Review: Burnout (Gamecube)

In this review, we laugh at the idea of shoulder checking as we play the racing game Burnout. We find out if this Gamecube game is worth playing.

This game was released in 2002 and would kick off an entire series.

For me, Burnout is essentially what happens when you mash the games Midtown Madness 2 and Rush 2 – Extreme Racing USA together. Really, that’s not a bad combination as they were both pretty good games.

Essentially, all this game is is a checkpoint racing game (like Rush 2). You race through streets and highways with actual traffic on the roads (Like Midtown Madness 2). This theme is more or less repeated in the many modes of play that are available.

The main mode in this game is the championship mode. It’s not exactly an actual championship as it is a series of races with a qualifying position in each race. These qualifications range from first to third and are predetermined. So, if you place first in a race that requires only a top three finish, that has no affect on the next race. The number of races in each championship game is either one or three. If you complete a championship game successfully, you’ll unlock new tracks, possibly a face off, sometimes new modes, and, of course, the next championship race. Each championship race consists of you and three other opponents, so there is slim pickings when it comes to the number of opponents, but that’s not to say your races will be easy all the way through the game.

As you race, you may notice that you have a meter at the bottom left corner. This is your Burnout meter. To fill this burnout meter, you need to perform some moves to gradually fill it. the most immediately obvious way is through a “near miss” which is essentially coming close to crashing into a regular car without hitting it. Some racers advise against using this to fill your Burnout meter, but I found that this method is not a bad one if you have almost filled your meter, are coming onto a straightaway, and need just a little more to fill it. A more effective method is to drive on an oncoming lane. The longer you drive on this lane, the more you fill your meter. In some races, you have no choice but to drive in the oncoming lane, but if you are feeling bold, this can be a great way to fill your burnout meter quickly. You can also fill your meter a bit by “drifting” which is simply sliding around a corner. This can help nudge your burnout meter nicely without a whole lot of effort. My personal favorite way of quickly filling the meter is through a “burnout”. This is achieved by using up all of your meter in one shot without getting into a crash. This instantly fills your burnout meter half way. In some race, you can get burnouts while driving down an oncoming lane. When you run out, your meter can be instantly filled as you just keep going as if you never ran out. Hope you can control your vehicle in the process because if you do, you can get quite a jump on the competition.

There are a few caveats to the burnout system. For one, you can only use your burnout if you successfully filled it all of the way. Otherwise, it can only sit there unused. Once you fill it, you can use it however you see fit until its empty. From there, you can simply fill the meter back up again. Another caveat is the fact that if you crash your car, your burnout is cut seemingly in half and becomes unusable until you fill it back up.

Crashing is never good unless you want to put your name in the worst drivers hall of fame after. If you hit a car, you’ll lose control of your vehicle for a moment. The screen will eventually dip to white and allow you to drive again, but you do lose a fair bit of time. While all crashing sounds terrible, it’s possible to crash your opponents as well. If you crash, you can hope to be in the lead and completely block the road. This can prevent passing, but a lot of this depends on luck. The more effective way is to simply bump your opponent into either an obstacle or an oncoming car. You have to be careful you don’t find yourself crashing in the process, but it is possible to lose an opponent or two with this method.

The major factor in any given race is the other traffic on the road. Sometimes, they can pop up seemingly out of nowhere in intersections that look like straightaways to you. These vehicles do drive through the arrow walls, so try to be wary of this. Vehicles can also change lanes. Since vehicles do change lanes very gradually, you may have to just jump out into another lane to get out of the way. One interesting behavior is that, often, vehicles to try and get out of the way if you are approaching. they don’t move very far, but they do try a little. This behavior can be used to your advantage when an opponent is close by. If you scare a vehicle, it can jump out and clip your opponent – causing a crash and slowing that opponent down. While this hinges on you being only slightly ahead, it can be effective when the opportunity arises.

There are a number of strategies different drivers employ to get in as few crashes as possible in the race. Some suggest driving on the shoulder. Others suggest driving inside a lane. One additional method I found myself employing was driving on the lines of the road. The only time this becomes a problem is the vehicles changing lanes. Usually, you can see this ahead of time and react accordingly. It’s possible to inadvertently rack up near misses and event just have enough of your car to start racking up oncoming lane mileage in the process with less risk of crashing. Of course, in this game, there are never any guarantees of avoiding crashes, so expecting them (especially when you are just starting out) is a pretty good idea. It’s possible to crash your car several times and still qualify, so there is definitely some give in this game.

There’s two ways you can lose a race in championship mode. The first is simply placing outside of the required placement. The other is simply running out of time in the timer between checkpoints. Running out of time will mean that you don’t even place at all. If you lose a race, you will have to use a credit to continue. You always get three of these tokens at the beginning. Once you lose a race with no tokens, you’ll have to go to the main menu and try again. If you lose the first race in the championship, I would say just restart the championship instead of using the credits. More often then not, you’ll need those credits for the second and third race. Using up credits on the first race is pretty pointless if you ask me.

Another mode of racing is the face off. A face off pits you against one other opponent. If you beat that opponent, you unlock that opponents car. This seems to be the main way you unlock vehicles in this game, so this is definitely worth your while.

One downside in this game is the vehicle selection system. The only information you can get from the selection screen is what category the vehicle is (easy, medium, hard, and special). Special vehicles aren’t really good for racing in, but beyond that, what the strengths and weaknesses of each vehicle is can only be discovered (in-game anyway) through driving those vehicles yourself. Different vehicles have different steering, acceleration, top speeds, and durability. The only suggestion I can give is race with the easy car when you are just starting out. You may find yourself spending most of your racing career with this car because of its steering capabilities. It’s definitely possible to go far in the game with this car alone, but just know that speed is a pitfall with this car.

There are other modes of races in this game. These include a single race (race in any particular track you’ve unlocked with three other opponents), time attack (race against the clock), and survival (try to complete the race without crashing). Some of these modes need to be unlocked by completing a certain number of championship modes first. Face off levels are unlocked upon completion of a certain championship, but there are four total.

One pitfall of this game is that it gives you the impression that there are lots of tracks in this game. The reality is that some of these tracks are recycled. For instance, the Gridlock track seems to just be the Interstate track backwards. Other tracks also are the same tracks as previously raced tracks, only they are taking place at night and while its rainy. I think this game could have been a bit forthcoming like the Rush series and, at least, pointing out that a track is simply a reverse/mirror/other condition instead of just giving that track a whole new name and picture.

Another pitfall of this game is that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot offered in terms of customization. I would have liked to see an ability to control things like weather, traffic density, opponent difficulty, number of opponents, etc. in the single race mode. This would have added a whole lot to the replay value. Instead, you just get some default settings that cannot be changed. Lots of games offered something like this like San Francisco Rush or Road Rash 64. The fact that this wasn’t available was a bit anti-climactic.

Still, I thought this game had plenty to offer. There’s no shortage of white knuckled moments in the race. I do like the diverse ways you can enter your name at the end of the race (fastest times, worst drivers, biggest crash, fastest lap, etc.) It’s a little unfortunate that your racing depends a bit on luck (namely with red lights on intersections), but since you don’t lose too much time on, say, a single crash, the game does soften the blow of an uncontrollable crash. While it takes some time getting used to the finer points of each race, it’s not too difficulty to get into the races in the first place thanks to large arrows, warning signs, and HUD arrows helping you along the way. It’s good to see that this game is both approachable and challenging.

So, generally, this isn’t the greatest racing game I’ve ever played, but it wasn’t that bad either. There’s a few notable pitfalls with this game, but there is a lot to keep you interested. I thought the controls were quite solid, and it’s easy to get into this game. The length was also pretty good here as well. In spite of the seemingly limited number of tracks, the tracks themselves also have a lot to offer.

Graphically, I thought this was a great game. There’s a nice amount of effects. The cars are very well designed. The burnout boosts have a nice subtle ghosting effect on everything. I can’t honestly much to complain about here.

The audio was also pretty good. The voice-work was minimal, but effective. The sound effects worked quite well. The music worked well for the game. I don’t know about how well it would work outside of the game, but it did work well within the game. It was interesting to hear the music change midway through the race. At first, I thought it occurred whenever I had less than 10 seconds on the timer, but it seems that it simply occurs after a certain number of crashes. Not quite sure on that, but that seemed to be the trigger to me.

Overall, this was definitely a solid game. This game does manage to take some very good features of other racing games and combine them into an interesting mix. There’s a lot of white knuckled action with racing on live freeways and roads. It’s both approachable and challenging. It’s easy to understand. there’s a decent amount of racing to be had here. That’s not to say this game is perfect. The races do depend on a bit of luck sometimes with the traffic. Some of the tracks are simply recycling previous tracks. The other modes aren’t really all that different from the main championship mode races. There’s very little race customization. The vehicle selection only offers vague descriptions of the cars. Not the most amazing racing game I ever played, but definitely worth playing.

Furthest point in game: Finished third place on the Sunset Drive track during the Twilight Grand Prix championship.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 76%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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