Given that Crash is a Burnout game, it's tempting
to unceremoniously chuck it into the scrapyard for everything it's not. It
doesn't use the same crunchy, visceral viewpoint as other Burnouts. It doesn't
concern itself with obsessively detailed vehicular destructo-porn. There aren't
any neck-and-neck photo finishes or spark-scattering takedowns that'd look
right at home in every Hollywood automotive thriller not titled “Cars.” Crash
isn't Burnout 6 or Paradise 2. It is, however, still pretty damn fun.
So then, what is Burnout Crash? Well, we're all
about razor's edge precision, so we're going to use the most scientific form we
know: a cliched joke framework. Burnout Crash feels like the result of some
Criterion staffer kicking off a meeting with “So tower defense, pinball, and explosions
walked into a bar...” But instead of laughing derisively and sending him to the
Shame Corner, everyone else glanced at him incredulously and said, “That's...
brilliant!” Because it sort of is. Well, mostly.
Above: Yeah, nearly $14,000,000 in property damages is only worth one star
Crash's basic mechanics are almost absurdly
simple. You pilot your micro machine a fittingly tiny distance into a crowded
intersection and – KABOOM – nature takes its course. However, that's only the
beginning. While Burnout 3 – the previous series entry Crash is most heavily
influenced by – was all about the improbably obstacle-laden setup, Crash shows
its true colors after you become a soaring pile of flaming metal death.
Racking up points, you see, is as simple as
waiting for your giant, glowing Crashbreaker meter to fill and then exploding again.
And again. And again. And so on. That's where the pinball element comes in. If
you time your not-so-spontaneous combustions correctly, you can put together
giant combo multipliers capable of decimating an entire town block and
skyrocketing your score into goddamn Valhalla. Combined with everything from
magical roving roulette pizza trucks to the occasional meteor shower to
freaking UFOs, it's pure insanity.
Crash isn't just some mindless pyrotechnics show,
though. Also making a return from Burnout 3 is “aftertouch,” which allows you
to briefly guide your ticking time bomb on wheels after every detonation. Here,
then, the tower defense comparison becomes apt. See, it's generally not a good
idea to let other cars flee from your glorious realization of Michael Bay's
wildest dreams. In the main Road Trip mode, it's even the central factor in
deciding whether you succeed or fail. Problem is, there are far too many cars
for you to leapfrog between all of them. So instead, you have to carefully plan
your explosions such that they create barriers out of flaming car husks. As a
result, other cars – apparently driven by people who got their driver's
licenses from boxes of Cracker Jacks that were recalled because they caused incredible
blindness – swerve and screech right into your makeshift defenses,
reinforcing them in the process.
Above: We're pretty sure the whole “unidentifed” bit goes out the window when you can point to it and say, “Why yes, that's the thing that's murdering me right now”
Therein, however, lies the rub: You score points
by blowing everything to smithereens. Car fortresses, though, only stop
vehicles dead in the their tracks. Often, it comes down to timing. Should you
continue bouncing around and picking off cars while your barriers do the bulk
of the heavy lifting? Or should you send every nearby car careening into
whatever building's lucky enough to still be standing, resulting in a colossal
combo payday but annihilating your defenses? It's your call. Regardless, that
constant dilemma adds a surprisingly intense layer of on-the-fly strategy to
Even so, Crash won't exactly have your brain
firing on all cylinders. Sure, there are other factors to consider – for
instance, the direction and flow of traffic, bonuses like money transport
trucks, and level-specific features that can obliterate everything around you
in the blink of an eye – but Crash definitely isn't overwhelmingly complex. In
fact, if we had to give it a label, it'd be “Easy to learn, hard to master.”
What really makes it stand out from other tiny timewasters, then, is the fact
that it combines these addictive, deceptively involving mechanics with such
satisfying results. We can't stress this enough: Shit blows up. Like, all the
time. Causing massive chain reactions that engulf the entire screen simply feels
wonderful. In spite of the fact that we were essentially doing the same thing
over and over again, that maniacally destructive appeal kept us glued to our
seat for hours.
That said, we have to admit that Crash's
single-player is pretty limited. Levels have three modes, each with their own
set of objectives to complete. Most of the objectives are pretty similar (Think
“Get a score of 30,000,000,” etc), although – once again – there's a surprising
amount of variety between the modes. Rush Hour, for instance, gives you 90
seconds to revel in gleeful carnage, while Pile Up requires a much more
measured approach. Road Trip, on the other hand, is basically Peggle – right
down to the gloriously bombastic ending backed up by classical music. Even so,
we were able to unlock every area and car within about four hours. Really
though, that's not such a terrible thing. Given the general structure of the
game, we imagine anything longer would have rapidly worn out its welcome.
Above: As with everything else in Crash, giant
smokescreens are thwarted by only one tool: explosions
Fortunately, Criterion's brought back Autolog
after its pioneering debut in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and that adds a bit
to Crash's long-term appeal. This time around, it allows you to directly
challenge friends to turn-based score battles. So you enact your vision of the
Carpocalypse at your leisure, and then your friend does the same. Afterward,
Autolog records win-loss records and alerts you when any of your high scores
have been hammered down to – gasp – second place. It also recommends new
lambs for your score-based slaughter and hands out glossy trophies for your
troubles. Kinect, meanwhile, opens up a team-based party mode that's standard
fare for these things (Make hadouken motions, flail like a lunatic, squat, and
generally look silly to activate Crashbreaker), but it's still a goofy good
time if you've got a few friends and little-to-no shame on hand.
Beyond that, Crash's inherent flaws are relatively
small, but – taken together – they're still nits worth picking. For one,
there's a bit of a trial-and-error element to Road Trip, and – while it rarely
brings the fun to a screeching halt – it can be frustrating to restart
repeatedly because you didn't ricochete a few initial cars just right.
That issue, meanwhile, is compounded by the fact that steering's floatier than
a flotilla of rootbeer float-themed parade floats – making normally simple
driving maneuvers even clumsier than that simile.
Above: We nearly forgot to mention that the announcer's pretty annoying. For instance, right now, he'd probably be screaming “HE'S GETTING AWAY WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”
All told, though, Burnout Crash is quite a
pleasant surprise. It's short, sweet, and compulsively addictive while it
lasts. Better still, if you're all about chasing high scores and
roundhouse-kicking your friends off the winner's pedestal, you can ring quite a
bit of value from this one. No, this isn't the old-school Burnout crash mode
you remember, but we doubt it's one you'll soon forget.
Sep 20, 2011