Originally Published: Sept. 20, 2011, on EGMNOW.COM

Sunday drivers not allowed

It’s always a risky proposition to turn a minigame into its own standalone title—Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D springs to mind. These are intended to be side courses to the main menus of the games themselves. But what if you took that side course and really pumped it up so that next time we saw it, the game really could stand on its own? Well, with Burnout Crash!, that’s exactly what the folks at Criterion and EA have been able to accomplish.

The premise of the game has always been a simple one: You drive a car into oncoming traffic or a busy intersection and attempt to wreck as many other vehicles as you can with one well-placed T-bone or head-on collision. As other cars fail to swerve away from your magnificent display of twisted metal, glass, and plastic, your score increases—and, hopefully, you build up a traffic jam reminiscent of the end chase scene of The Blues Brothers. If too many cars continue on their way without crashing, though, you lose.

But so much more’s been added to this fleshed-out incarnation: Special features and score multipliers make this feel almost like an insane version of pinball, where you actually control the ball and the bumpers are crashing into you. By using your Crashbreaker power, which causes an explosion to emanate from your car after causing enough destruction, you can also break up a pile or carefully use other cars near you as projectiles to keep cars from escaping—and keep your score, represented by how much damage you’ve cost in terms of dollars, flying into the millions. Also, as your score increases and more and more cars become disabled, you can unlock special powers depending on the stage. Whether it’s a chaotic meteor shower that can wreak havoc or a flash blizzard that can really pump up your skid bonuses, the carnage-causing possibilities are certainly plentiful.

The big question, then, comes with whether Criterion keeps the game from getting repetitive. The fun factor’s evident from the second you grab the simple controls—the A button uses Crashbreaker, while left joystick moves the car, and that’s it. Burnout Crash! might not have all the answers, but Criterion certainly made a solid attempt, and plenty of players will probably find enough reason to come back for lots more. Six themed locations with three intersections each offer a lot of mayhem, but the game also includes three modes to keep the experience fresh: Road Trip, Rush Hour, and Pile-Up. Road Trip’s your standard game where you try to wreck a certain number of cars before five are able to escape your fiery, gasoline-fueled path of destruction. Rush Hour gives you a 90-second time limit to cause as much chaos as possible before one fantastic explosion at the end. Pile-Up sees you trying to build the biggest pile-up possible to maintain a massive multiplier that comes into effect when no other cars are coming. Then, your objective is to make as much of the world continuously burn as possible. The game also offers a feature called Autolog, where you can directly see the scores of friends who’ve played the game—and issue challenges to them to try to beat your high scores. This classic arcade feature may be just enough to get the adrenaline pumping for you competition junkies out there, and it could be the saving grace that makes this a downloadable title you keep coming back to.

Despite all this, I personally did find that the game got repetitive after some time, and it isn’t something I see myself playing for long stretches of time, even though it felt great to blow up so much stuff in short spurts. Also, the Kinect controls are completely unnecessary. For a game that relies on two buttons on a standard controller, jumping up and down to activate my Crashbreaker was irritating, and the five seconds of steering I needed in the beginning before my first crash didn’t give me the control I felt with a gamepad. Still, Burnout Crash! is a slick, easy-to-pick-up-and-play (with a controller), adrenaline-fueled funfest that, when combined with bright colors, a cheesy game-show-style announcer, and some kickin’ tunes, has enough to definitely be worth your 800 Microsoft points or $9.99 on PSN.

Summary: That rare, properly fleshed-out experience spawned from a minigame—and one that’s well worth your money.

  • The Good: Autolog adds a competitive factor not seen in many games like this.
  • The Bad: Finds a way to make unbridled mayhem repetitive at times.
  • The Ugly: Kinect controls on the XBLA version. So unnecessary.

SCORE: 8.5