Burnout 2: Point of Impact Review

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Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Criterion Games

Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube
Reviewed on GameCube

Race all you want on highways and city streets – Burnout 2 has racing, but sometimes crashing is the best part of the competition.

Kyle Ackerman

Burnout 2 follows in the tradition of Burnout in that it's a racing game that rewards the wreck as much as the checkered flag. Burnout 2 rewards bad driving. To be more precise, Burnout 2 rewards excellent driving that flouts the law and recklessly endangers everyone else on the road. In that respect, Burnout 2 has a lot more in common with extreme sports racing games than with a hardcore driving simulation. Just as tricks can help you race faster in sports games, reckless driving fills the "burn" meter. Driving into oncoming traffic earns burn. Near misses with other vehicles earn burn. Jumps and skids earn burn. Once the burn meter is full, you can boost the speed of your car dramatically until the burn meter runs out, at which point you hit "burnout."

Racing – ostensibly Burnout 2's subject – begins with a few available modes, and plenty more that can be easily unlocked through additional play. You can always run a single race on any track you've unlocked, but Championship Mode and the associated Custom Series Championships are extended race series that will unlock many other features. The Standard Championship has four series, and winning a series will unlock the next. Better performance (such as placing first in every race of a series) will unlock other races, with a shot at unlocking special cars or other goodies. Some of the activities include races that unlock new tracks, head-to-head races against a single opponent to unlock special vehicles, and even Pursuit Mode. Completing a few pursuit races unlocks a whole set of pursuit activities from the main menu, and provides a great break from racing. In pursuit mode, you have to chase an escaping vehicle and crash it off the road before it reaches the end of the track.

The racing looks good. The environment is beautiful, though everything far away is out of focus. This makes hurtling into oncoming traffic even more intimidating than it should be. Weather effects look great, pieces of vehicle cover the landscape after collisions, and signposts can be knocked aside should your car slip onto the curb. Courses range from dense urban environments to coastal highway, and include mountains and an airport. As you learn the routes and unlock more vehicles, most races get considerably easier, although the arcade nature of the game keeps things from ever becoming too difficult. Since wrecking is such an integral part of Burnout 2, even a collision with a truck doesn't cause you to lose much ground against your opponents. In most races, even if you fall behind, the lead car never gets too far ahead, making last-minute turnarounds common. You can also maneuver competitors into situations where they are sure to wreck, providing a little extra strategy. Of course, if you follow another car closely, you are sure to get dragged into any accident they create.

Since crashes are at the heart of Burnout 2, the streets on which you race are filled with ordinary traffic. Highways have cars and trucks hurtling at full speed, and courses are sometimes routed through oncoming traffic. Urban tracks pass through intersections, and should you hit a red light you'll have to weave through cross traffic. This makes wrecks common in racing mode, throwing you to the back or front of the pack, depending on your involvement. Crashing is also the most entertaining mode available in Burnout 2. Crash mode pits you, in a car of your choice, against heavy traffic in a variety of roads and interchanges. Your goal is to create the worst accident possible, involving as many cars and as much damage as possible. High damage totals yield medals, and earning three medals earns three new tracks. There are thirty pre-set crash situations to try, each one ending with a helicopter fly-by of the damage you caused. Both intellectual planning and driving skill go into causing the worst crash, and there are a lot of venues to explore and demolish.

While Burnout 2 is a racing game, and an engaging one, with a wide variety of play modes, the crash mode is what makes this game a must-play. By yourself or with friends, it's great to sit back and see how big a pileup you can create on a highway interchange, watching bumpers and trunks skid across the asphalt. Aside from crash mode, Burnout 2 is full of racing and pursuit challenges to unlock more game features that make the title something you can return to even after the initial infatuation fades.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on May 1, 2003 6:54 PM.

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