Review by Greg Wilcox
|Possibly the best arcade
racing experience on a home console to date, Burnout 2: Point of Impact is a
near-perfect blast for speed freaks, especially if you own a genre-starved GameCube.
Criterion Studios and Acclaim went more than the extra mile to improve this sequel over
the previous Burnout, which was born from the excellent and highly underrated Vanishing
Point (Dreamcast, PS One).
The sense of speed is unequaled, the control is
perfect, and the adrenaline rush of near misses is only matched (and bettered) by some
truly spectacular crashes. It's definitely not a simulation, but even die hard fans of
games like Gran Turismo 3 and Project Gotham will want to give this one
a spin. This is one tough game to put down once you get you hands on the controller.
When you first pop in the disc, you'll need to do a quick tutorial (Offensive Driving
101) before the game modes open up. It's pretty simple, and it sets up some basic Burnout
2 skills you'll need to unlock other tracks, cars, and features. One thing you learn
fast in this game is that you'll rarely do anything at a slow speed; success in B2
comes to those with quick reflexes. Sliding 500 or more feet through a hairpin turn then
weaving between a tanker and a number of buses and cars while boosting over 140 MPH isn't
something you could possibly survive in real life, but the game manages to provide this
thrill without your real-life auto insurance premiums (and hospital bills) boosting.
Championship mode is where you'll spend much of your time opening
up tracks and hidden cars. Here, it's entirely possible to get Bronze or Silver medals in
any of the races; Golds are a bit more elusive after the first couple of tracks. Once you
open up the faster Custom Series cars, the game gets even more tricky as you sacrifice
even more of your reflexes and the very act of blinking becomes optional. There's a Single
Race mode that lets you drive any of the tracks you've opened in Championship mode, while
Time Trial lets you go it alone with loads of traffic.
One great touch here is that the CPU opponents aren't flawless- they'll wreck a few
hundred yards ahead or right in front of you, or you can smash into traffic and take out
the AI driver that was about to pass you for the lead. In one race, I got off to a great
start as two of my three rivals smashed into a couple of buses ahead of me. As I rounded a
hairpin, I misjudged and clipped a taxi, spinning wildly into a tanker and flipping. When
the animation was over and I was back on my merry way, the other racer zoomed around the
corner and smashed into the tanker before he could adjust in time. I laughed like a maniac
as I sped away from his smoking wreck.
Another time, I was boosting past a rival toward the Finish line, and as I crossed
lanes I was smashed into by a semi, and I won the race by tumbling over the marker. Quite
cool, and there are many moments like this to be discovered as you play; no two races will
be the same. B2 is very addictive, and will keep you playing for hours at a
stretch until your hands are cramped and you've got the "A" from the GameCube
controller embedded into that sore blister on your thumb.
Where the first Burnout's wicked crashes slowed the game's pace down (each
crash replayed itself a couple of times before the action picked up again), B2's
new Crash mode is a game in itself. With 30 areas to tear into traffic, it's also a cross
between billiards and a puzzle game at times. You'll need to hit a certain car or cars at
just the right speed and angle to cause chain reactions that add up to millions of dollars
in damage. The physics here are pretty stunning: glass shatters, parts and wheels go
flying, and cars twist, slide, and go end over end as they sail through the air. It's
bone-chilling stuff, but it's only a video game, so a couple of menus and quick loads
later, you're all set for more pain and potential medal grabbing.
Some of the areas require you to really rethink and retry again
and again until you nail the perfect crash, and it's a great multiplayer game, what with
all the hooting and screams that come with each new run. I only wish that there were a way
to save your most spectacular runs and wrecks, but I suppose the Xbox version will end up
as the ultimate B2 experience, thanks to the handy hard drive.
What's here is definitely no slouch, though. Burnout 2 runs at a blazing 60
frames per second no matter how many cars are onscreen at a given time. Although the
environments and tracks are fictional, the game manages to avoid the gaudy Sega and Midway
tracks of old. Personally, I find most racing games with goofiness like volcanoes, giant
mascot statues or uber-futuristic cityscapes draw too much attention away from the actual
racing experience, so Burnout 2 is a rock-solid reality feast in this regard.
The car models are great- my only wish for a sequel is for Criterion to add more smoke
and actual fire and explosions somewhere to the mix for a near-total visceral thrill.
They're doing wonders with their Renderware game engine, and I'd love to see them push it
some more. Sound effects are just solid as you'd imagine, and the hard-driving rock music
fits perfectly, especially the way it amps up when you boost. The game also supports
progressive scan TV's, so if you've got one, things will be popping off the screen.
What's not to like? Well, there are only seven cars to unlock, and although it's in no
way an easy process, it's a bit too few in this age of 150 car game garages. Then again,
the cars here pretty much cover all the varieties you'd expect, and the Custom Series
rides should take care of the need to tinker. The only other thing is the gameplay may
seem to limited to some looking for a "fuller" game, but I say try for a few
perfect runs (no crashes), and you'll be amazed at the perfect control that more than
matches the aforementioned blazing speed. Maybe Acclaim can convince Kan Naito to let
Criterion make the next Super Runabout title, as they've managed to outdo Climax
Graphics in more ways than one. Anyway, you've heard more than enough from me- go race
down to your favorite game shop, grab yourself a copy of Burnout 2, and invite
some friends over for some really, really fast times.
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