I've often been willing to bury my head in the comforting busom of nostalgia. It's a great place that reminds us all of (sometimes) happier times. It brings back fond memories. In many ways, Nostalgia, when employed without malice, is a small reminder of our core identity, buried deep within our hearts.
So with that in mind, let me take you to one of my own personal proverbial 'palaces in the sky'. Burnout 3: Takedown.
Most folks don't know (and certainly I didn't until I looked it up) that Burnout 3 is partly the work of Sean Murray! Yes, that one. I'm sure you've seen the Internet Historian video about Sean and Hello Games' comeback following the disatrous release of No Man's Sky.
But as the title suggests, today is the day I dedicate an article to one of my favourite racing games of all time. See title.
It's not hard to explain why Burnout 3 is great. Though in this pundit's considered opinion, it is perfect. It's a characterful and deep arcade racer with many facets to its gameplay. Its physics are perfectly suited for the type of gameplay it wishes to encourage. The sound-track and game sounds are a treat for the ears and tie all the different elements together - and who can forget the crass and crude DJ Stryker, full of anecdotes about the region you're racing in.
It is another article for another time, but now is a good time to bring up that there is no perfect game. Only perfect games.
From the moment the game starts and the intro rolls, Burnout starts as it means to go-on; presenting visuals of driving fast, crashing and brawling with other racers on the road - all set to the angsty tones of the F-Ups. I don't mind telling you that google music informs me I have listened to that song 131 times. The game gives you a brief tutorial on the mechanics of the game and then sends you off into the Burnout Crash nav to go and have fun.
Rather than being open world like it's younger brother in Paradise, Burnout has a semi-linear hub menu. It presents you with a series of events for each area in the given region and gives the player some agency in picking the events they'd like to play the most. Of course the player can't have it all their own way and is locked into playing some races to progress further. One of Burnout's strengths is that all of the different driving modes are good. As with all things a player will find their clear favorite.
As a kid I loved Road Rage, a timed event where you have to take out as many racers as possible in a given set time. Of course, now a bit older and now a bit less angry (only a bit mind you) I have preferred the burning lap (a sort of time trial) and race (duh) formats on this current playthrough.
On the other side of Burnout's racey chasey drivey smashey affair is a three-year old's favourite mode - the Crash tour.
There's a bit of separation of church and state here, as Crash tour events unlock more Crash events and never the twain shall meet. A gripe of mine is that there are three times as many Crash tour events as there are race events - there are three entirely separate 'Crash Tours' in the game and only one Race series. This shouldn't be taken as an indictment of the game, as to the right person, the Crash Tour is sweet cathartic automobile violence, but it seems to be the weaker of the two core gameplay loops.
On the other hand, the variety of race game modes makes it the star of the show. You race in events, you win medals, you get to go to more places, you get more cars, you get to race in more events and you get to listen to DJ Stryker. Everyone wins. Except EA, because you're playing this on your Xbox 360 instead of playing FIFA 20 Ultimate Team like a good drone. But I don't give a damn about that and neither should you, because you're too busy earning one of my favourite parts of Burnout 3 - signature takedowns.
Often it is the little details that really make a game and demonstrate intangible concepts like 'good design philosophy' and 'love'. In this case, two minor components of Burnout 3 that make me love it just that little bit more.
The way these systems work is that every time you perform a takedown into an unusual object or cause a particularly obscene amount of damage on a crash junction, you'll be rewarded with either a humorously titled photograph marking the occasion or a newspaper clipping from the city with a dramatic title. They're small and come with almost no reward, but their satisfying to earn in their own right because they're not easy to obtain and often they're just, kind of cool. Smash a rival racer into one of the supports of a rail line? How does 'Pillar Driller' sound? Mayhaps you forced your opponent to crash into a truck carrying speedboats? You my friend just completed a 'Truck Torpedo'. All these little things add up and help make the game that extra percent fun to play.
Addding to this, as to be expected of a racing game the sound design and music take centre stage. If you are forced to listen to the roar of engines and have to hum along to the music tracks, you'd rather these things not be crap.
Burnout's sound effects are punchy and satisfying - the loud chime when completing a signature takedown, or the smack sound of an extra multiplier getting added onto your boost bar. Couple this with an angsty early 2000s soundtrack full of counter culture hits like Rise Against's 'Paper Wings' and you have a sound design recipe for car mayhem.
Overall I love Burnout and it still stands the test of time. An absolute blast of an arcade racer that still holds up - at least in the gameplay. There are ads for other EA games on the tracks and something tells me no-one's lining up to buy Battlefield 1942 or Tiger Woods' PGA Golf anymore.
I'd tell you to go out and buy it, but, unless you own an Xbox 360, you can't. If you still have your 360, I implore you to spend the $10 and experience one of the finest arcade racers of its generation and probably overall. There is no perfect game, after all. It was left behind by the Xbox One in favor of its remastered brother, Burnout Revenge - and whilst I can't say anyone gets the blame, it is another reason to maintain a vice-like grip on my 360. Even as the console gets older and the world gets colder.
Because there will always be a Burnout to warm me up.
Catch you next time,
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