Burnout Crash! hands-on preview

To say we were a little surprised by Burnout Crash! would be an understatement. All we knew going in to EA’s Summer Showcase reveal was that the game was a new XBL/PSN Burnout entry being developed by Criterion. Say no more, we’re there. The game itself was something of a shock though, a 2-D top down puzzle/racing hybrid that builds off the core of the franchise’s legendary Crash mode by adding, of all things, pinball and pachinko elements.

Above: Falling into thepit on the left side of the screen allows the player to relaunch their car

Your main goal in Crash! mimics that of Burnout’s traditional Crash mode, rack up as much financial damage as you can by slamming your car into other vehicles and now, buildings. Each level is an intersection with a specific set of buildings and traffic that you’ll need to plow your vehicle into, and the trick is finding the most lucrative spots. Points are measured in raw destruction, skillful long distance explosions, and chained damage. There’s a few special vehicles to destroy, such as a hidden high value golden car, or a pizza truck that gives you a spin on a wheel of fortune that can have negative or positive effects.

Crash! doesn’t have and gas or break controls, as soon as you start the level your only concern is to point the car into a building or traffic and cause some damage. Once the car has stopped, your Crashbreaker gauge fills up, allowing you to explode the car in traditional Burnout fashion, then guide it in any direction with the Aftertouch feature. The Aftertouch feature is actually your main method of movement in the game, and carefully timed explosions go a long way to getting impressive scores. Causing damage quickly recharges the Crashbreaker gauge, letting you re-explode the vehicle until the timer runs out. Ideally you want to block traffic so that cars plow into each other. Once enough of them have gathered, a well timed explosion will send them all over the map like shrapnel, scoring you major points.

Above: Autlog will keep track of you and your friends' scores

Interestingly, Crash! features the extremely popular Autolog system, tracking you and your friends’ high scores and immediately alerting you if you’ve been dethroned, or what events you should try next based on your current progression. The demo also featured simple Kinect controls for players interested in motion gaming; the player steers with an invisible wheel, and a little jump activates the Crashbreaker explosion, adding a little liveliness to the game.

The primitive caveman satisfaction of watching things smash into each other and explode (aka Michael Bay syndrome)was a big reason why the original Crash mode was so fun, and while it’s certainly a novel idea, the cartoony, top down view in Crash! really diminishes the visceral sensation of carnage you should get from blowing stuff up. Compare the destruction in GTA IV to the destruction in the original GTA, and you’ll have a good idea of the difference that this change in perspective makes. The small scale of your car, and your limited ability to control it, makes it feel more like a pinball than a vehicle, and while that works for the way you’re supposed to play Crash!,the gamebearslittle resemblance to the rest of the Burnout franchise.

Above: Blocking the middle of the intersection is a good strategy for big points

Crash! certainly plays fast and loose with the franchise’s signature gameplay; while the core concept of scoring points via destruction is similar, virtually nothing else is. Open-minded players looking for a fun little diversion might have something to look forward to, but the huge difference in gameplay, style, tone and well, pretty much everything else, might be too much for hardcore Burnout fans to overlook. Burnout Crash! is scheduled for a 4th Quarter release on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.

July 8th, 2011

Down are up ell, ex why be?