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Review: Burnout Crash! (PS3/360)

Tested to destruction.

If you listen to the internet, Burnout Crash! looks like an iPhone game and doesn’t represent what the hardcore Burnout crowd want from a game under that precious umbrella.  If you listen to us, somewhat overreactive backlash be damned, Burnout Crash! is actually not bad at all.  Sure, it doesn’t look great and there’s absolutely no reason why this couldn’t be an iPhone game, but that’s missing the point: this is what it is, a top-down, distilled version of one of Burnout’s key early features, and it’s a simple, enjoyable blast of fun.

So here’s what it doesn’t feature: cockpit cameras; detailed physics; realistic next-gen jaw dropping super high definition graphics and licensed vehicles.  Still with us?  Good.  Here’s what did make the cut: college-level comedy; one button gameplay; Spandau Ballet and Gloria-bloody-Estefan; a slick, intuitive progression system; tornados, monster trucks and some of the best sound effects this side of Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  You can’t help but raise a smile as Crash! works its magic, a series of Pavlovian cues setting up most of the set-pieces.

The main issue with the game is trying to position yourself when your movements are constrained to a few seconds at a time.
Split over a scattering of junctions are three main game modes – they’re all similar enough in that you need to cause damage to score points, but the main ‘Road Trip’ mode is the one that you’ll play the most, not least because it headlines each location.  Starting a short drive away from the intersection, you steer a little and choose your first victim, setting off a chain reaction of crashes that bump up your multiplier and points tally.  The slightest of touches counts as a collision, the target vehicle in question immobilised and itself a future source of destruction.

Whilst this is happening your Crashbreaker meter will slowly fill – when it does, a tap of a button causes your vehicle to explode, taking out anything in range and – hopefully – shooting metal and glass into other vehicles and buildings.  The value of anything that is destroyed is added to your total, and the Crashbreaker starts its perpetual recharge loop again.  Special power-ups come into play along the course of the game, including weather and a whole range of increasingly bonkers vehicles to explode or avoid, and once a few of these have passed it’s level over.

All good?  Almost.  The issue is that levels are also lost by the player letting five cars through without damage.  This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but you can only move when you activate the Crashbreaker, and only for a second or two – think PAIN’s Ooch meter and you won’t be far off.  So, maneuvering yourself into position is akin to watching an elderly man with just enough energy to lift a leg – he’ll never really get where he needs to be very quickly and even when he does, chances are things have already moved on and more stuff is happening behind him that are just as bad.

This, as you’d expect, is a bit frustrating.  And it’s not like you can pre-empt what’s going to happen without repeated play; events feel too random at first and it’s not even clear which direction vehicles will go at the junction – and whilst there’s rote learning here it can’t help but feel like cheating.  Of course, the illusion of chaos adds a certain amount of freeflowing charm and keeps the game open to anyone to just dip in and have fun, but when you’re a few hundred points off the maximum required score for a level and a little truck comes weaving past everything you’ve left in your wake it’s annoying – that said, if you’re dedicated then no doubt you’ll be topping the scoreboards.

It might not look like much but there's literally no other way the game could have been designed and played.
Regardless, the level structure is set up nicely.  Each intersection and each of the three game modes have five challenges, ranging from score-based tasks to activating a specific power, and the star reward system means it’s obvious what you need to do to unlock new cars and areas.  This works really well – completists will love the little totals – and means that you’ll breeze through the game easily enough but will want to go back and at least try to get some more stars along the way.

Those graphics, though, that were so divisive when they first emerged, have turned out to be actually quite appealing, if a little basic.  The top-down viewpoint is a necessity, not a blight on the developers – the game simply wouldn’t work from any other angle – and the cars, landscapes and buildings are all modelled well enough if a little uninspired.  There’s a distinct look to each area though, and the presentation is really solid throughout, with a robust menu and selection interface making way for nicely done pop-ups and visuals during the actual game.  Sound, too, is great, with a likeable voiceover and some brilliant music.

What there isn’t, though, is multiplayer.  Sure, there’s the Kinect bonus bits but if you’ve got a traditional controller (or the PS3 version) Crash! is a solitary experience.  It’s saved slightly by the presence of Autolog, which does the same sort of job as with the recent Need for Speed games, but a multiplayer portion – even if it’s just a basic ‘pass the controller’ party mode – would have really helped, offline or online.  In context though, we’re talking about a reasonably priced downloadable game, hopefully one that might see an update or two down the line.


  • Simple, smart gameplay
  • Expertly chosen soundtrack


  • Some frustrating design choices
  • No real multiplayer

Burnout Crash! offers a decent amount of fun for a smart price.  It’s focused and confident enough to concentrate on a very small set of mechanics without drifting off to try to cover too many bases.  It almost succeeds, too, but a few odd design decisions slightly spoil what could have been a really solid game.  You’ll no doubt want to try the demo at least, as it gives a decent indication of what the game is all about but, please, do us a favour – don’t just listen to the internet on this one – if you’re looking for something fun then Criterion’s alternative take on the Burnout universe might just inflate your airbags.

Score: 7/10

  1. bacon_nuts
    Since: Mar 2011

    Played the demo an hour or two ago. It played well, but it was just a little boing. Burnout 3 crash mode was great, then paradise was awful, in all ways, i thought, the crash was not too good in that. But this wasn’t my thing at all. I’d happily pay for just the burnout 3 crash mode though. It was just so much better than this..

    Comment posted on 21/09/2011 at 23:59.
    • R4U Eldave0
      Since: Aug 2008

      Agreed. Paradise was shocking and a really cruddy change of direction for the series. Burnout 2, 3 and Revenge were awesome (HD trilogy please!)

      Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 11:05.
      • bacon_nuts
        Since: Mar 2011

        Got into the series late and so only played 3, only heard good things about the first 2 though. A HD set might not go amiss!

        Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 11:23.
      • Hoopiness
        Since: Sep 2009

        Paradise was/is brilliant and by far the best of the lot.

        Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 18:23.
      • scavenga
        Since: Jul 2009

        I agree completely with the first couple of posts here.
        Paradise is atrocious. The open world scheme killed the immediacy of the previous versions (like SSX3 did to Tricky).
        2, 3 and 4 were brilliant, and an HD remake would certainly hit the spot.
        I loved the crash modes in the first games, and I always had 20 more gos than intended, as I simply couldn’t put them down.
        The new crash game was funny the first crash, and within the next 3 rashes, I was bored out of my mind, I’m sorry to say.

        Comment posted on 23/09/2011 at 09:05.
      • Rad4Life
        Since: Dec 2009

        Paradise played well enough and looked great. It just wasn’t Burnout though. I got in really late and only played Revenge. That game stole more of my life than all other racing games combined. When I grabbed Paradise, I was done within 5 minutes. I hate racing games that are just racing games. Burnout was more than that. This is still not giving the fans what they want.

        Let’s do it right and release a proper Burnout with all the key features. It would sell like hotcakes and really fill a void that is out there. Looking forward to Twisted Metal but it isn’t Burnout. I want/need both. The only reliable source for a decent race, in my opinion, has been the Motorstorm series. A close second for consumption of my racing hours.

        Comment posted on 24/09/2011 at 00:20.
      • scavenga
        Since: Jul 2009

        I would like to revise my opinion about the latest Burnout Crash game, I gave it a few more goes, and now it’s good fun.
        I find the Road Trip sections a bit tiresome, as you can’t let more than 5 vehicles leave the screen, and it feels a tiny bit random whether you manage to or not, but they are well worth it as the Rush Hour stages are absolutely bonkers and very addictive.
        I paid for it and enjoy it thoroughly.

        Comment posted on 29/09/2011 at 12:14.
    • PoisonedMonkey
      Since: Jun 2009

      I like the idea of a game being boing. ;)

      Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 22:39.
  2. aerobes
    Since: Aug 2009

    Tried the demo a short while ago and I found it pretty boring to be honest. Kind of fun but I had no real desire to play past the first demo level. If I had half an hour to spare, I think I’d rather have a nap.

    Also, the announcer was extremely aggravating. Though that’s not exclusive to this, lots of games have really tedious announcers.

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 00:55.
  3. R1MJAW
    Since: May 2010

    I bought this earlier. I’m enjoying it, it’s actually quite addictive.

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 01:20.
  4. TSBonyman
    Since: Dec 2009

    I tried the demo and although I wasn’t expecting much, i still found it disappointing.

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 01:20.
  5. moshi
    Since: Jun 2009

    Maybe when the price drops I will reconsider buying it as the demo didnt justify the price for something that I would play very little of.

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 06:20.
  6. Jakster123x
    Since: Aug 2011

    I’m downloading the demo at the moment so hopefully I’ll get to play it soon and see what the fuss is all about.

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 07:24.
  7. freezebug2
    Since: Dec 2008

    Score, 10/10 to anyone that even got near the PSN yesterday to download the demo….let alone play it!!! I’ll try again later :’)

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 08:21.
  8. Sympozium
    Since: Aug 2009

    It isn’t really Burnout though… its a bit disappointing.. :( but it certainly looks fun, must try the demo.

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 09:18.
  9. Zephyre
    Since: Aug 2009

    Think I’ll sit tight and hope it appears on PS+ in a few months

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 09:19.
  10. Soild_Nat
    Since: Apr 2009

    I cant help get the feeling that this will appear on the iPad in the not to distant future. Criterion have experience of developing for the platform as they released some stuff around NFS on it. I am going to hold off until I know it wont appear on the iPad.

    The mechanics, look, and dip in game play all seem stacked for a mobile device to me so if it pops up on iTunes I will grab it for the iPad and enjoy.

    I think they have chosen to do it the other way around this time and come out on the PS3/XBOX first then migrate over to mobile deceives rather then the current trend of mobile to console!

    Comment posted on 22/09/2011 at 09:21.

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