Burnout CRASH!

A Smashing Good Time

Burnout CRASH! destroys our expectations.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: October 2, 2011
For years now I have lamented the slow, painful death of "Crash Mode" in the Burnout series. It was the highlight of Burnout 3: Takedown for me, with the multipliers and HEARTBREAKERS. It was followed up with a pretty good Crash Mode in Burnout Revenge which made it a bit more complicated but retained the pure joy of creating the largest crash possible in a pre-defined junction. Then, sadly, the otherwise excellent Burnout Paradise changed things drastically by eschewing everything that made Crash Mode great and stripping it down to an afterthought of boring simplicity. When Criterion switched over to Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit it seemed like Crash Mode had been left by the wayside. Then out of nowhere, Burnout CRASH! was announced as a PSN title that strictly focused on Crash Mode. I was happy.


So when we fired up the PS3 here at the new beachfront TPS Office (come visit!) expectations were running high. What we ended up with was something that bore a resemblance to the old Crash Mode, much in the same way your third cousin bears a resemblance to you. That is to say, you could see that they came from the same place, but somewhere there was a evolutionary divergence that made them quite a bit different.

Burnout CRASH! is played from a top-down perspective over 18 junctions split into 6 stages. The goal, as you may expect, is to cause as much damage as possible, measured in terms of cash value of destroyed vehicles (and environmental objects). The basic mode is Road Trip, wherein each junction starts with you driving into the middle at top speed and crashing into a vehicle. This ends the driving portion and begins the exploding portion. You'll earn a Crashbreaker immediately and by pressing X your car will blow up, wreaking havoc all around you and allowing you to move around a bit with aftertouch. That'll let you hit more traffic (which is constantly flowing in from all directions) and this continues until all the cars are hit, or five pass through unscathed. At various points special vehicles will roll through, such as an ambulance which will remove one of your five strikes if it makes it through the intersection safely, or a cash truck that will spew out bags of loot if you blow it up. Successfully hitting all the traffic without letting five cars through activates the super special that varies from stage to stage (in Skywing a plane will crash into everything, in Roswell a UFO will attack) and essentially destroys everything left standing in the stage.

Each stage has 5 stars you potentially earn for various scoring levels and bonus tasks, and earning more stars unlocks more vehicles and junctions. Once you get at least one star on a Road Trip, you'll be able to advance to the next junction and also try the two other modes, Rush Hour and Pile Up on the junction you completed. Rush Hour is probably the easiest of the modes, as it gives you 90 seconds to blow up as many cars and environmental objects as you can without regard to how many escape. Pile Up sends a limited amount of cars into the intersection and once all the cars are there you score points for as long as you can keep stuff on fire. Both modes have 5 more stars you can earn, which you'll need to unlock other stages and vehicles.

That's pretty much the whole game, and it'll take you quite a few hours to unlock all the junctions and modes, and longer still if you want to get all the stars and cars. You start out with a vehicle balanced for power and aftertouch, and subsequent unlocks are cars gradually more focused on one attribute or the other, until you get the tiny dune buggy with no power but that can fly around after exploding, or the garbage truck which blows stuff everywhere but can barely move around. I found the best balance to come from the vehicles with pretty heavy power and still some amount of aftertouch, although certain junctions benefit from a different setup.

Multiplayer exists solely in the form of Autolog, the now standard EA challenge system that allows you to challenge people on your friends list to beat high scores in your junction of choice, and also helpfully informs you when people have higher scores than you via the the "Autolog Recommends" system. It's not as nice as an actual competitive mode (would it have been that hard to include a local challenge?) but it does provide a bit of reason to go back after you have unlocked all the junctions.

Overall, it's a pretty fun little title that is closer to a puzzle game than the earlier versions of Crash Mode, but it is no doubt leaps and bounds more fun than the recent iterations. It would be great to see Crash Mode make a return in a future full version of Burnout, if such a game is in development, but for now this isn't a bad choice for those missing the good old days.
The Verdict
8.5

Burnout CRASH! sounded like a disaster when we first heard about it, but the final product is a pleasant diversion that captures the feel of the old Crash Mode and should provide plenty of enjoyment to longtime series fans.

8.0Graphics:

The top-down pulled-out view means that things don't have to be highly detailed, but they sure are bright and colorful. The environments pop with lots of little details, all of which can and will explode.

8.5Sound:

Beautifully rendered crash noises. Sparse but appropriate music. That sums it up.

8.5Control:

Tough to grade controls when all you do is steer left and right for 3 seconds, press X to explode and use the analog stick to float around in aftertouch. But it all works as you'd like, so no complaints.

8.5Gameplay:

It's not QUITE the Crash Mode of old, but it is an excellent nod to it with some new mechanics that mostly work really well and add to the formula. Autolog adds a bit of replay as long as you have friends actively playing.