The original two Burnout games, when you look at the market, could have almost been labeled as a game which would fail, but how wrong we would have been to do that. Criterion filled a gap that had been gaping for so long in the racing genre mainly because developers were focusing on realistic sims to compete with Gran Turismo. Criterion built an arcade franchise that today has a huge following and in the near future they will deliver their third title, with a few differences, not the least being the game has a new publisher in EA. We went hands on with a build of the game and came away very impressed.
Burnout 3: Takedown is really a continuation of what made the first two games so successful. Despite the fact that both games really focused on the same amount of racing styles and really the second game only improved upon the graphics and handling plus a few new modes, its still seen as one of the premier racing franchises on the market today. Burnout 3: Takedown is only going to enforce this by not only adding a few new game modes and online play but also Criterion have played around with the game mechanics. The arcade style of racing is still there in all its addictive quality, but the new changes definitely add more depth to the game and make it a very tough cookie in the difficulty department as well.
The two modes we played were race and takedown. Race is fairly self explanatory and tasks you with beating the other cars to the finish line but takedown is built around one of the games main new features. Takedowns are a brand new gameplay mechanic and a lot of the gameplay revolves around this. Basically one of the main aims of Burnout 3: Takedown is to run your opposition off the road, do this successfully and the opponent will be taken down giving you not only points but a boost to your turbo bar. In the Road Rage mode, your task is basically to take down as many cars as possible before your own car is sent to the scrap heap. Depending on how many cars you takedown before the time limit expires or your car expires, will determine the medal which we imagine will unlock new cars and tracks to play with in the final game.
Although it wasn't featured in the build we played, it was confirmed to us that the crash mode will return. For those of you who haven't played Burnout 2, crash mode basically tasked you with creating as much havoc as possible in one single accident. Whether you passed or failed was determined by how much damage you caused in a monetary sense and given the modified, over the top physics present in Burnout 3 it should be a smash (excuse the pun) hit again. As well as this one off races against AI cars will be present to extend the longevity of the title even further.
At this stage there is four areas that are really impressive with the game; the physics, the impact mode, damage model and the sense of speed. The physics of the game are not realistic and nor are they meant to be, but they add a heck of a lot of fun to the game. Hitting walls at over 200mph will make you flip in the air and bits will start flying off the car. Also the handling is so tight that it is entirely possible to pass cars and walls inch perfectly to scrape valuable seconds off your lap time. Impact mode follows on from both the physics and the takedown aspect of the game. When you inevitably crash or are taken down, holding down R1 enters impact time which is very much like bullet time. As your car slowly moves or flies through the air, you can gain minute control of it and steer it slowly towards oncoming traffic or other enemy cars. As a side effect, this slowdown also shows off the stunning damage model.
The damage model is the most impressive one thus far in Burnout as you can really smash your car to pieces. Doors and front ends crumple, wheels fall off and glass smashes amongst other things. This also isn't limited to player cars with AI cars being destroyed quite easily and even traffic flying through the air thanks to the over the top physics after a major incident.
However by far the most impressive aspect of the game so far, and this is a surprise considering how well it has been done in the other two games, is the sense of speed the game gives off. You literally feel like you're doing a hundred miles an hour and this is only compounded even more when you enter bumper cam. We tried both the bumper and rear cam and found that at this stage the bumper is easier to use as you can see oncoming traffic more quickly as well as upcoming corners. If you thought Burnout 2 was fast, then you're in for a treat once Burnout 3: Takedown hits the shelves in September. To go with this the developers have altered the way the boost bar works, not only can you use it at anytime but also increase the maximum amount of boost available to you which can lead to some incredibly long burnouts giving you even more high speed racing.
Even though none of the cars have been licensed for the game, and with good reason, many of them are inspired by real world road models. Although because of the nature of the build we played we only saw three cars, they were all highly detailed and as mentioned before had some stunning crash effects. The three cars were saw were an American muscle car much like a Charger, an exotic European car and a high spec'd Japanese race car. Each of them seem to handle relatively the same as each other but considering this is an arcade game that is not a major problem.
The build featured three countries/cities to play in; USA, East Asia and Europe. Although the game doesn't actually feature real world cities from the looks of things, it does use the architecture and style of road from each corner of the globe represented well. In the USA you will find yourself racing in wide open streets through a bustling city with skyscrapers and other city-like structures where as in Europe you will find snow covered alps and different styles of roads. The graphics for these cities and as mentioned before the cars already look great and thankfully the game runs constantly at sixty frames per second with not a hint of slowdown, even when massive crashes occur. A few graphical features we noticed were reflective surfaces from the windows of buildings and sparks flying off cars scraping each other or the curbs.
Criterion have really worked on the sound effects this time around with positional sound being used from first impressions. If you're driving through a tunnel, the sound will reverberate around differently to if your driving on an open road. No music is included in the build and no announcement as yet has been made as to what they are going to be doing with it and custom soundtrack for the Xbox version is neither confirmed or denied. For multiplayer the game will be online on both the PS2 and Xbox and feature race modes and crash modes for players to take part in against each other which should give the game much more replay value in the long run.
Burnout 3: Takedown should be one of the most impressive racing games of 2004. It's already looking stunning and playing well and keeping everything people like about Burnout as well as adding a new layer of depth to keep people interested in the franchise. Online play is a great bonus to fans of the series and the new challenges such as takedown and how tough the AI is against the player and their skill level should see even the most ardent racing critic in a state of complete ecstasy when the game is released in early September 2004.