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Burnout Crash has no time for actual driving, lest that detract from the Michael Bay levels of destruction and wanton chaos actively encouraged in Criterion’s latest Burnout project. Yet for all the explosions, the translation of Burnout’s visceral, adrenaline inducing crash mode into a top down arcade title looses much of the spice, with what is left feeling a rather forced and irritating experience.
Gameplay centers around the aftertouch; an ability first introduced in the sublime Burnout 3: Takedown to re-explode your vehicle multiple times post initial crash. Utilising this ability you are required to create traffic obstructing pileups, whilst destroying as many of the surrounding structures as possible.
Every explosion equals cash and within a time limit you must accrue enough money to meet targets for which you are awarded stars. Initially ‘road trip’ is the only accessible mode, that must be completed to gain access to extra modes and further intersections. Allowing 5 cars to safely cross the intersection results in a game over, thus a little tactical pile up planning ahead is required. Thankfully however the drivers in Crash appear to exist in an alternate dimension where nobody has brakes and will happily plough head long into a flaming wreckage.
Progress between the 18 available intersections is restricted to the number of stars you have acquired. Requiring a return to previously completed intersections and attempts at the unlockable ‘Rush hour’ and ‘Pile up’ modes, each offering a further 5 stars. Rush hour is a no fail mode, in which the name of the game is simply causing as much destruction in an allotted time with increased traffic flow rates. Pile up demands a little more thought, as the initial goal is to damage but not destroy cars. Accomplished through delicate use of your explosive ability, catching vehicles in the outer blast radius. This is followed by the ‘inferno’ stage in which all damaged vehicles explode in a chain reaction.
Special vehicles appear throughout (more frequently in Rush Hour) granting various bonuses: Destroying the pizza truck brings a wheel of fortune mini game containing an assortment of modifiers such as a 3x score multiplier or a reduction in traffic speed. Whereas allowing the ambulance to safely pass will remove an escaped vehicle strike from road trip mode.
Later intersections increase difficulty through the addition of more roads and more complex intersections to block. Whilst there are elements of a puzzle game here, this is hardly Braid. Most challenges are no more intellectually taxing than dragging your explosive scrapheap into the correct position. Frustratingly the task becomes one more of luck and less of skill, leading to an experience soon becomes tiresome. Couple this with the change in perspective and Crash simply does not achieve the addictive nature of its brethren’s crash mode.
If the gameplay quickly becomes tired then the presentation has a metaphorical stream of Z’s floating from its mouth. Crash looks more like an iOS title than a downloadable console game. To its credit a screen full of exploding buildings, vehicles and the occasional natural disaster that sweep through the screen at the end of some stages provide mildly impressive spectacles. Yet it remains visually indistinct and bland considering the recent high standard of visual quality from many downloadable titles of a same price.
Burnout Crash tries so very hard to develop a personality, to foster some kind of attitude and a rapport with the player. Yet it feels forced with an in your face jockstrap attitude. The radio announcer sounds like an irritatingly over enthusiastic 80’s Saturday morning radio presenter going through a mid life crisis and what may be intended as quirky and endearing comes of as a little obnoxious.
Criterion have included a competitive social aspect as well, as a leaderboard of your friends high scores on every challenge and intersection is autologged. These provide more compelling goals and fun experiences than simply collecting stars as you are notified when one of your scores is bested and immediately invited to retaliate.
It seemed like a foolproof plan, to distill Crash mode from the popular Burnout series into a downloadable title. Yet in changing the perspective and tone of the experience Criterion have inadvertently removed from it the essence of what made it fun in the first place: Adrenaline inducing crashes and the resultant chaos viewed at the most visceral level. Instead what is left is a more mechanical puzzler, a far less engaging experience, one that tries hard and has well integrated social features. But the core gameplay runs out of fuel and breaks down far to early.