I’ve mentioned that I believe Burnout 2 is the best arcade racer. Having said that, I got to wondering if it was simply me seeing an older game through a rose tinted filter. It was certainly a game I played to death, but how would it stack up against newer games?
Since I still have the game, I thought I’d throw it into the 360 and see if it was one of the games which works on the 360. It turns out it is. Though apparently you can’t install Original XBox games on the 360 Hard Drive, which is annoying.
Initial impressions of the graphics show that while it’s definitely not current-generation, it holds up quite well. Further play, and my usual poking around the game world show that the textures are mostly lower resolution, as are some of the building models. However, as things flash past and you focus on not crashing, then this isn’t always obvious. It is more obvious when playing Crash mode, where the camera tends to hover in place longer.
I do love the locales, with a mixture of city, beach-front, marina, mountains and snowy areas giving a lot of variety. At the time I also loved (and still do!) how all these areas can connect, giving courses that wind through many different areas.
The cars, which are the real stars, still hold up quite well against current gen, as do the other vehicles on the road – though to be fair, the other vehicles don’t seem to have quite the same detail.
The physics are good for an arcade racer, often allowing you to bounce off things rather than crash. However there’s sometimes a question mark over what will cause you to glance off a car, and what will cause a crash. That can add frustration to the mix. Of course, this being Burnout, you get to see the crash in almost loving detail, even in the middle of a tense race. While it’s cute the first few times, it does get tiring. Then again, Burnout Paradise still suffers from this.
On the other hand, the Crash mode, where you’re sent into an intersection to cause as much damage as possible, is still amazing fun. Occasionally you do get some interesting physics glitches where something rockets away at a strange angle and incredible speed, or the ‘humping object’ where it just bounces in place, not knowing how to stop. Other than that, things behave as you’d expect, and the carnage is great fun. I do think later games, with the addition of the aftertouch (allowing you to guide the car a little after a crash) and the crashbreaker (allowing you to blow your car up sometime after the main crash) added a lot. I’m certainly not missing the ‘powerup’ icons you have to crash through in Burnout 3 though.
The game structure is quite linear. You need to play through Single Player Championships in order to unlock new vehicles, roads and other Championships. It’s only then you can race against others with those cars, or along those roads.
While you only need to win a Championship to unlock roads and more Championships, you need to get all golds in Championship races in order to unlock cars. The cars aren’t just handed out, however, as you have to either “face off” against them – that is race against them and you win the car if you win the race. The other possibility is a Pursuit where you’re plonked into a police car, and have to ram the other car until they are stopped.
This last shows some of the real problems of the game. It’s quite possible to ram the other car so that it goes off a cliff, or gets stuck in a ‘corner’. However, instead of re-spawning near it’s ‘crash point’ (as you do when you crash), it re-spawns some length up the road, which means you have even more work to catch it. If you get very unlucky it means you now have no hope of winning that particular Pursuit.
Another downside, probably due to the limitations of the technology at the time, is that traffic doesn’t seem to be very random. If you play as much as I have, you learn the traffic patterns. You know when an area will be free of traffic, or if there will be cross traffic or similar. Even after several years of not playing, I still remembered most of that, and that makes the game a lot easier.
In fact, I find this game quite easy now. It’s not often I lose a race, as I know how to get ahead, and stay there, because I know the roads and the traffic patterns.
On the “running an XBox game on a 360” front, this game works quite well, with only two glitches I’ve noticed.
The first is that when it’s raining at night, the moon turns into a big, featureless square. This is more amusing than anything. The other is when you’re driving a couple of courses that take you past Crystal Summit with very, very heavy snow. The game slows down immensely. It doesn’t appear to be a drop in frame-rate, as everything is still smooth – it’s just that the car now feels like it’s driving through thick syrup. While mildly irritating, as I just want to “get out and push”, it doesn’t kill the game.
So after all that, do I still think Burnout 2 is the “best” arcade racer? At this point I’m going to say yes, but with slightly less certainty than when I started this. When I’m over Skyrim (hint: don’t hold your breath), I think I’ll see if I still have Burnout 3 and 4 around and give them another go.