[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/burnout3/cover.jpg[/floatleft]There are good games, there are great games, and then there are fantastic games. I can say without a doubt that Burnout 3: Takedown falls squarely into the last category. I have played quite a few racing/driving games over the years and not one of them has grabbed hold of me and refused to let go quite like Burnout 3 has. I can also confidently say that I am not the only one in my family that has begun to suffer from the same afflictions. Burnout 3 is the third game in the Burnout franchise that up until this point has never registered on my radar. The reason is simple, driving games don’t typically entertain me enough to justify a purchase. Gran Turismo 3 kept my attention for all of a few hours before it was relegated to the dusty shelf.
I picked up Burnout 3 on a sort of whim of faith. I heard tremendous things about the game the 2 days after it was released and it peaked my interest. I went ahead and read a few reviews of the game to get an idea of what I was in store for. I also wanted to see what the major complaints about the game were so I could keep an eye out for them while playing it. To my surprise, there were no major complaints.
Since Burnout 3 is an arcade racer and not a racing sim like many of the other driving games we have seen recently it is afforded a departure from reality in many ways. What I mean by this is that it is the SSX of racing games. It’s over the top style adds a fun factor that has been non-existent in recent games in the genre. To better understand my point, let me briefly go into the types of things you will engage in while playing Burnout 3.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/burnout3/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Burnout 3 sports a single player campaign called the World Tour where you compete in events worldwide in an effort to secure cash and new cars. Unlike other games, your cash is not spent in an effort to trick out your ride. There is no customization in Burnout 3 and it doesn’t need it. Instead, the amount of cash you have earned unlocks new vehicles for you. How you earn the cash is the tricky part. In the world tour you compete in a slew of wonderful events. You have your standard race, grand prix, and crash events. The race events take on different forms as you may be racing 5 other opponents or you may be facing off against a single opponent in an effort to win his car. The format of the race is slightly different than you are used to in that you are awarded points and boost for taking down the other drivers. Yes, it is not only encouraged but required that you ram, nudge, and completely sideswipe the other drivers in an effort to win the race. I will fully explain the takedown concept in a moment. Grand Prix events are a series of 3 races that award medals based upon points that are awarded for each race. These points are awarded based on race results; 6 points for 1st, 4 points for 2nd, etc. The overall winner is awarded a gold medal. The crash events are the ones you may not be familiar with. Crash events are ones where you try and create the most massive accident you have ever witnessed in your life. You are aided by speed boosts, ramps, cash bonuses, and cash multipliers. These are the events where you earn cash. The cash you earn is how much damage was caused in the accident.
In addition to the world tour, there are plenty of other game modes. You can go to single event and start up a single crash event, race, time trial, or road rage event on any of the tracks you have unlocked in the world tour. You can also jump on Xbox Live and play any number of single or team based variations of the games available. I have yet to jump on Live and play with the crew because I have been too busy playing crash events which are by far my favorite event with road rage taking a very close second. I know Dots would rank the road rage events at the top of her list.
I typically don’t make a point of delving too deep into game mechanics, but with Burnout 3 there were a lot of things I wanted to explain because I feel that they are the reason that the game is so fantastic. The first of these things is the takedown concept. During many of the events such as racing or road rage your success is based upon your ability to takedown an opponent. By takedown I mean make them wreck. Making them wreck can be as simple as nudging them on a turn or as complex as forcing them into an oncoming Semi. There seem to be an endless number of ways you can cause a takedown and it is always great to go into slow motion and watch your opponent’s cars being mangled in ways you never thought possible. The slow motion video can be turned off for those of you that manage to amass an ungodly number of takedowns in each race. In the instance that an opponent does execute a takedown on you or you plow into any one of the hundreds of objects that create a potential for a crash, it becomes Aftertouch time. Aftertouch is like bullettime for cars. When you wreck you simply press the A button to slow down time and use your thumbstick to influence the direction of the crash. An example would be someone nudging you from behind that causes you to wreck into the guardrail, simply press A and guide your car into the offending driver or any of the opponents to score big points with an aftertouch takedown. Aftertouch is also an integral part of hitting bonuses and multipliers in the crash events.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/burnout3/ss08_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Boost is also a very important part of any race event. Obtaining boost is very simple too. Simply takedown the other racers and your boost meter fills up. One big change in this game versus its predecessors is that you can use boost prior to the boost meter being full which is a very welcome change indeed. Executing takedowns also extends the size of your boost meter so you can store more boost in a race. Other things to earn boost are near misses with traffic, driving on into oncoming traffic for extended periods of time, or executing drifts around turns.
By now I have built a pretty compelling case to run out and buy the game without touching on some pretty key elements such as graphics or controls. I think in this case the gameplay merits a purchase even if you have poor graphics and a weak control layout, but lucky for us neither of those is the case here. Burnout 3 definitely delivers some top notch visuals if you slow down enough to take note of them. The car models are wonderfully done and you can see the influence of actual sports cars in many of them. The in game damage to the cars as you execute acrobatic crashes is also spot on. In regards to the button layout, it is pretty standard fare with right trigger being gas and left being brake/reverse. The only time this gets to be a problem is when you go on Burnout 3 benders and your right index finger goes numb from holding the trigger. Aside from that, all is well.
I used an analogy to describe Burnout 3 as the SSX of racing games and it extends to the way the in game soundtracks are handled. EA setup an in-game radio station called Crash FM complete with an announcer who was annoying at first but grew on me as the game went on. The soundtrack was a stellar lineup of bands that happen to appeal to my wife and I so we loved it, but I can see it being a problem if you happen to like a different style of music. That problem is quickly resolved with the support of custom soundtracks.
With all of that being said, I think it is a pretty safe bet that I am going to recommend this to anyone looking for a new game. I don’t care if racing games appeal to you or not, Burnout 3 is a game to own. Burnout 3 adds a few simple concepts to the world of racing games and blows the competition away. I can honestly say that this is the best racing game I have ever played and the bar has been set so high that it will take a lot to knock Burnout 3 off the top spot. So without further delay, get yourself to the store and buy Burnout 3. You will thank me right after you take your Tuned Coupe into a crowded intersection and cause an accident that would make worldwide headlines.