With a name like "Burnout", it's pretty obvious this isn't a simulation. If you're a Gran Turismo nut and you're looking for your next fix, look elsewhere. If you're an arcade junkey who gets off on thrills, spills and blinding speed then stop reading this and go buy it - with an Xbox 360 if you don't have one already. If you're not quite polarised in either camp, read on...
Burnout has always been about arcade thrills, introducing the concept of deliberate "accidents" right from the very first iteration. The way the basic game plays is very simple - do what you can to fill your "burnout" bar, which you can then turn into blinding speed at the press of a button, which will help you achieve your objective for the gameplay mode you are in.
The gameplay modes vary from racing as we know it (i.e. you are up against a bunch of other cars, trying to be the first across the finish line), to crash "junctions" (deliberately plow headlong into an intersection and destroy as many unsuspecting vehicles as possible) to the all-new traffic-check mode, where you need to go around a loop of track destroying as many cars as you can - each one extending the time limit - until the clock runs out.
New to the series is the ability to happily plow into vehicles from behind, destroying them without wiping out. Previously a crash was a crash and you'd need to be reset / would lose time and sometimes burnout. Now you can actually earn burnout by destroying cars that are heading the same way as you, potentially earning quite a lot of burnout - especially if you shove the cars into oncoming traffic to cause even more carnage.
In a nutshell, it's the kind of obscene fun that feels so good it's probably gonna get banned one day when the PC-brigade finally notice it. Balls-to-the-wall madness that will leave you breathless. Purists of the series might find that it's a bit too easy to earn burnout now, but for casual enthusiasts and people new to the series this is no bad thing. Jump in, accellerate and then try to keep that mad grin off your face - you won't be able to.
Graphically the game has undergone quite the revamp for the Xbox 360. Already an excellent looking game on the Xbox / PS2, the sheer level of detail Criterion have managed to pack in on top of their previous efforts is still impressive. Vehicles deform and dismantle with incredible finesse, reflections and high resolution geometry / textures abound. Even with all of this gorgeous stuff packed in, the game skips along at 60FPS without a single hitch. Slam into an intersection and cause a 50-car pileup, complete with explosions and debris galore and the Xbox 360 will happily churn out the frames as if it was no effort at all.
The sound is, as expected, fantastic. Screeching tires, screaming metal, collisions, explosions and more all absolutely crank - blasting into an intersection with burnout blazing is something which simply must be experienced with a sub woofer and your stereo cranked. Your neighbours will be too scared to complain, don't worry.
Xbox Live implementation is excellent, with the all-new Revenge mode rounding out an awesome online package. The more you play the more the game will track your various opponents, pointing out who has wronged you in the past so you can line them up for revenge. Hey, that's the top guy on the leaderboard! He's so going down... Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?
All in all, this is an adrenaline rush second only to discovering you forgot to pack your parachute moments after leaping out of a plane. It's intense, it's gorgeous, it's furious and it's fast - this is everything a next-gen arcade game should be.