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PS2 Review - 'Burnout 3: Takedown'

by Agustin on Sept. 17, 2004 @ 2:17 a.m. PDT

Burnout 3 takes the series even further, now featuring a unique 'crash and burn' racing concept and a one-of-a-kind special effects engine that delivers spectacular visuals. The intensity heats up as players race, and often crash, their way through oncoming traffic in an attempt to claim the top spot.

Genre : Racing
Developer: Criterion
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: September 7, 2004

Buy 'BURNOUT 3: Takedown':
Xbox | PlayStation 2

This generation of games has been filled with sequels from last generation’s consoles. It has even been filled with an uncanny number of sequels and remakes of games from two, even three generations ago. The amount of new genre-defining franchises seems to have dwindled substantially since the Saturn/Playstation/Nintendo 64 days. Perhaps this is not true for some games; the people who have eagerly looking forward to the new Ico, Pikmin or Jak game would disagree with me for sure. But it cannot be denied that established franchises from the past receive much more hype in the gaming community.

Just ahead of the impending home release of the highly anticipated old-school update Outrun 2 comes Burnout 3: Takedown, the latest entry in the popular and well-respected Criterion racing series. While I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the new Outrun (is it possible for anyone to review Burnout 3 without mentioning this game?), Burnout 3, even as the third game in the series, seems like a much fresher concept. Besides, the game is in my hands right now; why think about a possibly fantastic filet mignon when I’ve got one of the best steaks I’ve ever had right in front of me? Burnout 3 is one of the best non-simulation racers ever made. It could do without some of the extra fluff, but it’s the only console racer you’ll need for months to come (unless Outrun 2 ends up stealing its crown).

This. Game. Plays. Like. A. Dream. Control is the most important factor in any racing game, and Burnout 3 has some of the best controlling arcade-style vehicles this side of Daytona USA. Handling can make or break a racer. It broke Speed Devils. It broke Spirit of Speed (how’s that for an inane reference?). But it’s what makes the Burnout series worlds better than ninety-nine percent of its competitors. When you screw up in this game, it’s because your hold on the handling isn’t perfect yet. The code here is squeaky clean. There aren’t many bugs to go around, much to the chagrin of A.I.-blaming controller breakers everywhere!

Burnout games are not just about straight racing, thought. Players are handsomely rewarded for tormenting their opponents, and we’re not just talking about nearly meaningless points and ratings here. The backbone of the game is in mastering boost management. So how do you gain boost power? By employing a selection of tormenting methods of bumping, grinding, and all-out smashing into opposing racers. Depending on how well you inspire your friends and computer opponents want scratch out their eyeballs with frustration, the game rewards you with less or more boost power (which you activate by holding R1). How’s that for making the competition a bit more cutthroat than in most racers? I haven’t been this angry at my friends since our heated Wipeout XL link-up matches back in the day.

Competition is the best way to gain boost power, but you’ll be rewarded for plain old good (flashy) driving techniques, too. Mastering technical skills like drifting will get players double the benefits in the race, since they will be making good use of an advanced concept and receiving a little extra boost on the way. And if your lead is nicely secured, you can play around with funky maneuvers like squeezing in between two cars without touching them – I become teary eyed with thoughts of Crazy Taxi whenever I do this – and there you have it, yet another tangible reward for attempting to master the game!

Of the new features in for this edition, the Aftertouch is probably the most useful. By pressing R1 during a crash sequence you can add Aftertouch to guide your vehicle. Through this, you can continue gaining burnout points by smashing into other vehicles or pulling off controlled slides. With practice, even crashes aren’t for naught. It feels good to turn something as hopeless as a wreck into something at least slightly useful. I’m surprised other racing games haven’t tried to employ something like this before! Well, mark these words: they will now.

Burnout 3 doesn’t look nearly as good as it plays, at least on the Playstation 2. While most of the textures are high-quality, the anti-aliasing problems are very obvious in the stark angles of the cars. The game does keep a very steady framerate, however. It’s fast and smooth, just as a racer should be.

My major (personal) complaint is with the sound – the music, specifically. The sound effects are perfect. I just have a problem with the extremely irritating and appallingly overused KROQ DJ Stryker. Music is relegated to one of two categories: archetypical pulsing techno racing game sounds, or (more often) atrocious pop-punk. I know a fair amount of people enjoy this type of music, but many of us (perhaps we’re the majority?) do not, and while maybe a minority of us detest the sound enough to reach for the mute button every time it plays in our videogames. I just wish a greater variety of music was made available. I don’t mind soundtracks that have even a large number of songs I don’t like; I just want some variety to keep me sane! Even my favorite game soundtracks, those of the Jet Set Radio series, have more than a handful of bad eggs. But the variety of songs is great enough that I can still enjoy the sounds as an entity. Not so with the two-track mindedness of Burnout 3. It would have made the game quite a bit more pleasurable to play through for someone who is turned off by the sounds of the bands present.

And Stryker… well, let’s just say that his irritating diction is about as horrid as listening to that guy from New Found Glory sing.

But despite my whiny complaints about the musical choice of the publisher, I must say this: gameplay is king, and Burnout 3 definitely has the crown. The rest, as they say, is gravy in comparison.

Score: 9.0/10

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