Burnout CRASH!

Crashing a car isn’t an incredibly taxing task. Just ask anyone with a new license and their mom’s car. However, as Criterion Games have proven over the years with their Burnout titles, there is a particular skill to causing apocalyptic displays of carnage with your automobile.

This is the entire premise for their latest downloadable game, Burnout Crash! It essentially takes what was originally a secondary gameplay mode from the full Burnout games and turns it into a top-down party game. The aim? To drive your fancy new car towards a busy intersection at top-speed with reckless abandon towards human safety in an effort to crank up the most damage as insanely possible. No racing and no tracks. You’ll simply be creating massive pile-ups, making buses explode, ruining neighbourhoods and racking up a massive insurance bill.

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At first it sounds like a shallow attempt to cash in on the Burnout franchise, but this downloadable game offers a fun, casual gaming experience to those who have never played Burnout before. It feels like a party game, mixing the simple concept of pinball with high-octane carnage. The overall combination is addictive and quite mesmerising, as you and your group of mates all try to ‘out-explode’ one another. Anyone who has wasted entire evenings playing the PS3 game Pain! and drinking whiskey will know what I’m talking about.

Burnout Crash! offers a handful of different game modes including Road Trip, Rush Hour and Pile-Up. Although they’re all basically the same thing, each requires a different strategy and approach when accumulating (cue Schwarzenegger voice here) maximum col-laaaa-teraal damaaage. Road Trip is essentially the campaign mode where your progress unlocks further objectives and a cosmetic change to the scenery, or levels if you use your imagination. The only core rule in Road Trip is to not let five vehicles pass from one end of the screen to the other. In other words, the player must aim to stop every vehicle that appears - sort of like a physics-based tower defense game.

The easiest strategy is to head your car into the center of the intersection to create a multiple car pile-up, that then acts as a wall to stop incoming traffic. The traffic patterns in the game also appear to be preset, allowing you to replay levels with more hindsight to predict how best to obscure the flow. You’ll also be able to unlock power-ups and extras like ice-cream trucks that freeze objects or a ‘Crashbreaker’ that you can trigger to cause a chain reaction.

But even with these extra abilities the Road Trip mode remains incredibly frustrating. Quite often you’ll gather up an impressive wall of automobiles only to have them all scattered by an unpreventable explosion that leaves gaps for vehicles to drive through. Other times you’ll be sitting there admiring your handy-work when a giant lobster monster or tornado sweeps across the screen and ruins everything. It doesn’t help that AI controlled vehicles navigate your obstacles with the prowess of a professional rallycar driver either. Even some of your power-ups, designed to maximize your score, end up causing you more grief than good. The Sinkhole ability for example opens up a giant pit that sucks in any vehicle near it, often leaving the roads completely empty for the next wave of cars to simply cruise through.

Thankfully the other gameplay modes are less stressful. Pile Up is an entertaining party game where the player builds up a damage meter by causing crashes between cars and buildings, just as in Road Trip. Except the goal here is to build up a massive collection of debris on the roads so that when your damage meter is full, you trigger the ‘inferno’ ability that turns your car into a pyrotechnics display. From here you can continue to cause carnage, increasing your points until every object on screen burns out, requiring you to keep the inferno going for as long as possible.

Rush Hour is the other gameplay mode and - as any poor sod who has seen the David Hasselhoff advert will attest - is incredibly strange. This Kinect-based variant is also the most casual and doesn’t have any penalities for missed vehicles. Instead, you get given 90 seconds to cause as much pant-dropping devastation as possible, at which point your car explodes like an atom bomb to produce you a final score. The motion-control Kinect aspect lets players choose a gesture before the start of each round that sets off their explosion when they mimic it in front of the Kinect camera. It is probably one of the weirdest, most out-of-place applications for motion-control ever witnessed in a racing game. But there is something quite surreal about seeing a room full of people performing a Hadouken or behaving like a chicken in order to have a screen full of cars explode.

Admittedly, this probably isn’t the Burnout game fans were expecting when it was announced earlier this year. But for $18.90 NZ or 800 Microsoft Points, Crash! does offer up a manic, entertaining couple of hours for anyone with severe destructive tendencies. Just don’t expect much more than a few alcohol-fuelled laughs, even with all of the online leaderboards and unlockables thrown in.

"Automotive genocide"
- Burnout CRASH!
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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