When EA took Criterion over people were excited and worried. Excited because a huge company was behind one of the best arcade racers around, and worried because Renderware was now owned and not run independently. Just after the takeover, Burnout 3 was released and made our 2004 GOTY which should demonstrate how much we liked that game. However, we were skeptical that within a twelve month period they would be able to pack enough in to justify another full priced game, but again we've been proven wrong. This is the first Burnout game completely developed under the EA name and it shows. Burnout 4 is an evolution rather than revolution, but an evolution that Burnout fans still must own.
Burnout 4 is arcade racing pure and simple. For those who haven't played the game before. Burnout puts you in souped up cars and tasks you with traveling through traffic at high speed without crashing. There has been a few new modes added for the latest game and many fan favorites return. However, unlike with "Legends" on PSP, Criterion has decided to leave out the pursuit mode yet again and that may have been a decision by EA due to NFS Most Wanted. The new modes really add to the game and the old modes give it a sense of familiarity.
The modes which return are takedown (which has changed), race, crash, eliminator (Again changed) and others. They pretty much remain the same they were in BO3 except for Takedown, which has now introduced a timer and you have to get a certain number of TD's before the clock runs out to continue racing and Eliminator which has shortened the length of time between eliminations. Other than that the game is fairly familiar to fans of the series and when something isn't broken, why try and fix it.
The major new feature of Burnout is the traffic attack mode and option which allows you to basically cream all the cars going the same way as you to aid in Takedowns. This, when it was first announced, seemed a bit silly, but it works extremely well and has allowed Criterion to up the level of traffic in the game, and while it makes the game easier, it has also made it harder by including more oncoming traffic for you to tackle. This is part of the world tour which, like BO3, gives you rewards for finishing in various places, and these add up to unlock further sections of the game.
The AI drivers remain as aggressive as ever, and you will find yourself being thrown around courses before you know it. These guys don't let up and it's a case of "you or them" basically. The AI is extremely smart and doesn't appear to repeat tactics race after race, trying to lure you into crashes or make it easier for them and just slam you into the wall. Crash mode has also made a return and Criterion has really gone all out with this one. You will be launching yourself into some of the busiest intersections yet. Personally I'm not a fan of the mode so it's nice to see that it is possible to progress without playing Crash mode races.
While EA has yet again decided to not use real world names for the cities, they are very much inspired by real world areas such as Hong Kong, Florida Keys, Detroit and other cities including Europe. Some of the locations can feel a bit too much like Burnout 3, but others are completely new. The tracks are quite challenging especially towards the latter end of the game, but the game doesn't really seem to jack up its difficulty out of no where and it's a smooth transition throughout.
Somehow Burnout 4 has managed to be faster than Burnout 3, and while it is not a huge jump it is a very noticeable one. Once you play Burnout 4, you just wont' be able to go back to Burnout 3 as it feels like your driving a snail. The graphics are also sublime. We checked out the PS2 version and it appears that yet again the PS2 version somehow has superior visuals to the Xbox build of the game. PS2 seems to be where the best Burnout gaming is to be found. Sound wise if you have Legends you will recognize a re-use of some songs but other than that it has turned out pretty well.
Burnout 4 Legends was a game that could have been seen as a rehash but instead has to be one of the most must own racers of 2005. Criterion have worked extremely hard over the past twelve months to get this game ready it appears, and if this is the final BO game to hit this generation of consoles, it has gone out on a high. We can't wait to see Burnout Next Generation, as if this game is any indication, it will be THE arcade game of the decade.