the most crowded genre on the PSP is quite the accomplishment. It's easily recommended to all gamers, even those who don't necessarily like racers. Trust me, everyone will find something to love when they pick up Burnout Legends.
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