LanMacsoneNov 9, 2002While Criterion Studios initially may have been known for its excellent middleware (Renderware), another part of the company is dedicated to game development. Criterion has created various games, all with different degrees of notoriety, including Trickstyle, Airblade, and the most respectable of the bunch, Burnout. Following up on its first racer on PlayStation 2, Criterion's BurnoutWhile Criterion Studios initially may have been known for its excellent middleware (Renderware), another part of the company is dedicated to game development. Criterion has created various games, all with different degrees of notoriety, including Trickstyle, Airblade, and the most respectable of the bunch, Burnout. Following up on its first racer on PlayStation 2, Criterion's Burnout 2: Point of Impact takes the game to a several new levels of playability, graphic prowess and studied presentation.
Burnout 2 is a sparkling example of pure, refined arcade racing done right. It's instantly accessible, it's the fastest looking racer on PlayStation 2, and most of all it offers the best car crashes on the planet. When I glance at the huge roster of racing games on PS2 these days, only one still stands out as a genuinely memorable keeper, Gran Turismo 3: A-spec. Yes, a few others are worth owning. But I'm talking about standout quality that still screams at you from the shelf. Well, now you have another one to keep you up late nights, Burnout 2.
One of the prominent gameplay complaints hampering the original Burnout was its brevity (we'll get to graphics in a bit). Criterion listened and has responded. In this sequel, there are six locations and 32 stages, including more US spots (Rocky Mountains, Los Angeles, New Mexico, an international airport, and more), 21 different cars, and the ability to customize your own vehicles. The designers have mapped courses using green-lit gates that, later on the game, shift, opening up newer sections of that same course.
Likewise, boosts have been bolstered and improved. Players earn them by driving as close to other vehicles as possible, with higher points given to nearly missing oncoming traffic. The object is still to get close, but not to touch. Players also earn boosts by drifting and jumping. The "Offensive Driving 101" mode (a tutorial) helps to build your skills by offering bronze, silver or gold trophies for those who perform well.
Burnout 2 features familiar and new cars this time around. The lineup highlights a strange mix of vehicles from various countries and vintages, including 1920s cars, Japanese muscle cars, NASCAR cars, 1950s hot rods, stock cars, pickups, SUVs and police cars. None of them are licensed, of course, but many of them are clear replicas of very specific makes. And there are seven secret cars in addition to the 14 regulars. One of the best cars is a high-performance student-driver car. Nice one, fellas.
In much the way Reflections Studios was able to build an entire game around a singular idea with Driver, Criterion has stretched its arcade racer canvas to cover several deft modes of play in Burnout 2. It includes Championship (the career mode, featuring a variety of races, such as championships, single races and chase), Single race (a single race), Time Attack (post your best time), Crash (an excellent new addition), Chase(a cop-chase mode) and Offensive Driving 101 (training). The heart of the game is Championship, and as you progress through it, many new cars and at least one new mode is unlocked.
The first Burnout was shrouded in mystery. In many ways it was a hidden gem people never discovered, even if they played it. Packaged with original underground features, Burnout wasn't presented in a way that many gamers noticed. It was like an idea fully formed, but not delivered properly, not delivered with great panache or clarity. Burnout 2 is that full idea, fleshed out and presented with gamers in mind. The game commences with drivers training which shows you how to earn your stripes, then progresses to offer an assorted buffet of highly focused high-octane races, chases and crash courses. You learn how to boost (the turbo charge shown on the meter on the lower left side of the screen), and how to manage burnouts (when you lose all turbo power). In essense, you learn the requisite tools of the Burnout trade.
Since the idea is to drive as fast and as recklessly as possible, the training demonstrates how to do it with clarity. You learn to drift, drive against traffic properly (yes, properly), and take jumps amidst the six-part session. It's quite easy, but it helps to know exactly what to do when you're racing at these speeds. As a way to vary the game's qualities across its core mode Championship, Criterion staggers the kinds of races.
For example, players race through the first series (three courses), then they engage in a head-to-head race against a car (in this case a hot rod, which if you beat, you win), after which a Chase session occurs. The chase gives players the chance to ram a cop car against a rampaging driver within a limited area. The next race is a four course Championship, the next five, etc.
While Burnout 2 is in many ways just a more refined, polished, better presented version of Burnout -- which, by the way, is a good thing here -- Criterion has not only organized its game better, it's added sparse but intensely addictive modes of play. Crash is a mini-game that's as addicting as Survival was in Reflections' PlayStation game. The goal is simple: Drive down a strip of road and crash into the oncoming traffic in the attempt to cause as much damage as possible. That's right, go for the coolest, most uproarious collision you can. It's a strict he-man chest-beating affair, but oh, is it good fun. Each vehicle (cars, trucks, 18-wheelers, busses, etc.,) has monetary value attributed to it: Hitting busses and trucks are worth more than mere civilian cars, but hitting busses, trucks and cars, as many as possible -- causing domino effects and collateral damage -- grants players multipliers. Cause $5 million in damage with a multiplier of 5 and you earn $25 million in damage. Ah, lovely, lovely multipliers.
There is an unofficial contest occurring in our office right now to see who can earn the highest collision points, and right now it's $24 million in damage. That takes some hard work, too, my friends. But anyway, while Crash is a single-player game, it's designed entirely to play with against friends. This is serious replay value right here, and some folks here in the office have only just played that mode alone and love the game. Chase is also good fun, enabling players to chase out-of-control madmen as a cop. You chase the bad guys and continually crash into their cars until they die. This kind of game can be found in various Need for Speed versions and of course, in Driver 1 & 2. It's good fun, but not quite the howling-kicking-scream of joy that Crash is.
PatteK.Nov 3, 2002I think that it was an fantastic game. I love weaopns and i love that game.
Official U.S. Playstation MagazineWhat the game lacks in production values, it makes up for with pure action gameplay. [Sept 2002, p.113]