Burnout Crash! First Look Preview -- A New Take on a Beloved/Explosive FormulaBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Jul 12, 2011
After a decade's worth of Burnouts, many of us have gotten familiar with Criterion Games' penchant for trying new things, often more so than your typical franchise studio. Sometimes they've been bold enough to remove beloved modes in later installments much to some fans' disappointment. One of these modes was the explosion-centric Crash mode, but the good news is that it's the basis for the latest title in the series. The unexpected news is that Burnout: CRASH! marks the biggest departure in the series thus far, as it's a downloadable title with some significant aesthetic changes when compared to the rest of the series.
With all the bumping, chain-reactions, and scoring that players enjoyed in Burnout 3: Takedown, it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to equate the experience to certain elements of pinball. Now that Burnout CRASH! takes the top-down view approach, Criterion has taken hold of that analogy. While that description doesn't endear itself to many hardcore fans, the concept holds promise, especially when, like in pinball, you can get caught up in quickly tallying eight-digit scores. The core elements are still here: cause an initial collision, try to get a chain reaction of explosions going, smile widly, repeat.
Variety comes from the multiple gameplay modes, two of which I played at the recent EA Summer Showcase. Rush Hour is a straightforward, 90-second blow-up-as-much-as-you-can session, while Road Trip lets you cause mayhem across all the maps in the game with opportunities to score beyond just the typical crashes.
While CRASH! was in development before Criterion had access to the tools of the Kinect, the studio has since embraced the Microsoft's device, and they used it for the majority of our preview session. Sure enough, I started off by lifting my arms and forming the obligatory 9-3 hand positions. I began on a narrow road, but soon reached the "crash site" for a planned collision. After the initial impact, I proceeded to jump, activating the subsequent explosions. Moving around a few steps also made the car shift a few feet in the direction I moved. Criterion says that these controls aren't final and that it might adopt additional Kinect gestures. Perhaps a gas pedal function before each crash might help throw in an extra variable to the mix.
It had been a while since I’d played a Crash mode in a Burnout game, but I at least kept to the basics of detonating the car right when other cars were passing by. Somehow I had done quite well, the best score of the day according to the folks at Criterion (and later supported when I heard the dismal scores of my media colleagues). While I wish I could admit that my 74,000,000+ score was due to hard work, I made no argument that is was beginner's luck. The fact that I unintentionally drove past the entire crash site without a scratch in my second session is further proof of that. Clearly it will take a few hours of practice before I can match or exceed 74 million every time.
As if it were a conscious disassociation from past Burnouts, the top-down view and the colorful, almost cartoon-like, aesthetics are accentuated by relative randomness of events such as a bonus wheel that triggers when hitting a pizza truck. Then there's the game's soundtrack, which is predominantly made up of 80's tracks. As each mission only lasts about a minute or two, the songs aren't played as their full tracks. Instead, songs are played in a jokingly context-sensitive style. Hit an ice cream truck? That calls for “Ice Ice Baby.” Getting a bulldozer from the pizza wheel cues up “Push It” by Salt 'n Pepa.
Criterion will also continue to feature the Autolog social platform they brought to Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, which EA also added to Shift 2 Unleashed. While this doesn't mean the game will have synchronous multiplayer, Autolog will feature leaderboards to keep you motivated to stay on top of your friends' scores, not to mention the scores of the rest of the Burnout CRASH! community.
A sign of any great franchise is if each game installment has its own group of devoted fans. That case can certainly be made for the Burnout series, and something that longtime creative director Alex Ward agreed with, saying, "We're kinda like Madonna. Different Burnout fans have their favorite time periods." It almost seems certain that Burnout CRASH! will have it's own devoted fans; it just might not be the same ones that have kept up with the series in the last decade.