Burnout CRASH! – Hands-On Impressions

So, maybe it wasn’t the announcement we were all looking for from Criterion. Burnout Paradise, a regular game of choice for the GamingLives community, was released way back in 2008, with development finally coming to an end in the Fall of 2009 with the release of Big Surf Island. It was a good year, a fun year spent haring around the streets of Paradise City, listening to Avril Lavigne and embarrassing our friends by destroying their Road Rules and flashing them celebratory pictures through the Xbox Live Vision Camera every time you earned a Takedown. When the party ended, Criterion were announced as the new driving force for the Need For Speed franchise, taking the series back to its roots last year and changing the face of social interaction in our games with the creation of AutoLog.

With Black Box having taken the reins for the next iteration of Need for Speed with ‘The Run’, questions were starting to arise surrounding what it was that the Guildford based studio were planning to release next. To discover that it’s Burnout is fantastic, but to see that it’s not exactly the next big thing for the racing genre came as a disappointment to many, myself included. Having been given the opportunity to go hands-on with the game that has broken their silence at Gamescom recently, I realise that I’ve been far too harsh, incredibly narrow-minded and so very, very wrong about Burnout CRASH.

In the same way that many were disappointed that CRASH isn’t a racer, I think back to the release of Paradise and remember how disappointed I was that the game was lacking in the crash department, given its strong showing in the franchise since Burnout 2. I got over that with Paradise and I think that once people have seen Burnout CRASH running, that they will with this too. The focus of the game is, understandably, all about crashing. Players begin any of the three game modes at the foot of the screen in the game’s new isometric view, tap a button to remove the good to go dialogue and then simply steer their way with the left stick to the crash junction ahead and then… well, crash! Each game mode takes a different approach to what happens next, but your primary responsibility from here is simply to ensure that every car that passes through the junction meets their untimely demise, filling your Crashbreaker and increasing your score.

As far as a Burnout game goes, that all sounds fairly standard, but of course we all know that Criterion doesn’t do ‘standard’. A Burnout game has to have humour, a decent soundtrack, the ridiculous, the unexpected, the awesome, the explosions and Spandau Ballet. Wait, what? Pretty sure that actually isn’t a hallmark for the studio, but everything you’d expect to find in a Burnout game is here, polished, refined and more fun than it’s ever been. To go back to my example of a typical playthrough, you’ve selected your car – almost toy model-like representations of all the series’ most loved and instantly recognisable manufacturers – chosen what colour you want it in (always important to look your best) and then began to steer your way towards the junction. That first crash throws $60,000 straight onto your score up in the top right corner, your car spins off to the left and your hapless victim off to the right. A bus comes in from the top and makes the turn to go right, swerving to avoid that first wrecked car but crashing into a building on the opposite side of the street, perfectly blocking up the right side of the road.

Cars are now entering on the right of the screen, only to slam straight into this accidental roadblock, your score is now into the hundreds of thousands and your Crashbreaker has filled – welcome news as the next car has entered from the south and is turning to go left, except you’re on the opposite side of the street and he’s easily going to sneak by. So you detonate your Crashbreaker, the radial explosion reaching the other car and giving you some air time to reposition yourself. In the explosion, you happened to destroy the building you had smashed into when you first crashed and your score is now in its first million. Traffic is entering more frequently now and you’re starting to think tactically; the right junction is safe and you’ve made good progress blocking up the left, all you need to do now is set up a disaster on the north junction and you can hopefully just rely on good fortune to ensure nothing makes it through any one of these junctions in order to escape through the south. It’s only been thirty or so seconds and you’re feeling confident, awaiting the imminent arrival of the Pizza Truck of Destiny, completely unprepared for what may happen next. You manage to Crashbreaker your way over to it, annihilating it from the front and triggering the Pizza of Fortune – a spinning wheel of random bonuses, special events and multipliers. The wheel spins, stopping on Thunderstorm, prompting a rousing chorus of The Weathergirls ‘It’s Raining Men’ and promising you mega-bonuses for every car you explode in the next few seconds.

If you’re starting to smile, you’re starting to realise that this truly is something very different for the Burnout franchise. It’s silly, it’s quick, it’s loud and chaotic and so much fun that you really can’t help but want to spend hours and hours rattling your way through junction after junction playing it. When the above example drew to its conclusion (with a giant sea monster smashing its way from right to left across the screen, I might add), the game dropped out to the final scoreboard, breaking down where all of your points were scored and instantly throwing it out there to your friends list, heralding the return of AutoLog and waving goodbye to long standing friendships. The addition of Kinect to the gameplay may have some people doubting whether or not this one will qualify for eligibility to a core gamer’s library, but it’s an entirely optional feature that the game has in waiting for those who haven’t joined the Kinect family yet, and something that the game can really get you in the mood for given just how over the top it all is.

This is a true labour of love though, and for Richard Franke, Creative Director on CRASH, this has been the twinkle in his eye for three whole years now, finally entering full production in these last twelve months and all set for release later this month on September the 20th. Having him on hand to talk me through the game as I went hands-on was a real treat, as I could see how despite having nurtured this game throughout the entire development process, he still couldn’t get enough of it. He was still laughing his way through the sillier moments that he must have seen a hundred times before, as well as still getting frustrated when his high score was posted, placing him beneath his fellow developers on the scoreboards, knowing that if they had seen it, it would lead to some grade A banter.

I’ve always loved Crash mode in Burnout, even back before I was working with Criterion, it always made me smile as it’s so ridiculously over the top. I wanted to take that and push it even further so we’ve gone to town on the audio and widened the scope of the game as well.  I really wanted to get some depth into the scoring so, whilst it appears very silly, frivolous and over the top, it’s actually got a lot of depth for gamers. I’m a hardcore gamer and a casual gamer at the same time, I guess you could say, I’ll play anything… bit of a game whore really! I really wanted to satisfy everyone with CRASH so you can put your Mum in front of it and she’ll enjoy it, it’s got Spandau Ballet in it for goodness sake, and you can also put this in front of a gamer and they’ll really get into the depth with the scoring. There’s an awful lot to it, much more that meets the eye I would say.

With Richard having talked me through the first game mode, Road Trip – a survival mode that requires you to stop traffic from flowing through the crash junctions, which gives you five lives that expire with every car that manages to get through – I was all set to go hands-on with the game’s second mode, Rush Hour. As you would expect, Rush Hour is less restricted than Road Trip, not punishing you for escaping cars but simply giving you the playing field for you to destroy inside of a time limit. It’s hectic and there’s so much going on that you’re panicking and laughing all at the same time. I’ve been trying to play strategically by systematically clogging up junctions, but I’ve triggered a Magnet power-up, drawing all of the cars on screen toward me and gifting me the awesome ability to cause a massive super explosion but, at the same time, completely buggering up my strategy. It was in that moment that I saw the depth Richard was talking about, that I could just hop in, have fun and sign out at the end of it, or I could go in with the intention of destroying a friend’s score, trying to make the most of every opportunity available to me – something that drives a core gamer and turns a five minute playthrough into a five hour session.

I can already see it now. It’s Hot Pursuit all over again, with an ongoing battle taking place at the top of my friends list as the two best racers struggle to displace one another but, this time, even if that one friend has been sat at the top of the scoreboards all week, I can challenge them in a one-attempt battle and claim a scalp for me to humiliate them with, celebrating my own personal achievement without ever having the stress of spending countless hours trying to get just as lucky as them in trying to take the number one slot.

AutoLog is back for CRASH, we feel like it’s one of our trademark pieces of gameplay at Criterion now after Hot Pursuit and so we wanted to bring that into CRASH. We’ve evolved it a little bit so think of it as AutoLog 1.5, I wanted to do it my way for this one, so what we did was we stripped it down and made it a bit more concise so we just have a recommendations page, but the recommendations have a bit more detail than they did in Hot Pursuit. We also have friend recommendations which allows you to expand your friends network, because the more friends you have, the better AutoLog is, and also we have a new feature called AutoLog challenges.  What that enables you to do is have one on one, tit for tat battles with your friends. With each of your friends you can have a separate challenge running, so you choose a friend and then you choose an event; you get one chance to set a score on that event and then you ping that score over to them and then, when they get in from work, they can check their AutoLog challenges and they’ll see in their inbox that there’s a challenge.  So, they get one go at that to beat that score, and whoever wins at that gets to hold on to this Cup. With each of your friends there’s a Cup to fight over, so once the Cup’s been won, you can challenge each other again to then try and win the Cup back or to try and hold onto it. AutoLog challenges will track your longest winning streaks too, a little number that ticks up on the Cup, and it’s just sort of a way to generate trash talk and makes it all a bit more personal. It’s a different way of playing I think, which I really like.

With Road Trip serving as the game’s loose story mode – a battle through junctions all across the game’s world, varying the locales as it progresses – and Rush Hour providing adrenaline pumping, fun-filled mayhem, the final mode available in the game understandably takes a more strategic and traditional approach to Burnout’s crash legacy in Pile Up. It’s old school, almost a puzzle game, with the cars you crash into not disappearing after they explode like they would in the other two modes, and with only a preset number of traffic that will cross through the junction, meaning that you have to make every crash count. Once it’s all over, you enter a mode dubbed Inferno where you need to set as much of the un-exploded and crashed traffic burning as possible, awarding you points for each fire you light, but also rewarding you with a multiplier bonus that is dictated by how few cars you allowed to escape, making it a far more strategic experience for those players who really enjoy the less chaotic aspects of the game and who want ultimate scoreboard bragging rights.

With the hands-on session over, I thanked Richard for his time and walked away wanting more. I honestly didn’t think I was going to get anything out of what I had previously believed would be a watered down, arcade only Burnout experience, but when I got to stand with its proud father and hear the ideas that led to this Pinball/game-show inspired chaos, I really did fall in love. Thankfully, I think Richard liked me and hopefully when I start dating his digitally conceived daughter, I’m going to get that pat on the back of approval that says he’s happy for a CasuCore gamer such as myself to spend a great deal of time with CRASH, maybe even get off the sofa and go at it on the floor, or perhaps invite my friends over so that they can have a go too.

Wow, that analogy took a weird turn.

Last five articles by Adam



  1. Stu Stu says:

    This has gone from something I truly thought would taint the rather awesome Crash mode of previous Burnouts (Paradise was just too dull without crash) to something I’m clammering to grab ms points for. Nothing used to round off our gaming weekends like everyone firing up Crash Party on Burnout Revenge and smashing it up to an awesome soundtrack. Perhaps this will see that tradition returned?

    Great hands-on, I could really grasp the excitement around this game and the thought put into it by the devs.

  2. Edward Edward says:

    The ending of this made me laugh a bit too much.
    I have to admit I was confused by CRASH when I saw it, but I think that’s because the first bit of gameplay was through Kinect, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to get into it.
    So I guess I wanna know if it’s Kinect-only, and how much it’s going to set me back if it’s not, cos it sounds seriously good :D

  3. Ben Ben says:

    I played it using a regular controller at gamescom so that answers your question Ed (It controlled awfully mind – or I’m rubbish at it) :)

    I also didn’t like it, not in the slightest. I can understand how it will appeal to certain audiences but there was just something wrong with it, it was lacking that spark and as a result, just wasn’t fun.

    Hopefully something may change between now and release, hopefully.

  4. Richie richie says:

    Brilliant preview Adam. I’m all over this. Factual.

  5. Lorna Lorna says:

    Solid preview, but I’m sorry to say , I think this sounds awful really. What amounts to an entire game of endless ‘Showtime’ type stuff? That isn’t much of a game to me :(

  6. Chris says:

    Man i played this game like nonstop and the main menu music ” we gone to fast or somthing is stuck in my head for 2 days…i wonder what its called

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