Burnout 3: Takedown (Xbox) review
"The minute you’re free to go, all the cars start bashing into each other while moving down the road. Some guy comes from your left and swings you right so that your acceleration takes you straight toward a rail. You weave wildly and watch with satisfaction as your car t-bones your aggressor, then sends him skyward as you pass underneath. “Takedown,” the screen flashes, and suddenly you know where the game got its name."
Your tires squeal as you fly around the corner. A dust cylcone trails you and a pile of crashed cars sweeps past, a mangled heap. Red. White. Blue. You’re barely holding your balance, two wheels tilting sideways. Ahead, a car flips end-to-end. It cartwheels toward you. Shards of glass spatter rippling pavement. You swing wide, clip the guardrail, then dodge left and into the next turn. A tap of the button drains your boost reserves and pulls you into a drift. It takes you through the corner and straight toward a crowded intersection. Welcome to Burnout 3: Takedown.
You’ve played racing games in the past. You know the drill. But unless you’ve played one of the previous Burnout titles, you really don’t know what fun it can be to drive like a maniac. Not your everyday freak. I mean the kind with foam flecks spraying the windshield, the sort of fellow who dives into an arctic lake in the dead of winter. Here, you not only reduce cars to scrap metal; you’re rewarded for it!
Picture a calm mountain pass. Birds chirp, a mellow punk rock song plays in the background (use a custom soundtrack instead, if you can), and in the distance the sun wavers in a cloudy sky. There you sit, engine revving, in your beautiful dump truck. A light flashes and you’re off, not to win the race, but to take your hulking beast into the nearest intersection. Your mission: total chaos. Pick up some score multipliers along the way, then plow head-first into an intersection and watch as cars crash into place, rocketing your score and earning you an even sweeter ride. The worst thing you can possibly do is cause only a few cars to crash. Is this sick or what?
Of course, as exciting as it is to cause such chaos with nary a repercussion in the world, such diversions would quickly grow tiresome without a little extra spice. Said spice comes in the form of one of the most competently-designed race modes ever devised. Oh, and one more thing: you’re still encouraged to drive like a madman.
Suppose you sit at the starting line in a race. There are five other cars and so far this feels like any racer you’ve ever played. The screen mentions that you should ‘fight through traffic’ for a first-place finish. What it means is, well, what it says. The minute you’re free to go, all the cars start bashing into each other while moving down the road. Some guy comes from your left and swings you right so that your acceleration takes you straight toward a rail. You weave wildly and watch with satisfaction as your car t-bones your aggressor, then sends him skyward as you pass underneath. “Takedown,” the screen flashes, and suddenly you know where the game got its name.
The race continues, and as it does you’re constantly aware of the other drivers. They stick to you like sweat-soaked underwear, dogging you at every turn, anxious for the chance to boost around you when you drift around a corner just a bit wide, or to smash you into a railing because you weren’t paying attention. The whole racing experience is built around who took down who. The game may even say “Takedown Avenged” if the guy you took out at first returns the favor. At the end of the race, points are tallied. You can use them to unlock even sweeter rides.
There’s another thing worth noting. Remember those guys that kept making your life difficult? They’re real people. That’s because Burnout 3 can go online. Not only that, but you really need to play it that way to get the full benefit.
Sure, the one-player mode is important. Even though it’s somewhat standard in layout (the ‘World Tour’ mode is just a series of events you compete in to unlock more events, vehicles and tracks), it offers a lot of frantic racing. Just turn off the annoying commentator and you’ll quite likely enjoy yourself. The graphics are sharp and detailed, the sound effects superb. Blah, blah, blah. When it comes down to it, there are only two reasons to play this game anywhere but online. First, you have to unlock various goodies (until you do, online play can be quite frustrating). Second, you have the opportunity to hone your ‘burnout’ skills.
Burnout mastery is vital. Remember the ‘takedown’ I mentioned a few paragraphs back? Well, each time you do that you add some juice to the virtual thermometer that is your burnout meter. The same thing is true if you drift through a corner, drive in the oncoming lanes, weave expertly through traffic, or just make yourself a menace in general without crashing. When you have juice in that meter, you can use it whenever you like for an extra boost of speed. Skilled players therefore will spend most of their time in the most dangerous of positions, building up the meter so they’re in an almost constant state of boost. The stakes are higher because it’s easier to crash, but sometimes that crazy driving gives you the edge you need to finish first.
If you think you’ll be able to go online and find many people who don’t know how to use the burnout meter to maximize their chances at winning, think again. Xbox Live is full of people who race the courses all the time. Though they often welcome newcomers, they’re still happy to leave you in their dust. The game is exactly what it should be: a cut-throat racing experience where only the strong dominate.
Because of the online component, I’ve found myself spending much of my spare time with Burnout 3. Whenever I want, I can find someone ready to go for a quick race. There are also some modes that are only available online. For example, one set-up lets you choose up teams. One team is red, the other blue. Blue tries to race a certain distance without crashing too often or being the victim of a takedown. Red is the aggressor determined to cut short the event. Sound fun? Never-ending trash talk and alliances mean it almost always is. There are other options, too. You can go for a single race, or you and your buddies can compete to see who causes the most damage at your favorite intersections. Is it perfect? No. I often see people complaining about how terrible the EA servers are. But in all honesty, I don’t often have much trouble. So far, I’ve never been disconnected in the middle of a game, only during a game pre-load. It doesn’t happen so often as to ruin online play, either. And if someone else loses a connection, it’s only a minor annoyance that will soon be resolved. In short, Electronic Arts and Climax have taken steps to ensure that there are few obstructions to great online play. Ultimately, that pays off.
Add online components to a single-player game that’s far above average and you have the kind of package that any serious racing fan simply must experience. At length. Burnout 3: Takedown is an easy game to play, and it’s even easier to recommend. Experience it as soon as possible. You’ll be glad you did.
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 01, 2004)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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