Burnout CRASH! – Review

Xbox Live Arcade Title
Publisher: EA
Developer: Criterion
Price: 800MSP

Thank you to Team Burnout for providing a copy of the game for review.

Criterion, the team behind the legendary Burnout games, have decided to turn their automotive talents to a downloadable game that strangely doesn’t involve racing. Instead they’ve taken the ever popular Crash mode from the main series, given it a bird’s eye view and some extra goodies and turned it into a game that simply has you crashing your car into other cars and trying to cause as much carnage as you can.

But before we get started on this review it’s important to note than CRASH! does feature Kinect support, and that the games only multiplayer mode requires Kinect to play. However, the Kinect elements of the game are not included in this review. Right, let’s get on with this.

Three modes make up Burnout CRASH!, but they all use the same basic gameplay concept; automotive genocide. The game takes place using a bird’s eye and has you happily driving your little car towards a busy intersection, filled with cars, trucks, buses and more all happily going about their business. Your aim is to smash into one of these innocent vehicles and cause the most destructive pile-up you can, scoring points for every vehicle and piece of scenery destroyed in your metal rampage. This isn’t just a domino effect where you sit still and watch the carnage unfold, though; your car comes equipped with the Crashbreaker, which means that a simple tap of the A button causes your car to detonate in a fiery ball of death, wrecking all vehicles around it and shoving them outwards as your car flies into the air. Once your ride is flying through the air you’ve got direct control of its trajectory, allowing you to happily throw it into an oncoming bus in a bid to cause further carnage. The more carnage caused, the quicker your Crashbreaker bar refills, allowing you detonate again.

It quickly becomes apparent, then, that the best strategy in CRASH! if you just want to get through the levels is to use the Crashbreaker to form walls of vehicles across the various roads, thereby making yourself a net in which every vehicle will skid into, building up those lovely points. But your lovingly crafted barrier can be easily destroyed as wrecked cars have a nasty habit of catching fire and exploding, sending cars flying and leaving one hell of a hole in your wall. It can be frustrating to watch your creation get suddenly wiped out by something you cannot control, but from a gameplay standpoint it makes perfect sense as it stops you from simply creating a barrier and then doing nothing for the rest of the round.

However, letting cars just crash into your barrier scores pretty low points, meaning that if you want the big scores you need to take advantage of other points scoring opportunities. Using your Crashbreaker to punt a car into oncoming traffic scores big points, as does creating chains of explosions around the level. Blasting vehicles into holes is yet another way to score big, as is blowing up special vehicles found around the level. You’ll generally find yourself getting most of these by luck or accident as the imprecise Crashbreaker doesn’t really let you aim things, but when you do manage to get them after some carefully blasting and use of angles and physics, you’ll be one happy maniac in a car.

As you progress through each different intersection only one mode will be available at first; Road trip. Ironically it’s the worst mode out of the lot, as it likes to punish you for letting traffic through. Should five cars happen to sneak through the vehicular carnage the round gets ended prematurely, usually leaving your score wallowing in the shallow end which ensures that you get barely any stars for the level, but luckily you can unlock quite a bit of the game by only ever scoring a single star out if five on each level.. On the early levels this five-car rule isn’t too bad as roads are fairly narrow, making last second dives to stop a car possible, but in later levels when intersections are wider with more roads the imprecise nature of the gameplay can make it all to easy for those precious cars to slip by. The AI controlling these poor machines is rather haphazard as well, sometimes piling into the only other car on the road and other times weaving its way through a complex, convoluted wall of burnt out car husks.  Periodic special events help to keep things a bit more fun and interesting, such as blizzards freezing the roads causing cars to slide madly across the screen or huge sinkholes appearing which offer massive points for whacking cars into it. These all build toward the Special Feature which destroys everything on-screen and scores big points. The less cars you’ve let through the more powerful this event will be, giving you extra incentive to try to stop those pesky bastards from getting through. hurricanes, UFOs and tidal waves are just some of the climatic special events that can occur.

The second mode that can be unlocked on each intersection, assuming you got the stars required to do so, is the far more enjoyable and aptly named Rush Hour which simply tasks you with causing as much mayhem as you can within 90-seconds without any penalties for cars that make it through your rampage, other than some missed points. The imprecise style of gameplay feels far more at home here and the short time limit and the fact that traffic always follows the some patter, which is the same for all modes, encourages you to play the level multiple times to rack up the big scores. Keeping things fun is the pizza van which periodically drives into the intersection which, when blown up, gives you the opportunity to spin a wheel to activate a random event. Of all the modes this one lends itself best to getting those high-scores in the leaderboards and challenging your friends on Autolog.

The final mode is Pile Up and it brings back the irritating five car rule, albeit this time you start the mode with a 5x multiplier to your score and allowing a car through drops the multiplier down one. Just like Road Trip it’s all too easy to let cars slip through your net. The other key component behind pile Up is there’s a limited supply of cars for you to blow the crap out of. Of all the modes this is perhaps the most challenging as the big scores require to keep that 5x multiplier going at all times.

With its score based gameplay, CRASH! would seem to be the perfect leaderboard based game, then, and yet it’s not. The Autolog technology used to such great effect in Hot Pursuit makes a return for CRASH!, allowing you to challenge friends and receive recommendations on which events they’ve kicked your ass in, but the leaderboards only feature your friends. There’s no global leaderboards to be had, which is fine if you’re entire friends list is playing the game, but if you’ve only got one or two others playing it then it’s not much of a leaderboard.

The gameplay is also lacking a certain something, that certain addictive quality that just keeps you coming back for more. The basics are there: bite sized, quick levels and plenty of explosions, but there’s just something missing. It doesn’t help tha, unlike Burnout Paradise, the intersections where you cause your deadly dance of metal and flame are all pretty much the same, involving a few interconnecting roads. The strategies and techniques you’ll employ on each one is exactly the same as the intersection before it, and the one before that.

CRASH! is also a decidedly cheering game, offering bright, vivid graphics to lull you into the mood for causing endless amounts of pain and death. Ok, so that’s exaggerating; the cars in CRASH! would appear to be driven by remote control or something as there’s no blood and no bodies getting catapulted out the windows. But the bright colors don’t hide the fact that this is a decidedly ugly game, looking more like it belongs on a mobile rather than a console. The crashes on offer here simply see the car turn black and ever so slightly crumpled – a far cry from the epic pile ups seen in previous Burnout games. Everything just looks blocky, flat and lacking in detail.

It does rather make up for this with huge amounts of enthusiasm, thanks to an overly cheerful narrator who never seems to shut up. Exactly how long it takes him to drive you entirely insane should prove to be an interesting experiment as he endlessly repeats himself and happily yells nonsense in your ear. And yet his annoying voice, and that of the people on the radio informing you of incoming disasters, somehow suit this bonkers game perfectly.

Burnout CRASH! is rather a strange title, then. By its very nature it’s a game of chaos, carnage and luck, yet often demands precision which the game just can’t deliver upon. If you’ve got a raft of friends to fill the leaderboards then you should have fun with CRASH!, but if you’re on your own then it’s amusing, but gets old quickly.

The Good:
+ Blowing stuff up!
+ Managing to punt a car into another one, causing a lovely chain reaction.
+ Being a reckless driver is fun.

The Bad:
– It’s not a looker.
– A lack of global leaderboards.
– The gameplay gets old quickly

The Scores:

Graphics: 6
Bright and cheerful don’t hide the blocky cars and generally shoddy graphics.

Sound: 7.5
Snippets of great music intersperses the game, but God is that commentator annoying.

Story: 0
A tale of betrayal, redemption, honor and sheep. Nah, not really, there is no story.

Gameplay: 7
Crashing cars is always cool, but it does get old pretty quickly and having no global leaderboards hurts the competition aspect of the game, especially if you’ve got no friends playing the game.

Lifespan: 6.5
There’s a good number of intersections to cause mayhem in and vehicles to unlock, but without friends to compete with it’ll be over pretty quickly with little reason to try and gr

Overall: 7
Summary: A decent first attempt from Criterion to create a downloadable title, but it doesn’t quite have the addictive gameplay to make it great.

Categories: Reviews

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3 replies »

    • Hey Sean,

      The overall score isn’t an average of the other scores. I’ve been meaning to put up something about that but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

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