• Burnout Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    In certain circles, Need for Speed on the 3DO is considered a classic. Combining a true sense of speed with busy roads and pursuing police, thrill based road racing hasn't been bettered. BurnOut is a homage to the EA classic, taking the arcade race gameplay and bringing it to the GameCube.

    There are two schools of thought on what a racing game should be. The first camp believes a good racing game is about tuning performance, brake discs and gear ratios. The second thinks to race is to live, driving where one mistake costs your life, but there's always another life.

    Criterion have taken the latter approach; BurnOut is about finishing first, slicing through hordes of cars and gaining boost through controlled, skilled and brave driving.
    Controlling the various cars in BurnOut is a pleasurable experience, with each vehicle having it's own weight and characteristics. Power slides and weaving past the rush hour jam are about reactions and that's easy thanks to the tight control scheme. Effectively, there are only three action buttons: accelerate, brake and turbo, with the control stick performing the turns. Gaining turbo is about performing life threatening manoeuvres; a near miss of a car, a long controlled power slide or driving through oncoming traffic will fill up the boost meter. Once the meter is full, plunging the turbo button down will boost the car, smearing the surroundings with speed.

    Graphically, BurnOut is very commendable. Although the cars are initially disappointing in their generic modelling, once you slam your shiny motor into the side of a bus and you witness the slow motion carnage you have caused, the realisation of the realistic cracks, crumbles and crashes soon dawns and the game becomes addictive.

    With the roads full of cars, trucks and buses, everything is a threat. One false move and you'll find yourself at the back of the pack having to persue the 3 cars ahead, against the ticking clock. The concentration rises, the driving more intense and all of a sudden you become totally absorbed by the frenetic racing. The opponents are as sharp as you. They nudge you into traffic and weave ahead to cause mayhem for the drivers behind; the A.I. is very canny. Crashing is initially frustrating, as you are shown your error three times. This uses up valuable seconds and is a valid way of docking time. As you develop a knack of skimming the traffic and gaining boost, the game opens up even further and you'll find yourself skipping in front of a bus, tail gating a truck then streaking past and bobbing between cars.

    Environments are well presented. You find yourself speeding through city streets, cutting corners in the mountains and cruising along the esplanade of a seaside town. The vistas add an extra layer of realism, towns stretch out for miles with no slow down or popup. Cities teem with life, traffic travels on its way to unknown destinations, causing havoc and mayhem in the BurnOut race. As is the case with most racing games, once the layout of the tracks has been learnt, the game becomes more about racing the opponents than remembering what the tracks look like. Although the selection of tracks is a little low, some races can last twenty minutes for three laps, and with the almost unpredictable traffic, no race is the same. On completing a race you have the option to watch the entire race from cinematic views; it can be very interesting and exciting seeing what you just missed and what the opponents hit.

    Turning the key in the ignition you expect to hear the throbbing engine, the pistons pumping and the exhaust growl with winning intent. Unfortunately, the cars in BurnOut merely sound like an overused hair dryer and do not instil fear into the opponents, nor fill you with pride or confidence. The same can be said for the music. Nothing stands out as a theme and nothing makes you want to scream down the roads pumping your fist, it merely trundles away in the background with ineffectual tedium.

    Two player is available in "one on one" form and, with the traffic, is just as intense as the one player mode. However, once again the developers of a racing game have overlooked the potential of two players wanting to run through the championship together, the best example of two player racing done properly has to be the San Francisco Rush series. How hard can it be to implement?

    Having completed the Championship mode, BurnOut's longevity is enhanced by the inevitable time attack mode and the more interesting face off mode, where you race in unlocked tracks against specific opponents, such as a bus or a roadster. Once the opponent is beaten you can race as their vehicle in the other modes.

    Sadly, the whole BurnOut experience is over too soon. Once the game is completed, the only reason to play again is for the thrills and spills of thrashing through the streets and dicing past the traffic with balletic presence. The inclusion of a league/championship/points system would have added more to the package. Simply going through the championship mode is fun, but not rewarding.

    For racing thrills on the GameCube, nothing can touch BurnOut. The sensation of speed, combined with the pressure of racing in traffic and the solid graphics gives a really good, albeit slightly brief game. If you are into arcade racing you cannot ignore this game.

    Review by Robert White