Before the recent unfortunate demise of Acclaim, they teamed up with Criterion to bring a genre back which really had been neglected for a while, and that genre is Arcade racing. With the focus on simulation thanks to Gran Turismo, Burnout was a breath of fresh air for those who longed for games on the scale of Daytona and SEGA Rally. EA have now taken over the franchise and Criterion seemed to have used the extra resources they would have had access to well, because quite frankly Burnout 3: Takedown is the best console arcade racing game ever and perhaps the best of all time, even topping the mighty Daytona USA.
For those of you who haven't played the series before, Burnout basically revolves around high speed racing with huge crashes in cities avoiding traffic. Most of the time its not the racing that impresses you but the high level of detail that the developers have always put into the crashes. Burnout 3: Takedown has taken the franchise to the next level and Criterion really has put in everything bar the kitchen sink. New modes, new tracks, new locations and the biggest addition of all, online play.
There is two main game modes featured in the game with numerous racing disciplines on offer to race in. You can at any time race on tracks that you have unlocked via the other game mode to practice or just relive a great race but really where most of your time will be spent is the Burnout World Tour. As the name implies you travel the world completing goals such as winning a race to unlock new cars and areas to play in. All the racing disciplines (road rage, racing, crash, and time attack) are featured in the tour and progressively get harder as more and more tracks are unlocked for you to tackle.
The returning game modes (racing, time attack and crash) pretty much remain the same except that the crash mode is a lot more cinematic and you can really do some serious damage. However the brand new mode called Road Rage really epitomizes what the concept of Burnout 3 is about. Road Rage introduces the Takedown move which you score boost with and this is basically guiding your opponent into a wall or other object. This ability is present in racing as well and the AI won't just let you push them into a wall, they are the most aggressive they have ever been and will stop at nothing to get your car in little pieces.
Although Burnout has always focused on high speed racing, the sense of speed in this game is truly unbelievable. You feel like you're traveling at a million miles an hour but don't ever feel out of control and when you first start playing you will feel an insane wow factor. To go with this the developers have come up with brand new vehicles to smash into and new effects to enhance the gameplay. Running into a petrol tanker fast enough will cause your car to explode, running into a truck carrying barrels will cause the barrels to fall off and this effect really comes across during the crash mode. You can and will have some gigantic crashes in this game especially in the crash mode where the aim is to cause as much damage as possible in a monetary fashion.
One thing which is new for Burnout in the third title is goals for players to get. Not only is the goal to become the champion of the world on the world tour but also you have tasks which are not compulsory but will unlock extras in the game. You progress in most cases if you're in the top three but usually only gold will get you something new like a car. Other goals include getting your crash in the headline news by reaching a money target, performing signature takedowns which is making a car crash in a particular area of a circuit, and others. The replay value is significantly enhanced because of this but the implementation is so well done that most of the time when you do complete these goals you won't realize it until the game informs you.
Although for obvious reasons the Burnout franchise has never had licensed vehicles they are progressively getting closer and closer and there is no doubt that some of the vehicles in Burnout 3: Takedown have been inspired by real world makes and models. You will find a wide variety ranging from coupe style cars right through to cars which resemble an Indy Car but the main thing is that they all travel extremely fast. They also feature unique damage models with this being shown best in Road Rage where damage is not repaired after each accident. One thing the developers have removed is the indicator lights telling you a corner is coming up, instead relying on signs and other things blocking a players way. The cars all handle in an arcade fashion making them perfect for special moves such as drifting to gain boost.
As mentioned before in the World Tour you visit three areas of the globe; USA, Europe and Asia. Although the tracks are not based on real world locations, they all have a distinct tradition to them depending on the location. For instance in America you will find yourself most of the time in a bustling city while Europe takes you through some picturesque mountain areas. Some of the tracks are short but this is made up by others which are really long, raced in a rally stage format. You will also notice after a while that the crash junctions are featured in the normal tracks.
While Burnout 3 does feature some great graphics, some may be a little disappointed considering the Xbox power. However because the game features a blistering sixty frames per second stable frame rate most people won't be too fussed that the game may not look as good as something like Gran Turismo 4. The car models are all great as are the locations, but look at them too long and expect to end up in a high speed crash. The sound effects are fairly stock standard except for during crash sequences where they really come into their own.
Xbox Live is featured for the first time in a non-scoreboard format and while when it works it works well, it can have problems that other Live games don't seem to encounter. This is because every time a game finishes you have to re-log in to the EA servers and sometimes we found messages that said our ranking could not be updated. Considering the rest of the game is so polished and the online play actually works well in racing this can be overlooked. Online you can race, crash in a competitive or co-operative format or have road rage races. These modes can also be raced in split screen.
Burnout 3: Takedown is already the clear leader for racing game of the year. Criterion have really used the extra resources they would have had access to nicely and all the new additions including online play have made the franchise an even better arcade racer. This is the new benchmark for arcade racing and quite simply anyone who has an Xbox needs to check this game out.