Burnout Paradise is an incredible game with a lot going for it. It's blisteringly fast, full of exciting event types and one of the better looking arcade racers. But as much as I love Burnout Paradise, I can't help but be disappointed by the lack of a dedicated crash mode. This was, without a doubt, one of the best innovations to come out of earlier Burnout games and its absence was certainly felt. But don't worry; Criterion is here to sell you a stand-alone product that promises to bring all of the fun and excitement of the crash mode back to Burnout.
Introducing Burnout Crash, a curious new PSN (and Xbox Live Arcade) game from Electronic Arts. On paper it sounds exactly like the classic crash mode we've all come to know and love, but visuals tell another story. At first glance you may not even know it's a Burnout game, instead mistaking it for Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. The overhead point of view and cartoony graphics have very little to do with Burnout, so it's easy to see the confusion. But don't let the goofy visuals fool you, because Burnout Crash manages to pack all of the explosive fun of the old games into one deceptively simple package.
Much like the older games, the idea is to drive into a busy intersection and, well, crash. Once you've completed this simple task, it's up to you to wreck, destroy and blow-up as much traffic as possible. As you destroy more cars, you'll be able to explode your car, launching it in whichever direction you choose. In return for the destruction and mayhem you are rewarded money, which ends up being the game's version of points. Like an old school arcade game, your whole goal is to keep the destruction going and earn as many points as you can.
You do this through 18 intersections, each with three separate game types. The first is the traditional crash mode, where you blow as many cars, busses, airplanes and buildings up as possible. As you stop traffic, different challenges will befall the level. For example, you may have to dodge a meteor strike or deal with a truck hauling an armed missile. If you keep the wreckage going long enough you'll unlock the super feature (yes, that's what it's called), which could be anything from an alien attacking to an airplane using that intersection to touch down. This signals the end of the level; time to move on.
Obviously there's more to it than I'm letting on, though just barely. The game wants you to wreck each and every car it throws at you, penalizing every vehicle you miss. If you let one escape, you'll be given a big red "X". Miss five vehicles and it's game over. Either you let too many cars escape or you complete the level. You'll never spend too much time in an intersection, which is probably for the best.
The next game type is the Rush Hour mode. Here you do roughly the same thing, only this time you only have 90 seconds to earn the points. The good news is that in this mode the traffic comes fast and furious. You will also be able to blow up pizza trucks, which will stop the action and bring up the wheel of fortune. Here you will have a chance to spin the wheel and accept your prize ... or punishment. You may slow down the speed of traffic, open up a giant sink hole, unleash tornadoes and even get the cops involved. You never know what you get when you spin.
The final game type is the Pile Up, which is, yet again, a slight variation on the crash theme. Here you'll have a set number of cars to crash until the round concludes. But unlike the other two modes, the game won't immediately end once you've run out of cars to hit. Instead you will be given a multiplier and a time limit, forcing you to continue to blow up damaged cars, houses, boats and anything else that will go boom. If you're able to hit something he timer will reset, forcing you to always pay attention to where you need to go next. Each time you let a car escape that multiplier gets smaller and smaller, so you will definitely need to be on your feet in this mode.
Of the three, the second two are definitely the most exciting. This has a lot to do with how short these modes are, since you can complete them in only a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, in order to open up these two modes in any given intersection, you will first need to play the standard crash mode and earn at least one star. Stars are earned for completing simple goals, such as earning a certain amount of points, blowing up various objects in the level, triggering chains of explosions and so on so forth.
Much like Criterion's last game, 2010's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Burnout Crash features autolog challenges that will extend the life of the game far beyond earning the 270 available stars. Here you'll see your friends scores and be able to brag every time you beat one of them. The social hooks are a good idea, even for a smaller casual game like this.
Burnout Crash is the type of game you play for twenty minutes from time to time. Sadly, the gameplay is far too repetitive to play in long doses. The level designs, while interesting, aren't always unique from one intersection to the next. These stages don't always look different and you'll end up doing the same thing in each and every one of them. I also found that moving through the game was far too easy. Most of the time I was able to get at least one or two stars on my first try. Some of the stars are exceptionally difficult to earn, which will be the thing that keeps people playing this long after the credits roll.
It's easy to be disappointed by the visual presentation, especially if you've been a big fan of the Burnout series since the get-go. This is a franchise known for pushing amazing graphics, even on aging hardware. Sadly this doesn't make such attempt. Instead we have cartoon-style visuals and a simplistic world. This takes a lot of the satisfaction out of the experience, which is a shame.
Perhaps it's because of the game's simple presentation, but I couldn't shake the idea that Burnout Crash would have made a better portable game. I could see this being a great addition to the Nintendo 3DS, Vita or iPad library. I was left somewhat underwhelmed as a console release, even though it's a smaller PSN title.
At its best, Burnout Crash feels like a cross between a pinball game and a horrific traffic accident. It's a great game in short doses, but problems arise if you play it too long. Adding a few more modes throughout the game would have gone a long way to relieve the repetition. While not perfect, Burnout Crash is certainly worth a few dollars for fans of grisly car wrecks. Hopefully next time around Criterion will add a full-fledged crash mode back into the next Burnout game.