Burnout 3: Takedown Review

Burnout 3: Takedown is Criterion Studios latest in the critically lauded series (look at my Burnout 2: Point of Impact Review for the GameCube to find out exactly how much that game surprised me). This time around, Criterion is backed by Electronic Arts who just recently bought out the studio and their popular Renderware technology. Lucky for Criterion they went with Electronic Arts because the previous publisher, Acclaim, recently went under.

To put Burnout 3: Takedown into simple terms it is the larger, faster, better playing and better looking sequel to Burnout 2: Point of Impact. Let’s get to the scores.

Many people will say that Burnout 3: Takedown (henceforth known as Burnout 3) is not as good looking as Project Gotham Racing 2 from a car/track perspective because PGR2 is arguably the best looking racing game out there at the moment. In many ways I would agree with the people that say that, but there are some monumental differences that make Burnout 3 a better overall graphical package and it has a heck of a lot to do with online play.

Burnout 3 is an arcade racer. You can take major damage and still go full speed in this game. You can crash your car into little pieces and you’ll hop right back into the game to continue playing. The car models, based on real-life cars but not licensed ala the Grand Theft Auto (also made by Criterion’s Renderware) games, are fantastic and it really is shown off in the Crash sections of the game. When you replay a crash you can see the reflections of the environment on the top of your car and everywhere else, sparks flying as you slide on the ground or slam into another car, etc. It’s really amazing how well the graphics turned out.

This game runs at a solid framerate and I have yet to see slowdown, even during online games. As you are driving you will see a blur outside of your “tunnel view” as you go faster and faster, much like Need for Speed Underground and many of the other street racing games that have come out lately. This gives it a realistic feel, although this game is obviously far from realistic.

The tracks themselves are nicely done as well and are more filled with cars than the streets of Midtown Madness 3 or Project Gotham Racing 2, which obviously doesn’t have any traffic in it. Where Burnout 3 outdoes PGR2 and Midtown Madness 3 is that the traffic is also present in online games. Midtown Madness 3’s levels became ghost towns other than you and the other drivers, PGR2 never had traffic in the game and the only traffic you have online are the other players. In Burnout 3 you have the other players and a ton of traffic to go around while the game is still pushing a lot of graphics at you. Granted, there is a reason for the traffic being there (in order to raise your boost with near misses), but the fact that it runs smoothly even online is a testament to what Criterion has done.

The only minus you can give to this game in the Graphics section is the fact that the game is littered with ads (billboards, signs, etc.) for upcoming and existing EA games. It’s sad they had to do that, but I think Electronic Arts are true masters at how to make a game while also advertising different things whether it be through agreements with other companies or advertising their own stuff. It’s just too bad they have to use Burnout 3 for the ads. I wonder if Need for Speed Underground 2 will be full of ads as well.

Given how fast this game is I think the graphics are amazing and are easily a revolutionary step up from Burnout 2: Point of Impact. Tracks are pretty to look at, the cars are well detailed and the Takedown/Crash camera slowdown is expertly handled. Criterion deserves a round of applause for this game.

Sound is another source of contention reading all the forums out there buzzing about this game. Many people have a problem with the EA Trax presented in this game. I personally don’t and I find many of them to be pretty good. It is far better than the Rap crap that EA dumped on us with Madden 2004 and will be dumping on us with Def Jam Fight for New York (which needs Rap in it since many characters are rappers). I counted 44 tracks on this game if I remember. Such up and coming bands as Franz Ferdinand, New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Jimmy Eat World and The Von Bondies. The beauty in the Xbox version (at least) is that you can turn off the tracks you don’t want to hear or set them to play only in game, in menu or all the time. You can also add in your own music tracks. The problem is that you do not have the option of setting them to play in game, menu or all the time. I was a bit disappointed by that, but then again I found the given tracks not that bad. There’s a wide range of music in those 44 tracks.

As for how the game sounds, all I can say is “Wow!” This game sounds awesome in Dolby Digital 5.1. You can hear the opposing cars coming from behind you, the crashes sound extremely painful and the car sounds are top notch. When you take down an opposing driver and the camera switches to watch them crash the sound is amazing during the slowdown, and then as your perspective moves back to racing the sound has a “speed-up” like effect back to normal speed. It’s very well done.

The only minus I would give the sound category is the DJ that talks early on in the tutorials and I’m guessing during the game. I wouldn’t know though, I turned him off. I’ve heard he is highly annoying, so why bother to keep him on? It’s nice they gave us the option to turn him off.

Control is very easy to get ahold of. R trigger accelerates, L trigger brakes, A lets you use your boost meter if it has any boost left and Y allows you to look behind the car. The game really is that simple to control.

New to the game this time around is the Aftertouch system. When you crash you can go into Aftertouch mode by holding the A button down. This will put the crash into slow motion and you can then use the left analog stick to move your car in totally unrealistic, but fun, ways depending on the speed and inertia that your car has going into the crash. With the Aftertouch system you can smack your car into opponent racers and record a Takedown for your effort or you can create a jam that will hold back your opponents from getting ahead of you. In many ways the Aftertouch system can be strategic and makes your crashes that much more advantageous.

Burnout 3 is a simple, but addictive, game to play. Burnout 3 is split into two main modes: World Tour and Online Play which basically translates to single and multiplayer. In World Tour you go around the USA, Europe and the Far East doing different tasks and unlocking other tasks in order to further your way to completion. Much like Project Gotham Racing 2 there is a natural order to the class of cars that you progress through. You start small with Compact cars and go all the way up to Big Rigs like fire trucks and semis. There are 67 cars in all for you to unlock and collect.

In the classes you’ll have to do a number of things and need to reach certain levels in order to win a bronze, silver or gold medal. Sometimes you race for the fastest time, sometimes your job is to Takedown a certain number of cars before time runs out, sometimes you go head-to-head with a computer driver in order to win their car, etc. There is a myriad of different game types in the World Tour and it will keep your attention for a good long time in order to get all the gold medals.

There is one section that stands out though and is no surprise to anyone that has played Burnout 2: the Crash tasks. In the Crash sections your job is to create as much monetary damage as you can in order to pass the level. This time around in Burnout 3 there is a lot more tricks to use, such as jumps, tornado ramps, boosts, etc. There is also the added beauty of when you reach a certain number of cars wrecked by your actions (the number needed is shown along with the levels to win the medals) you are able to detonate your car with the B button and create even more havok and damage and score even more money.

Along with the detonation button, the other big change from Burnout 2 is you now have an Aftertouch ability when you get into crashes, which I spoke about in the Control section. As soon as you crash you can hold down the A button and then maneuver your left analog stick toward where you want your car to move and maybe Takedown an opponent’s car while in your crash (or in the case of Crash mode being able to push the car to crash into another vehicle in order to cause more damage). Obviously this is very unrealistic because you can literally reverse your car’s current trajectory in order to hit a car on the other side of the road. There are still physics and inertia involved, but you are able to move your cars in ways it shouldn’t move. It is very cool when you have a crash or Takedown an opponent, the camera will give you a side view of the crash. In the case of a Takedown it is like you are looking out the side of your car and then the game seamlessly moves you right back into the racing again…it’s very well done.

One of my problems with this game is that it is relatively easy to unlock things in the game if you repeat levels over and over and continue to amass cash, Burnout points and Takedowns. Those three things unlock a lot of things and if you go into a massive crash task you can keep doing it over and over to get things unlocked. I don’t like the idea of being able to repeat levels over and over in order to get the unlockable cars, although many people out there may not take advantage of this. I haven’t played Burnout 2 in a while, so I don’t remember if this type of thing was in that game or not. I also find this game early on to be on the easy side with getting gold medals, but soon enough you’ll find it to be a little more difficult. The beauty is that this game sucks you in and makes you so addicted that you don’t care if you spend hours trying to beat one race. In many ways it is like Project Gotham Racing 2 in that respect.

Another problem that other people may not like is that the computer AI has rubberband technology where no matter how far ahead you are they’ll catch up to you. My comeback on this is that the Burnout series has always had rubberband logic in it, so this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. You also have to remember this is an arcade game and not a simulation game, so the unrealistic is very possible.

Finally there is the online section of this game. I will say there are currently problems with Electronic Art’s servers or something. I was able to play a number of games online, but after some of the races I would get kicked off and when it tried to reconnect it would say that Xbox Live was unavailable. I’ve never had that problem before with my Live account, so I’m guessing EA is having trouble ala NCAA Football 2005 when it first came out. The biggest problem with this was that my ranking was not updated or saved when I got kicked off the server. It’s no big deal, but if I was anal about my ranking I’d be pretty pissed.

On the second day of playing online I had no disconnection problems and my ranking was updated after every race.  I believe I did about 10 straight online battles, so maybe EA fixed something.

You can play up to 6 players online in most modes, but you can play 8 people and in the Party Crash mode, but each person goes separately or in a team of 2. There are 5 multiplayer modes: Race, Road Rage, Team Crush, Double Impact and Party Crash. Race is what it is, Road Rage is a 3 vs. 3 (or less) game where one team is blue and the other is red. The blue team needs to get to the end of the race without having the red team knock them out. Once a blue member is knocked out, the blue member can then help the people on the blue team that are left. Red team also has unlimited boost, although this may be an option that can be turned off. It’s quite a cool game and was the one I most played online. Team Crush and Double Impact are for 2 people where you find routes to the biggest smash and fight for crash dollars respectively. Party Crash can be done solo or in teams of two to get the most crash money.

They don’t sound all that exciting, but I think Race and Road Rage along with Party Crash are going to be highly popular. Overall the online component runs well and I didn’t notice any slowdown or any graphical oddity versus the single-player section of the game.

This game is highly addicting and you will spend many hours playing it. Some reviews have said you can get through the single-player mode in 10-15 hours, although I wonder if that is with all gold medals or not. I’m betting there is more time there if you want to do that. There are lots of tracks, cars and Crash Junctions in which to enjoy this game.

The only question you can ask yourself is how much time can you give a game that sucks you in and doesn’t let go?

Burnout 3: Takedown may be the finest example of arcade racing games out there right now. Criterion was smart to go with Electronic Arts (who later purchased them), even though some people would argue about the EA-izing of this game with such things as billboard ads for upcoming EA games. If you have time, like arcade racing and don’t mind getting super addicted, Burnout 3: Takedown is the game for you.

See you online for some Road Rage and Party Crash maybe?

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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