Burnout 3: Takedown
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Renier, DURBANVALE. 1 November 2004
Burnout 3 is an Arcade racer to the extreme. Discarding some realism for maximum speed, mayhem and fun.
This is the fastest racer I've ever seen. It's amazing how you could be traveling at tremendous speed, and then when you hit the boost button everthing goes faster still. They achive this with very good use of motion blur and quick screen updates. Trying to avoid all the slow moving traffic while doing 200mph is quite a challenge.
I found the Crash mode to be a bit boring, and probably the easiest to get a gold medal in. It does look spectacular though.
Race mode and Road Rage are my favourites. The computer controlled players are ruthless and the AI is quite good. Although it is usually easier to take them down, than them getting you. A nice touch is that even after you crash you can enter "impact time" (slow motion) and control your car's movement during the crash. While in this mode, you only have to touch an opponent to score a takedown. And it's nice to be rewarded for a long drift around a corner.
The graphics are superb and almost to the standard of GT4 Prologue. The car models are maybe not as complex, but the shadows and reflections look great. Which makes it even more amazing that they can do it at such break-neck speeds on relatively old hardware like a PS2.
The use of good directional sound and the controller's vibrate function also gives a very realistic feel to passing close to another car. This is fun and important since driving against oncoming traffic and getting near misses is a crucial part of the racing modes. The use of environmental effects like echo and reverb makes going through tunnels and under bridges more realistic. The music and the DJ aren't too great though.
Overall a great arcade racer.
Waine, Goodwood. 11 October 2004
Pure adrenaline racing. That's the best way to describe Burnout 3, which currently has no peers, when it comes to sheer excitement and fun in an arcade racer. Burnout 3 combines elements from games such as SSX, Need for Speed, Crazy Taxi and Carmageddon into smooth presentation that's as easy to learn as it is fun to play. Naturally since it involves cars its essentially a racing game, but unlike most other racing games progress is not simply measured by lap-times, or pimped-up rides. Burnout 3 doesn't actually share many elements with most other games in the genre, where crashing is normally a route to disaster. In Burnout 3 (like the previous versions) the whole object is to engineer as much mayhem as possible, which earns you Burnout points that unlocks new cars and tracks.
While Burnout 3 does have single race, as well multiplayer options, the meat and drink of the game in in the World Tour mode. Here you compete in a wide variety of race modes to earn medals which allow you to unlock new events and vehicles. Naturally the more style (read bigger, fancier smashes) you use in achieving these results, the bigger the reward, which will ultimately allow you to race vehicles such as Fire Trucks. Race modes include Crash Mode where you attempt to get a certain number of crash-points at a single junction. It sounds simple enough, get up to speed as quickly as possible and then crash into the biggest vehicle you can see, but as you progress through the races reaching the gold medal score will require considerable effort as you plan the best route and trajectory.
An important factor in your success at Crash Mode is the Aftertouch, which is essentially a "Crash Time" adaptation from Matrix's famous "Bullet Time" slow motion effect. You access it by pressing R1 after an accident and then using the analog stick to try and steer your speeding wreck towards bonuses which are on the track. In other modes you can use the Aftertouch to try and steer your car into the path of an opponent. Successfully taking down an opponent using Aftertouch will refill your boost meter, which would otherwise be reduced as a result of an accident.
There are numerous other race modes including Road Rage, where you try and takedown as many opponents as you can before your car is totally destroyed or the time runs out, Burning lap, where you try and get as quick a lap time as you can in a variety of cars, as well as Kings of the Road and many others. The cars in the game aren't licensed from manufacturers and are instead separated into classes such as Compact, Coupe and Muscle with different models in each class. Winning races unlocks different classes and models within those classes. There are also no settings to change for the cars, and the only choices you have are to select which model when racing a particular class. The models are distinguished by speed and weight ratings.
Within the game their are various challenges you need to complete as well, which will also earn you new vehicles and events. Examples include Signature Takedowns, such as slamming opponents into lakes or pillars, Postcard Events which are special races where you are given a specific car to complete a task. These challenges add to the longevity of the game and do increase in difficulty as you progress through the challenges. Also for each race you earn a score which depends on how well you performed. You earn extra points for riding into oncoming traffic, sliding around corners and battling with the opposition.
The racing physics are obviously designed to allow you to enjoy the arcade style racing in Burnout 3, and there aren't heavy speed penalties for hitting corners, nudging other vehicles etc. Also only in Road Rage mode is the damaged incurred after an accident retained for the duration of the race. The racing is incredibly quick, with the focus on intense action at some cost to realism. Burnout 3 is probably the quickest racing game I've played this side of the Wipeout series, with some sections becoming a blur. Some of the sections are amazingly exciting as you slide around a high speed corner, dodge to avoid an oncoming bus, boost to get back up to 160+ mph and then weave through traffic, all without an slowdown on the console at all.
The graphics are as good as anything I've seen so far on the Playstation 2, matching
even the high standard set by Gran Turismo 4 Prologue earlier this year. As I mentioned above the slowdown which was evident in Need for Speed Underground has been totally eliminated, even while setting an even higher pace than in that game. Sound wise, the sounds of the cars and the effects of the accidents are very good, but the music and the DJ aren't as good as I would have hoped for. The music is ok, but I would have expected a few more mainstream artists and tracks than what are presented here. The selection is best described as American college rock, and while it suits the tempo of the game to a certain extent, its a little flat in my opinion. Stryker, the DJ sounds similar to the one employed in SSX3, and is really not up to scratch, fortunately though its easy enough to turn him off.
Overall Burnout 3 is one of the best arcade racing games ever with its incredible sensation of speed, massive accidents and hugely entertaining race modes. There's enough variety in the game to allow almost all gamers to enjoy it, while the challenge curve is enough to keep you coming back for more. This is one racing game that doesn't limit its audience to gear heads only.
Rudolf, Modderfontein. 16 September 2004
Review courtesy of www.ign.com
September 02, 2004 - You have never played a racer like Burnout 3: Takedown, and it would be an absolute crime if you went on living that way. Criterion's relentless ambitions for its arcade-inspired franchise, combined with Electronic Arts' steadfast production values, have paved the way for a true breakthrough in the amped-up racing genre. Burnout 3 offers up insane speed, unequaled crash sequences, and a truly new style of gameplay. It has reinvented the wheel, so to speak.
We do not hesitate to say, then, that this is one of the best games there is -- not just of 2004 -- but of this generation.
It's a bold statement, and there are a lot of factors that make it a truth; and if we had to pinpoint the most obvious one it would be this: Takedown is instantly enjoyable and maddeningly addictive. It's a super-arcade racer that treads new ground; it rips off its Clark Kent exterior, disposing of perfect braking and flawless cornering like an unwanted button-up shirt and tie, to reveal the genre-defining hero it was destined to be. In Burnout 3 you get into all-out brawls with the CPU drivers while trying to maintain your place in the race -- it's a really gratifying gameplay mechanic (movie - 5.4MB). As a reward for your valiance you'll bump up your burnout meter (speed boost) capacity, which allows you to rocket down the trafficked highways so fast you'll swear your eyelids are going to peel off and take your face along with them.
Seriously, Burnout 3 vies for fastest racer ever created and, magnificently, it's playable at these sonic speeds.
At its core, these are the main elements that make it so frighteningly satisfying to play -- you won't want to put it down. It's a little hard to put into words, because only when you experience, first-hand, taking down the opponent drivers -- mashing metal and sending them careening into a brick wall or semi-truck -- will you get it. It just feels right, as can be said for so many of the most beloved games out there. Make no mistake, though, Takedown is still about racing skills; if you can't handle the turns or control your car with a steady hand, you will endure many a defeat. But you have to understand that takedowns, the act of bullying another car off the road, play a huge part in the strategy of winning. That's why there's been so much refinement and focus on how they work. The challenge to the player, to you, is to balance this new super-charged, arcade-style gameplay with some traditional racing skills. It is through these synergies that Criterion's racer offers something new to the genre.
It transcends the usual quarter-popping, checkpoint-style days of old (something that was evident in the original Burnout) and proves itself as a true console experience. The strong gameplay mechanics at its heart provide the lifeblood for an entire body of modes and extras, so everything comes together seamlessly. The main single-player mode, Burnout 3 World Tour, offers up a non-linear progression of race challenges. Burnout 2 forced players to choose to race or crash in completely unrelated modes, but the new World Tour design allows complete freedom that ensures few will experience the same path. A GPS-style map grid provides you with two simple choices at the start of World Tour: race or crash. You choose your own destiny. If you want to unlock crash junctions for several hours and earn all the gold medals, go for it. If you want to do the same for race modes, that's completely up to you. Most will probably jump between both for diversity's sake. Regardless, it will lead to at least 10+ hours of gameplay between all the different events and crash junctions. Going for all the golds and unlockables -- and there are some really tough ones to crack -- can take more than twice that time. So, it's safe to say that the Burnout experience has gotten deeper.
The general layout, very polished with its GPS interface, is inspired from Tiger Woods PGA Tour, believe it or not. As you unlock new challenges, the HUD delivers you new challenges clearly marked "new" so you can visit between the three main areas -- Far East, Europe, and USA -- without any hassle. Likewise, you earn new cars for your garage pretty frequently. You will begin with just a few compact series cars, not at all slow (until you experience faster rides), but as you earn medals, get invited to special events, and build points you will see new editions to your garage. In total, there are 67 vehicles to be had, which sprawl across the Compact, Coupe, Sport, Muscle, Super, and Special types. Each car lets you choose several different color schemes and the designs are all surprisingly attractive, especially compared to varieties seen in the previous Burnouts.
Unfortunately, they are not real licensed vehicles. Some have certainly been designed after a Charger, a Ferrari, a Peugeot, a Land Rover, or whatever, but in the end it's only reminiscence with each vehicle. Which leads us to one of the first things that may irk some players: after a while, it's hard to be excited that you've won "two-color sport car with spoiler" or "new coupe with fancy rims." The Special class has some really nice treats, like a bus and things even more extravagant that we won't spoil, but flashier vehicles certainly would have improved on the rewards system. Perhaps asking Porsche to allow gamers to totally wreak havoc on its automobiles comes at an impossible price, but EA itself has proven with Need for Speed Underground that you can add an incredible amount of personalization to racing games with custom parts and accessories for tricking out your ride.
On the upside, this is a small price to pay for all the things Burnout 3 does that others do not. The crash system is absolutely jaw-dropping and leaps beyond what's been done before. When you crash or cause a crash, the vehicle begins to tear apart, morphing and bending, sending sparks and metal flak everywhere (movie - 2.9MB). It's really an amazing sight, which is probably why Criterion invented the "aftertouch." Anytime you crash, including crash mode, you can slow time down to not only enjoy the starburst of exploding metal and shattering glass, but to actually influence the momentum of your vehicle. The goal is to steer it into the path of oncoming opponent drivers (and sometimes those just ahead).
Patient and skilled "aftertouchers" can turn an otherwise devastating crash into a boost for their burnout meter, which is integral for keeping up in the race. It's also just really satisfying to do, and to encourage players to have a little fun, the HUD keeps track of combos. For example, you may earn this: 150ft skid + flip x1 + roll + nose grind + into bus + exploded. Showing even more polish and thought, the screen will display rewards like "Wing Slide 40 (points)" or "Flyboy 30 (points)," and those points go towards your Global Burnout total where you also win special vehicles by hitting cumulative landmarks. It's a pretty sweet idea, almost demonstrating some Tony Hawk's Pro Skater influence, but unfortunately the system is more transparent than the combos may suggest. Aftertouching is activated at will with a button press -- you only slow a crash if you want to -- and we found that if you just let the crash play out in real-time you're just as likely to be rewarded in the same way. It's certainly no flaw, but aftertouching is pretty much only good for waiting for an opponent to round the bend so you can take them out. Here's hoping there's a sequel with a tighter combo system, because, hot damn, that would be fun.
Also, there are some camera issues with aftertouching. The camera usually shows the direction you're moving pretty well, but as cars come up behind you the camera doesn't show them readily (movie - 4.2MB). Criterion attempted to remedy this by adding in a camera pan, if and when an opponent shows up, but by then you rarely can correct your momentum enough to make any major changes. A manual camera on the right analog could have helped a lot here. And, it's the same for crash mode, where the camera zooms and pans to each new collision -- it's visually catchy, but because you can't control the camera it can be hard to orient yourself with where important pick-ups like score multipliers are.
Nonetheless, Crash mode is still incredibly entertaining and begs to be picked up and played. It is vastly improved with around 100 new junctions. It's also equipped with score multipliers, an explosive crashbreaker ability, and the all-important slow-motion "aftertouch." Criterion really thought the junctions through, too, as some multipliers and extra crashbreaker power-ups are placed cleverly so you have use serious aftertouch skills to get them. The only issue we have with this new balance, however, is that crash mode quickly becomes focused on getting the 4X score multiplier, which almost always guarantees you the sought-after gold medal. Crash mode is also without any serious replays. You can watch the replay after the race, but it's essentially almost the same as what you would see with the third-person camera while you race. This is a major downer for how extravagant the destruction can be. Likewise, you can't save anything to drool over later or show off to friends.
Replays are completely non-existent in the race modes; sadly, some of our best aftertouches will go forever forgotten. Whether it was time or technology constraints, we will still miss our replays fondly.
Thankfully, the racing experience offers such a fantastic and addictive variety of modes that we can bury the pain under metric tons of charred vehicle remains and hard-earned gold medals. We outlined a lot of how it all works in our extensive preview coverage, but the gist of it is this: World Tour is made up of a handful of race styles including Road Rage, Eliminator, Race, Face-Off, Burning Lap, and Grand Prix. They're all offspring of the Tour and have their own character and personality.
Race, where you take on five rivals to the finish, is really entertaining for a lot of the reasons outlined above; you have to strategize how worthwhile it is getting into battles with opponents versus focusing on the track and driving with skill. As you scrape walls and fail to drift around corners flawlessly, you'll lose seconds off the clock and chances are one of the CPU players won't be making the same mistake. At the same time, you earn big chunks of burnout boost by taking down other vehicles, so racing without aggression won't earn you enough burnout.
It's very interesting because you earn boost by heading into oncoming traffic, performing near-misses, drifting, and catching air, but the easiest way to burnout is just to destroy the CPU players. The point: there's a clever balance of burning out and takedowns. It makes "race" more than just what you might traditionally assume it to be. Wreaking havoc on opponents feels so satisfying, and that's what Road Rage (movie - 2.2MB) is for. In a preset amount of time you have to take down as many rival vehicles as possible, and they litter the road plentifully, paving the way for constant carnage. Meanwhile, your automobile will deteriorate as the CPU takes you down and as you make mistakes. Case in point, Road Rage is practically worth the price of admission on its own, but it's just one of the captivating modes of several that keep you coming back for more.
That latter point really says it all: you will keep returning for more. It's got the allure of an arcade cabinet but every benefit of a home console, including a huge rewards list, the cohesive World Tour, quick single-player time attacks, two-player offline multiplayer (eight for crash mode), as well as online. This is one of the ultimate arcade racers ever crafted and it sets a whole new bar for the genre. It's not quite as challenging as we'd prefer, but it's so fundamentally enjoyable it's hard to label this as a turn-off. If you want to feel good about yourself when you wake up in the morning buy this game. It will change your life, we swear.
Multiplayer and Online
Offline multiplayer will provide two-player, 30-fps split-screen (movie - 5.9MB) for these main modes: Race, Time Attack, Road Rage, and Crash. You have to unlock tracks and crash junctions, but if you remotely like this game it's pretty assured that won't be much of a problem once you dig into World Tour.
Offline is a really interesting element, and Criterion and EA have worked hard to perfect it for both PlayStation 2 and Xbox. In fact, Burnout 3 was designed specifically so going online is a seamless experience. Everything from traffic to the modes stays almost the same. The amount of replay value here is unprecedented. Road Rage and Race are a blast when you're playing with up to five other friends (that's six, counting you), and you can play seven- or eight-player for crash mode.
Criterion has succeeded brilliantly for the most part. You can't add in CPU bots and aftertouch had to be removed for logistics (which really makes crash mode less entertaining than it is offline), but if you get more than three people on a server there is a lot of fun to be had. There are some good tools available too; hosts can kick, choose class of cars available for racing, and tweak some other important options.
Graphics and Technology
The work poured into the engine deserves a mention. Burnout 3 runs steadily at an eye-scorching 60 frames per second. This is a large part of the incredible sense of speed. However, the crash sequences are the real star of the show. You simply won't find anything so extravagant anywhere else on consoles. The particle effects and crash detail, the real-time deformation and subtle effects like tires wobbling or falling off, are just amazing accomplishments.
It's true that the cars and worlds may not be the most high-res in terms of texture quality or polygon complexity, but Criterion does a stand-out job of fooling the eye. Beautiful reflections play off of the vehicles, a blur effect compliments the speed, and the levels have been designed to keep your eye on the road. Look into the distance and you may see a beautiful sunset and mountain, but tall bridges, buildings, and forest lines somehow magically distract you from the fact that there isn't much detail outside of the immediate surroundings. And that's why it doesn't matter.
However, we were not fooled into forgetting about real weather changes or the onset of night. EA has an interesting problem now: Need for Speed Undeground is trapped in the dead of night while Burnout 3 only shares itself with the daylight. Certainly, the beautiful lighting blooms that bounce off your windshields and the pavement are worth seeing plenty, but with 40 track designs already stretched across three regions, light and weather could have gone a long way to provide diversity.
Audio and Soundtrack
The audio design, which sports Dolby Pro Logic II on PS2 and Dolby Digital on Xbox, is excellent. The team at Criterion has always done a great job, but it's really nailed the delivery of cars passing on the left or right, which adds greatly to the immersion level. Even on a stereo set of speakers it rocks. Plus, it even pays attention to finer details like the reverb and echo effects that are usually left out while accelerating through tunnels and underpasses.
The soundtrack has been official for a while. It features some more popular tracks like Franz Ferdinand's "This Fire," Ramones' "Sedated," and Von Bondies' "C'mon C'mon," which are pretty decent, but the most marketed song (also featured in the main trailer) is The Fups' "Lazy Generation," and it's absolute awful, forced imaging for the product. Presumably, EA sees Burnout 3 appealing to the teenage-angst types. That may be true, but for the many others who should enjoy this game (ahem…you!) the soundtrack is mostly annoying. You'll want to either turn it off and rely on a separate CD player, or if you're lucky enough to own the Xbox version you can build your own custom soundtracks and use those. In that same vein, it has DJ Stryker on CRASH-FM who seems to be targeting the same crowd. You can turn him off, too.
Burnout 3 is astonishing. It's one of the best arcade racers I've ever touched, and I'm a fan of everything from Rallisport to Need for Speed to Extreme-G. I've been a fan of Burnout since the beginning, pretty much, but I've always seen its potential. Well, Burnout 3 met that potential and brought something new to the table at the same time. The sense of speed, which was already quick in previous iterations, is just completely insane now. It rivals even F-Zero GX -- either of them will scramble your brainwaves when you hit top-speeds. Aftertouch is an incredible mechanic that expands the horizons and allows for an almost entirely new mode of play outside of racing.
It just feels right. Initially, I had serious problems with how forgiving running into walls or traffic could be (especially compared to the first two games), but once I got into it I could see the balance of crashes, burning out, and driving smartly. I mean, sure, I still think it's too easy for the hardcore gamer -- you can get bronzes and silvers without blinking, and usually golds too. But, it's just not a traditional racing game in any way.
I was also really pleased with the expansion of the statistics page, which shows you everything you've accomplished so far and saves a wide range of race times and top feats. Drifting, for example, I always wanted to brag about but I never had proof of my feats in Burnout 2. In Burnout 3, I can show off not only how far my longest drive but the game tells me what track and car I was driving. Replay value is also really expanded with all the extras. You can spend time beating these old records, but you'll probably be busier trying to find the signature takedown in each level, earn crash headlines, or trophies. You even get some exclusive online rewards.
In the end, I have minor complaints, but Burnout 3 exceeds in so many other areas I simply can't deny my love for it. Pick up the game for yourself, and I'm positive you will feel the same way. Don't make the mistake of thinking Need for Speed Underground 2 or even Gran Turismo 4 (a completely different kind of racer) is a better buy. Self-respecting gamers will add this to their collections -- permanently.
-- Fran Mirabella III
Mark, Sea Point. 20 September 2004