When Burnout Crash! was first announced, Richard Franke, the creative director, described it as a mix of pinball and game shows. Not exactly the first things that come to mind when you think of the Burnout franchise, but as it turns out, he wasn't that far off the mark. Burnout Crash! has little to do with the classic crash mode in the earlier franchise games, but it does make for a nifty $10 time-waster.
Burnout Crash! is played from a top-down perspective, and the whole point is to cause as much mayhem as possible in a limited amount of time. You start off by driving into the intersection, collide with a vehicle and rack up the damage. The strategy comes in vehicle placement as well as timing. Wreck the cars in the right spot, and the next vehicles into the intersection will simply collide with the existing wreck, resulting in a massive pileup.
The timing aspect has to do with the use of your crashbreaker power-up, which is essentially a bomb attached to your car. As soon as you've wrecked enough vehicles, you can blow yourself up, automatically crashing any cars within the blast radius. You'll also catch a limited amount of air. So long as you're off the ground, you can control the movement of your chassis. This allows you to strategically place your car in order to block an oncoming vehicle or to prepare for a chain reaction.
Chain reactions can earn you points, but they also have the side effect of clearing an intersection. If you blow up near already wrecked vehicles, they'll be set ablaze and eventually blow up themselves. When they blow up, they automatically crash any other cars in range (just like your crashbreaker), but then they clear from the board. This means you have to work harder to ensure the next cars up don't escape, but at the same time, there are also occasions when you want the intersection to be temporarily clear. For example, letting ambulances through safely nets you a health bonus.
If all of this sounds like there is a lot going on behind the scenes, that's because there is. When you first sit down with Burnout Crash!, it feels a lot like a pachinko machine, where luck has more to do with skill. After you play around with it and experiment with some of the different car types, the underlying systems start to come into focus and you realize that earning a high score is all about proper planning. You need to anticipate the oncoming vehicles and block their path before they even appear on the screen. Once you can see them, it's often too late to react. Thankfully, Burnout Crash! gives you plenty of warning.
Every intersection in the game varies in design, but one constant is the oncoming car indicator. Any time a vehicle is due to come on-screen, a small yellow arrow appears in advance. If you keep an eye out for these arrows, you'll never be surprised by the traffic patterns.
In addition to direct interaction, Burnout Crash! also rewards players who have a basic understanding of pool. Just as you use a cue ball to hit other balls into the pocket in pool, you can use crashed cars as cue balls and send them careening into traffic. Doing this consistently requires a little practice, but it's not too difficult to learn.
All of the crash action is contained in three different modes: Road Trip, Rush Hour and Pile Up. Road Trip challenges you to crash a predetermined number of cars, though if you let five of them escape unscathed, it is game over. Rush Hour doesn't have any limits on the number of cars that can get away, but it does have a time limit. You get 90 seconds to cause as much damage as possible. Pile Up gives you a limited amount of traffic to earn a high score. Letting vehicles escape here won't end the round, but it will lower your multiplier.
While all of these modes are fun, they all have distinct ends. Even Road Trip eventually ends of its own accord, with a level-clearing special feature. Having some sort of unlimited mode where you can keep playing as long as you keep the vehicles crashing would have been a huge plus. As it is, Burnout Crash! can only offer up entertainment in bite-sized doses.
Another minor annoyance has to do with the Autolog system. It's a nice way to potentially find other players via the "friend of a friend" system, and the turn-based challenges hearken back to the days of play-by-e-mail games. The downside is that all of the leaderboards appear to be hosted on Autolog, so if you don't want to sign up for an EA account, you don't get to see your friends' scores. Burnout Crash! also doesn't seem to have any concept of "not interested" when it comes to the EA account. If you don't sign up for Autolog, it will nag you to do so every single time you start the game.
Finally, there are the voice actors. The music within Burnout Crash! is surprisingly catchy, sounding vaguely Europop-ish, but the announcers could be ejected from the game with furious anger and they certainly wouldn't be missed.
Burnout Crash! is an odd entry in the Burnout franchise. On the one hand, it makes for an enjoyable casual title and is sure to be appeal to the non-core gamer crowd because of its pick-up-and-play nature. On the other hand, core fans of the franchise are likely to be disappointed because it's not the Burnout game they were expecting. With that said, if you can leave your preconceptions at the door, Burnout Crash! just might end up as your go-to title for quick gaming sessions.
More articles about Burnout Crash!