By Haribokart / January 2, 2012
If there’s one thing that could be said about the original Burnout, it’s that it was fast. Eye-bleedingly fast, in fact. So fast, that one quick glance away from the screen could lead to your vehicle slamming into the side of a bus, or drifting out of control and into a wall.
Burnout 2: Point of Impact retains the speed and risk/reward boosting system, and updates and refines almost everything else. Almost, because it also takes one or two (perhaps minor) steps back, and unfortunately they are ones you're going to be noticing right off the bat. I am of course referring to the fact that you can’t enter anything other than a single race unless you’ve gained your Burnout licence, which is obtained by attending the "Offensive Driving 101" class. The tests here, which are mooted as being one of the major new additions to the game, are shockingly easy to complete, and I can pretty much guarantee that if you played the first game, then you won’t need to race any of them more than once. I thought that the trials were easy to allow players to get straight into the game, whilst teaching them a thing or two about the new features, such as using jumps (otherwise known as getting "Air") to fill up your boost meter. I mean, just how wrong could I be?
Answer: Very wrong. I headed into my first championship and took first place in every race, unlocking a few more events along the way, such as a Chase H.Q.-style pursuit race and one of the new point-to-point races. I didn’t expect to be crossing the line at the back of the pack in my first championship, but I was shocked at exactly how easy the races were. In one race, I crashed 9 times, and still finished 4 seconds ahead. To be honest, the lack of challenge meant a lack of Burnout excitement, as there was nothing to lose, so crashing didn’t really matter.
The fact that the latter stages of the original Burnout were so tough to complete was a major draw for me, as I like a good challenge. I was disappointed when I raced through the entire first season (20 or so races) without so much as a sniff of competition. Fortunately, completing that first season is only part of the game, as you then have access to the new Custom Championship, involving souped-up cars with full body kits. This new championship is MUCH tougher and reminded me exactly why the Burnout licence is so great.
On the track, Burnout 2 looks stunning. In the later races, the new weather effects — especially the snow in the mountains — are absolutely incredible and really do add to the game as a whole. Everything feels faster too, and zooming past oncoming trucks and buses at 120mph is just as thrilling as it always was — the 16:9 widescreen mode has been retained from the original too which gives a much greater sense of scale. A few annoyances with the crash system have been removed, including the whole unfairness of it all. If you hit a wall in Burnout 2, or scrape along the side of a bus, sparks fly from the car and you continue unscathed, rather than stopping to watch a poor triple-frame replay of your car sliding along a wall as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
The damage model has been overhauled also. Rather than simply having your windscreen cracked, your vehicle’s windows can be blown out, the bonnet can fly off and the axels can bend, basically making the car look like it has just been rammed by an 18-wheeler. If you’re on one of the game’s twisty mountain circuits, your car can be flipped over the precipice and into the valley below, which obviously takes more time to show through the "crash cam", which in turn slows you down for longer, giving your opponents even more of an opportunity to pass. Yet another thing that Burnout fans will notice, is the speed at which the boost bar fills up. By the time you are halfway through the first lap, you can be boosting around the track, although the effect isn’t nearly as good as it was in the original, simply raising the volume of the music rather than doing anything special.
Soundwise, the music has been improved considerably, offering thrashing rock tracks rather than the "Something bad is going to happen soon"-style tune that appeared before (although you can select the original soundtrack if you so desire, and of course the custom soundtrack feature makes another welcome appearance in the Xbox port). The cars all sound pleasantly throaty, even more so when boosting, and that glorious bump and squeak of the tyres as you climb onto a kerb is still there. The main area of improvement here is the crash sequences, though. When you hit the back of a car, you get a loud "CRUNCH!" as the impact folds your fender, then the screech of tyres from the vehicle behind, followed by another crunch as, inevitably, that car fails to stop. Throw in the sound of squealing bus tyres and the horns of the two trucks that have swerved to avoid you, and one of the victims’ car alarms in full flow and you have a game that sounds absolutely spot on — anybody with a 5.1 system will be reminded of the film Ronin as you pass cars and hear them swoosh past you with their horns blaring away behind your head... excellent!
So what of the driving mechanics? Well, you’ll notice that the traffic isn’t as dense as before (in both meanings of the word) and that the handling of the fantastic sets of wheels on offer has been tweaked considerably. No more sliding all over the track just to turn a simple corner, rather a deft bit of analogue stick work to glide smoothly around, or a tap of the brakes to go into a powerslide a la Ridge Racer. There is certainly enough on offer to keep the most steel-nerved of players coming back for a long time, and even if you do manage to get through the lot, you can always beat that pursuit time, or the score you got in the new "Crash" mode. If you can’t guess what that mode entails, then I’m not going to spoil your fun. Lastability may be a problem but the multiplayer modes (and Xbox Live scoreboards for the Xbox port) go some way to making up for this.
The original Burnout was highly innovative and really did provide some of the finest arcade racing available anywhere, whereas the sequel is simply a more finely tuned (and not rushed) experience. Minor annoyances aside, I keep thinking that Burnout 2 is really what Burnout should have been in the first place, although at the same time that does seem a little harsh. At any rate, the fact of the matter is that Burnout 2 is an improvement overall and it firmly puts the franchise at the forefront of the arcade racing grid. A fine game that is worth every moment you'll spend playing it.