Burnout Crash! Review (Xbox360)

One of the industry’s most flawed and tired arguments is how console gaming has killed PC development. Wildly incorrect, the last several years have shown just how strong the system is – it’s well and truly alive. However, that’s not to say that consoles haven’t claimed any scalps. Interestingly and often forgotten, are arcades. They’re the real casualty of console and home gaming. As their existence has waned and record numbers closed, these gaming meccas have retired their lights and sounds to dusty warehouses or private collections.

It’s a sad fact, especially when you consider their vast popularity a mere two decades ago. Often found in arcades, and one form of electronic entertainment that’s gone the way of the dodo, is the humble pinball machine. A test-your-skill installation which required a healthy dose of luck, pinball machines offered the player sensory overload. With relentless flashing lights and sounds, they required a great deal of patience and hand-eye coordination.

The value of money crashes

Many parallels can be drawn between pinball machines and Burnout Crash!. The Xbox Live Arcade title mimics the essence of pinball perfectly. Your car is akin to the barely controllable ball – you’ve got just enough influence to get lucky with your positioning, but at the end of the day, it’s really down to lady luck. Multipliers, bonuses, careful aim – it has all the trappings you’d expect.

Pulled from the standard Burnout games’ Crash mode, Crash! flips the perspective to a top-down view. As your car speeds towards a busy traffic intersection it’s up to you to cause as much carnage as possible. Anyone familiar with the series will understand what the aim is – every car, building, lamppost and object has a monetary value. Knocking into these takes them out of commission and therefore causes them to become a roadblock for other traffic. As more traffic bumps into those unlucky souls, your score edges higher and higher.

By shifting the viewpoint to an arcade-like eagle eye, and reimagining it in a cartoon style, Criterion Games has injected some life into a mode that was previously flagging. In the standard Burnout games, Crash! always seemed down to luck – if you didn’t get a perfect first collision, you’d be out of luck and rack up a meagre score.

This still applies, but with aftertouch allowing you to throw your car around the junction, you’re able to strategically block traffic and rectify your wrongs. Buildings and hidden bonuses lie in wait, ready to cause a chain reaction of explosions. It’s all about timing – do you let the traffic build up before causing a mammoth explosion? Instead, should you grab as many points before the level ends?

A crash course in explosion

Because aftertouch is limited and the metre fills up over time, (with its rate sped up by the very crashes you crave), it causes you to think. The assortment of vehicles offer two approaches. One is a producer of powerful explosions, which lets you fling cars into opposing lanes while making it easier to pull down buildings. The other has a faster aftertouch recharge rate, perfect for levels which have complicated traffic flows.

It’s a case of choosing the right car for the job. There are six locales, ranging from seafront boathouses to desert military bases, and each has its unique end-game powerups. For the airport it’s an emergency landing jumbo jet which scrapes away everything in its path. For mid-America it’s a lethal tornado. It’s all deliciously tongue in cheek, and a return to the old Burnout style.

In fact, Burnout Crash! is arguably the most ‘Burnout’ of the series since the second game. The silliness that was always firmly focused on having fun returns in Crash!. It’s most evident in the little touches. When the Ambulance upgrade comes flying across the screen, it’s accompanied by the Mylo track, Doctor Pressure. When you deploy Lightning, It’s Raining Men plays. It’s hard to put into words – the first time you come across the popular-culture ridden powerups is the best. Even after you’re used to their accompanying jingles, they’ll still raise a smile.

The actual variety that Burnout Crash! offers might be a little thin, but most Xbox Live Arcade titles are the same. It finds its niche and does it very well. The mix of cars and trucks each offer a different play style and the three game modes are just unique enough to keep you playing through.

Road Trip gives you five lives and a set amount of traffic. If cars make it through to the other side of the level, you lose one of your lives. This means Road Trip is about carefully blocking roads, and accurately directing traffic into others. Rush Hour is less about the skill and more about the raw destruction. As its timer ticks down, you throw the heavy trucks into everything in the hope of getting the highest score. There’s no end level joy here, but a pizza van periodically drives across, offering a stereotypical Italian Wheel of Pizza to spin for game-enhancing rewards.

Crashing the party

Last is Pile Up, a slower paced foray into car crashing. Again, a limited amount of traffic is queued and if any get past your watchful eye, they reduce your multiplier. All of your scores are tracked by EA’s leaderboard logging system, and a star system ensures you try again and again to max out the levels.

Purists will bemoan Criterion and claim they’ve lost their way, especially considering there’s Kinect capability for more causal arm flailing and car swatting. The reality is the opposite – Burnout Crash! is a return to form. It’s not Burnout per say and it’s certainly not the crash mode we’re familiar with, but the developers have rediscovered the essence of the series which made it so fun to play in the first place. It’s a welcome addition to the franchise and one that slots perfectly into your gaming collection.

Pick-up and play gaming at its finest.

Top Moment: Hearing Spandau Ballet’s Gold play when you hit the special gold car powerup

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