Burnout Crash Hands On
We’ve seen a bunch of screens and a couple of videos showcasing Criterion’s newest dip into the Burnout universe. I got to play Burnout Crash at EA’s press event Tuesday night and have some impressions on how it plays. (Note: I did not play Burnout Crash using the Kinect controller. I watched someone use it and it worked, I guess, but for reasons that go without saying, I wasn’t interested in jumping up and down to play a game.)
Anyone who’s familiar with the Crash mode in previous games will feel right at home once he adjusts to the isometric view of this game. There’s an explosion meter that allows you to blow up when it’s filled. It fills up slowly over time or more quickly when you’re blowing stuff up. When you ignite, your vehicle blasts into the air and you have slight control over where it goes (and, subsequently, what it crashes into). Blowing things up = scoring points. The whole game is a highscore affair that feels incredibly arcadey in a very good way. There were three different modes on display: Road Trip, Rush Hour, and Inferno.
The point of Road Trip is to drive into an intersection and do all you can to disallow cars to make it through said intersection alive. This is achieved by crashing into trucks, cars, buildings, etc. There’s a counter in the top-left part of the screen that tells you how many cars are going to try to make their way through the intersection, and each time one does, you gain an ‘X’ (the equivelant of losing a life). You’re allowed quite a few strikes before the game ends, so it’s not really trying to make you lose in that manner. There are even ambulance trucks that ride through and, if you allow them safe passage, erase strikes from your record. Other special vehicles that will show up include a Money Truck that shoots bags of cash around the map (huge bonuses if picked up) and a Pizza Truck that triggers the “pizza of fortune” wheel. When you spin the wheel, something crazy happens. The one I saw was a lightning storm, something I’ll touch on later.
Rush Hour is similar to Road Trip in that you drive into an intersection and cause carnage, but in this mode there’s only 90 seconds on the clock. You’ll need to orchestrate some big multipliers and crafty trick shots to achieve a high score. Some of the trick shots include a punting bonus for rocketing disabled vehicles into other vehicles across the map (the farther the punt, the bigger the bonus), a dunk bonus for blowing vehicles into holes, and a few others that aren’t coming to mind at the moment. The point is there are a lot of ways to score points, which is, beyond blowing shit up for fun, the main objective of the game. I’m sure there will be leaderboard support for each of the many maps. Beyond that, there are five objectives in each map which earn you stars. Stars unlock other content such as new maps, vehicles, etc. That part of the game reminded me of Joe Danger; I’m sure there will be a lot of replay value in the form of unlocking content and going for completion.
Inferno is a bit more complicated and puzzle oriented. I’m not quite sure how the scoring works, but I think you have to keep objects burning at all times in order to accrue points. This mode seems like the more thoughtful alternative to the balls-out action of the rest of the game. I didn’t get a chance to play it personally, but watching it was proof enough that you’re going to have to think a bit to score high.
The graphics are tight (particularly the crazy natural disasters), the gameplay is fun, but I think I most enjoyed the sound slice of the Burnout Crash pie. Familiar pinball sound effects are often ringing loud and clear, and Criterion keeps up their longstanding reputation of having great music accompany their games. The game modes don’t last too long, so there isn’t exactly a playlist of classical tracks this time around. Instead, short musical clips sound off at different points during the chaos. For instance, I once blew up a Pizza Truck which triggered a lightning storm. Lightning struck every car I blew up for the next 20 seconds or so, causing more destruction and a hell of a lot more points. Arguably the best part of triggering the storm is that a clip of “It’s Raining Men” played for a few seconds. I couldn’t help but smile, and neither could anybody nearby watching/listening. Different disasters trigger on different maps, and the Criterion guy showing the game assured me that there are a bunch of musical clips that were intentionally added to cause smiling. They’re literally forcing the player to have fun.
Burnout Crash is all about action, explosions, and scoring lots of points. It’s often been mentioned in the same breath as pinball, and with good reason, but there was a good lot of the experience that reminded me of Smash TV, specifically the announcers and overall gameshow feel of it all. Add a dash of achievements and unlocks and you’ve got yourself a good-looking, fun-playing downloadable title. If it wasn’t on my radar before, Burnout Crash sure is now.