First off, a small disclaimer here. I loved Burnout Revenge! I’ve never been one for traditional racing games (except this Colin McRae Rally game we used to play at LANs with rather hilarious driving physics for some of the cars), instead preferring stuff like Carmageddon and Mario Kart, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Burnout series holds a certain appeal to me with its wanton sabotage and spectacular crashes.
It was however not until Burnout Revenge (available for PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360) that I truly got my eyes open for the series, mainly due to the Crash mode. I could spend hours going from course to course, finding the right car and setting up the nigh-perfect trajectory (often by accident, I’ll admit) to cause a massive pileup with big explosions that would earn me a gold medal. I’ve said several times that if only they took that mode and stretched it into an entire game I would buy it in a heartbeat.
So when I was informed last week that they had indeed done so already, and I had just missed it, and it was on XBLA; I stayed true to my word and bought it. It looked to be everything I asked for. So why am I so disappointed?
To answer that we should probably first take a look at what B:R’s Crash mode was actually about. It was a very simple concept really. Almost to the point of being glorious in its simplicity. You got to pick a car and an intersection (or sometimes a bridge, or a mountain road, or a roundabout) and you were tasked to drive in at full speed to crash into a car and set off a pileup.
There were a few tricks to it, of course. There were certain bits of clutter you could hit without actually crashing that might scatter onto the road and cause cars to stop, leading to those behind ramming into them. You had a bit of Aftertouch control over where your car slid after a crash, or after using the Crashbreaker, which was the final trick.
Causing cars to crash built your Crashbreaker bar, and once it was full, you had to tap the A button (on Xbox 360) rapidly to cause your car to explode violently and hurtle into the air, allowing you further Aftertouch control in glorious slow motion.
Now the AI was nothing to brag about. They’d try to stop, but they didn’t have very good brakes, so more often than not they’d slide into the pileup and add to your score. It was part of the charm, really.
And then we have Burnout Crash. I must say that finding out it was an XBLA game was my first warning light, but I ignored it and bought the thing anyway. Since I was all set to enjoy it, I got off to a good start and got through several rounds before disappointment firmly set in.
First off they made the graphics rather 2D. I understand the decision, since it probably cut development costs considerably, but it just does not provide the same spectacle as B:R’s crash mode does, and it also makes a lot of the intersections look all too similar.
And then there are the powerups, that I assume were added to make it more of a “proper game”. I don’t really like them because I feel they disrupt the pure fun that the original mode had, but this could just be personal preference. They’re not exactly bad, I just don’t think they fit into the game.
It’s also sad that they felt the need to improve the vehicle AI. Again, I’m sure this goes with the “proper game” thing, but that the cars can now veer away from obstacles I put in their path is definitely more annoying than fun. It just saps a lot of the enjoyment out of the experience.
And who decided that if a car blew up enough, it would dissolve into particles? I manage to set up an impenetrable roadblock, and then all it takes is one explosion to set off a chain reaction that suddenly clears the whole street? Yes, the boom is kinda impressive, and the numbers are big, but on the whole I’d rather keep my roadblock.
To compensate for all this (or so I assume) they have made the Crashbreaker trigger a lot more frequently so you can move your car-wreck around the level to set up new roadblocks, try to punt cars into sinkholes, hit special bonus cars, etc. Maybe some people love that, but personally I preferred when it felt more like a reward or a treasured resource. It actually felt more tactical that way.
The car unlock system also feels a lot more pointless now. You never unlock a better car, just a different car. Burnout Revenge had four main car stats: Weight, Speed, Crashbreaker and Aftertouch. Burnout Crash only has Crashbreaker and Aftertouch, and each new car just takes one point away from one stat and puts it in the other. I guess you could make a case it’s more strategic, but it is, again, less fun.
My final gripe is possibly also the smallest. Burnout Revenge had a good soundtrack. Burnout Crash really only has one, maybe two, good songs. It’s not a big issue in and of itself, but combined with everything else it just adds to the misery.
So yeah, that’s Burnout Crash. My recommendation: Steer clear of it and just get Burnout Revenge instead. It’s still available via XBox Games On Demand, and I’m sure you could find a used copy somewhere. If you really want to try it, there is a demo on XBLA I highly recommend you try first. And keep in mind the entire game is just more of that demo. You don’t unlock new modes, and all the intersections are very samey.