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Burnout 3 : Takedown

written by Shaun McCracken

Game Information
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Criterion Software
Year Released: 2004
Players: 1-4
ESRB Rating: Teen

Visuals 9.75
It actually does look better and move faster than the previous games in the series, and a lot more detail has gone into the crashes. Great special effects, framerate, sense of speed and overall look. The worst I can say is that a few textures look a bit blurry.
Audio 9
Excellent and improved sound effects, but a disappointing soundtrack from EA. At least you can use your own music. Oh, and kill the DJ.
Gameplay 10
It's pretty easy to pick up and play, and yet there's an amount of depth to the racing itself. The only real problem is the overly aggressive AI.
Replay Value 10
There's a lot to do in the World Tour mode, with 100 crash stages and over 70 race events, plus theres a great number of secrets and unlockables. There's Xbox LIVE support, but it's a bit buggy in it's early stage.
Reviewer's Impression 10
Not since Project Gotham Racing 2 have I been provided with a great number of racing modes to choose from, as well as play almost non-stop for almost two weeks straight.
Overall 10
I think it's pretty obvious what the concensus is here. Burnout 3: Takedown is a must have for any fan of the genre (or not) and is white-hot with the most intense racing action ever seen in a videogame.

The Burnout series/franchise has become one of the most evolved series in gaming in a rather short period of time. The magic all began back in 2001 with the first installment of Burnout for the PS2. Many shrugged this off as just another arcade racing game with a rather strong gimmick: giving gamers some of the most detailed vehicular crashes seen in a game to date. The only true problem that I saw with the game was the fact that it was too short. You can finish everything in about five hours, but I managed to squeeze at least twice that. In spring 2002, the Gamecube and Xbox saw ports of Burnout, then later in the year, Burnout 2: Point Of Impact hit the PS2, and later in spring 2003, ports were seen on the Gamecube and Xbox. Burnout 2 improved almost everything about the racer in every concievable way. There were more events and races to play, there were more cars, the crashes looked a lot better and more detailed, the graphics were sharper and it played much tighter. But the biggest and most important thing added to the game was the Crash mode. Here, your desires to create the most expensive and catastrophic car wreck is now a reality. Although the idea was primarily simple: take car (A) and smash it into car (B) and create a pileup, there was some skill involved to get the gold medals. You couldn't just hit any car in any fashion, you would need to play the stage a few times to see what is the best possible way to create the biggest wreck. The mix of strategy with sheer destructive perversion was what made the crash mode one of the most addictive modes of the game, as well as one of the most memorable.

And now in the beginning of the big fall gaming season of 2004, Criterion and EA Games lays forth upon us the third installment of Burnout. Now hold on just a second, did I just say that EA is bringing us the game? Yeah, you heard right. The first two Burnout games were published by Acclaim. But in the year of "the dumbest decisions ever made by a company then crashing into bankruptcy", Acclaim somehow let the reigns of the Burnout series go, and EA was wise enough to see potential in the series, and pick it right up. But that really doesn't change the frachise much. Some may wonder if EA would screw with anything in the formula to displease fans of the franchise just because they could. Well, fear not, because Burnout 3: Takedown is just as good as previous Burnout games, if not better. Burnout 3: Takedown once again evolves the franchise without really tampering with the overall formula. Criterion has managed to do what very few companies with frachises has done, and that is consistently deliver a bigger and better product with each installment. So, what does make this game so good? Read the rest of the review to find out.

The World Is Not Enough

Right off the bat, you'll realize that Burnout 3: Takedown is a bigger experience than previous games in the franchise. It's so big, it has to take over the world, or at least travel it. The biggest mode, and the one you'll probably spend a lot of time in, is the Burnout World Tour mode. Here, you will open up what is called the "Crash Nav". Some sort of GPS-like map that details where the races and crash events are. This time, Criterion has included the crash stages as part of the main championship mode, which really expands the World Tour mode to give you more. Of course, you really can't get into a race right away without having to go through a tutorial. Yeah, it's pretty uneccessary for a game like this, and it's even worse than the tutorial than Burnout 2, since you can't drive the car. After an explanation of how everything is done, you can jump into a race or crash stage. Neither is really dependent on each other, that is, completing a race event will not lock a crash stage, and vice versa. You can tackle one thing all the way through, or play whatever you feel like. That's the great thing about this mode is that you have choices on what you want to play through.

The World Tour takes you through three different continents this time around: USA, Europe and the Far East. You will start off in the USA, but as you start to get through a few stages/events, you will be invited to special event races that are in other continents. Eventually, through progress, you will be able to go into the other continents. At least it's nice that Criterion gives us a taste of different places and even vehicles before we have a chance to reach them.

Give Me More, More, More (Modes)

Another evolution that is evident in Burnout 3: Takedown are the race types. In the past two games, it was basically just circuit racing against 3 other CPU controlled players. In Burnout 2, we did see some face-off races and a couple of pursuit races, but it was mostly the same type of racing through and through. In BO3, the developers kind of took a Project Gotham Racing approach to the racing events by adding some variation into them. Yes, there are still the standard single race events (but now you go against 5 CPU drivers instead of 3) and face-off events. But there are now new events called Burning Lap, Elimination, Grand-Prix and Road Rage.

Burning Lap is essentially a hot-lap on the given race course. You need to complete one lap by a specfic time set by the goal (the longer you take, the lower the medal score you get). Sure, it may sound like a time to breathe easy, since there are no opponents, but the traffic is still there, and there will be crashing, especially since you really need to keep your thumb on the boost. Sometimes you'll have "Preview Races" which are similar to the Burning Lap, except the car class is different, and you're playing for unlockables. Elimination should be very familiar to those who have played a couple of Need For Speed games. Essentially, they're knockout races. Each lap, the person in the lowest position will be eliminated, so keeping ahead of the pack is key to grabbling a medal. Grand-Prix races really don't require much of a write-up, since you pretty much know what it is. It's just a series of races that eventually moves you up to the next car class when completed.

The best race mode is the Road Rage event. Here, it's time to takedown those SOB's with some hard hits and quick thinking. You basically have an unlimited number of opponents to smash, but you may have a time limit if you play in the World Tour (as well as a goal for a medal). It's actually one of the easier events, since all you need to do is smash the hell out of those bastard CPU controlled cars. Carefull, though. The AI is pretty damn aggressive. Outside of the World Tour, the Road Rage races are just fun to play wether to vent off the daily frustrations on drone cars(like the asswipe who wouldn't get off their cell-phone), or to finely hone your takedown skills. Personally, I like to see how many cars I can takedown before I destroy myself. Oh yeah, I forgot about that detail. After a few crashes, your car will be destroyed, and you will be out of the race. So, be defensive as well as offensive, okay?

When This Thing Hits (1)88 mph, You're Going To See Some Serious Sh-t!

If you've played either Burnout game in the past, you know the key to success is going fast. Of course, you're going to need a little more than keeping your finger on the accelerator to "go fast", you're going to need some boost. In the past, you gained boost by driving rather wrecklessly, either by driving on the wrong side of the road, nearly missing the cars, drifting, or mooning the sheriff. Okay, you could never do the last one, but I think you know what I mean. By doing some driving manuvers NOT approved by the DMV, you can fill up a meter on the bottom corner of the screen. Once the meter is full, you can boost, and if you were able to use the entire meter without crashing, you would essentially pull a "Bunout", and earn more boost (in the case of Burnout 2, you could actually link multiple Burnouts by some skillful driving).

Burnout 3, agian, evolves this method of boosting. Yes, you can still earn boost by near misses, driving in the wrong direction, getting air, drifitng, and now tailgaitng. But there are also new methods. One of them is called a "Shunt", which is essentially rear-ending an opponents vehicle to steal their boost. Carefull, though, because they can shunt you as well and steal your boost. But there's something bigger than that to give you more boost, and that's the Takedown. Whenever you takedown an opponent, be it by slamming them into a wall or car, by pysching them out, or by any other means of their destruction, you will actually gain an extra segment to your boost bar (up to x4), and a full bar of boost. The longer the bar, the more boost you can have, and the faster you can keep moving. Ah, but there's a catch. If you crash, you lose a segement of the bar. You can still get it back by another takedown, though.

Using all the tools of gaining boost at your disposal not only keeps your car going faster, but also keeps you ahead of the pack (or at least catch up with them). To my knowledge, there's really no way you can win races without boosting, and by keeping the bar full, you should have less problems. Also, boosting helps with taking down opponents. A high speed shunt can make a quick end to a troublesome rival.

"Mommy Gives Concrete Kisses!"

If there's one thing that the Burnout series is known for is the glorification of gruesome car accidents. In the first game, it was more or less a gimmick, but the gimmick proved to be one of the games greater challenges. As we see in all Burnout games, crashing takes up time, and holds you back against the competition. But the act of crashing itself takes on a new form this time around. Before, it was something you tried to avoid during races. Now, you still want to avoid those accidents, but when one does occur, you can turn the tables on your dire situation.

Burnout 3 introduces a new technique called the "Crash Aftertouch". When you are in a crash, holding the A button will activate the aftertouch function, which slows everything down ala The Matrix. This is much more than a fancy effect, though, as you can actually control your wreck (provided you have enough velocity) during the aftertouch period. Why would that be useful? Well, if you can time it just right, you can actually nail a computer opponent to score an Aftertouch Takedown. This not only causes a computer controlled opponent to crash, but it also replaces the lost boost segment, or even add one on if you didn't have it in the first place.

The aftertouch control is also very useful during the crash mode as it can help you reach the bonus cash, multipliers, and Crashbreakers (more on that in a moment), as well as get the best spot to create a large pile-up. And speaking of the crash mode, new additions have been made to make things more interesting and challenging. At the beginning of each new crash stage, you'll want to watch the flyby of the entire stage. You'll want to try and spot the cash bonuses, multipliers, Crashbreakers and even Heartbreakers. These can help (or hinder, in one case) your overall crash total, and plays a bigger part of the strategy needed to win.

The pickups on each stage may vary. You may not see all these items right off the bat, but eventually all will appear in 70% of the stages. Cash pickups are medals with dollar signs, and come in bronze, silver and gold. A bronze bonus nets you $5,000, a sliver will give you $10,000 and a gold one will give you $20,000. Collecting all three can help your total, but not always neccessary to get the bigger totals. Some cash bonuses seem to be out of the way, and it's riskier to pick them up than to go for a bigger, planned crash. The multipliers are a must to pickup, though. They come in either yellow (x2) or green (x4). It should really be a top priority to grab the biggest multiplier possible, as it makes reaching crash targets much easier. But, stay away from the Heartbreaker, which will cut your overall total in half, EVEN if you have another multiplier. If you hit one of these, it's just best to restart the stage, because you probably won't reach the lowest crash target value if you keep going with one in hand.

The Crashbreaker adds some spice into the crash mode, by literally blowing up your car, and giving you another chance to move your car around, or just cause more damage. You can get these two ways, one is to pick them up as you would with a multiplier, and they activate on contact. The other way to get a crashbreaker is to reach a given number of cars that need to be wrecked for the stage. It's really not that hard to reach that goal, and you can use it at anytime once you earn it by pressing B. You can even use multiple crashbreakers in one stage to get every item, or to just cause the worst possible car accident imagineable.

...And All I Got Was This Lousy Settlement.

What is a racing game, or any game for that matter, without the unlockables? Burnout 3 has a great number of them, from cars to other secrets (which in all, unlock cars). You can unlock cars by winning races, but you can also unlock cars by earning Burnout Points, Gold Medals and cash from the crash mode. There are also secret crash spots called "Signature Takedowns", which not only give you a good number of points, but also a snapshot of that location. Collect all of them to unlock a car. There are also Crash Headlines to collect if you create a big enough wreck, postcards if you get gold on the special races, takedown goals for trophies and more, which also unlock cars if all goals are collected/met. Some things (like the headlines) are pretty easy to get. But you'll have to work for some of the tougher ones.

At least this game keeps you busy. Speaking of keeping you busy, EA has also now embraced Xbox LIVE support, so now even Xbox owners can play Burnout 3 online. I haven't had a chance to go online yet, due to the lack of a broadband connection. But from what I've heard so far isn't so good. EA still is ironing out the kinks that gamers are coming across playing online, and I'm not sure when every major problem will be resolved. But at least it's not like this game heavily relies on online play, there's more than enough to do offline.

Glass Dance

So, we're finally getting to the technical aspects of the game. First off, the visuals. As we all know, Criterion is the creator of the Renderware platfrom, which usually results in a more consitent and equal product on all consoles. But it seems like that only Criterion themselves know how to use their own middleware to it's full effect. One noticable thing that Renderware is greatly capable of is the particle effects, especially when Criterion is the developer. The particle effects were great in Burnout 2, but they're taken to a whole new level in Burnout 3. This time, you have chunks of glass, shrapnel from the car, pieces of the car (like the hood or doors), smoke and even fire (which was something I thought was missing from BO2). Combine this with better vehicular deformation, objects that fall off of flatbeds, the fact that you car can lose more than one tire and much more makes the crashes in Burnout 3 even all the more gruesome. Those who love crash scenes from movies like Final Destination 2 will be intoxicated by Criterion's attention to painful detail in auto accidents.

But it's not all about the crashes (well, yeah, it is). Burnout 3 is a pretty damn sharp looking game in general, despite the fact it's a multiplatform title. When I played the PlayStation 2 version, I was very impressed with what was pulled off on that system. The Xbox version is still a great looking version, if not a bit better. Most of the textures are fairly sharp and clear, and at times, almost seem bump-mapped (they might have pulled the same trick Amusement Vision did for F-Zero GX). There are even great lighting effects that you expect from an Xbox game, which is nice. The framerate is damn-near rock solid (the only drops I noticed were in the huge pileups), and the game is fast as hell. This is probably one of few games that might actually surpass the level of speed shown on the spedometer. Many people were right when they said that this game is as fast as F-Zero GX, and I didn't even think that was possible. With everything that goes on in this game, from the speed to the special effects and particles, this is one of the most sensational racing games to look at.

The audio is almost on par with the visuals, except for the soundtrack. But let's start with the good (before we take the bad). The sound effects are the best they have ever been in the series. The crashes actually sound a lot more realistic than they used to in Burnout 2. I felt that the crash sound from BO2 was a bit too loud and hollow to be considered realisitic, like it was more of loud trashcans than a crashed car. But this time the effect is much more realistic, and you get to hear a lot more in the crash, such as the jingling of the pieces of shattered glass (it sounds better during the aftertouch mode), the scraping of the chassis on the ground and even explosions. Even the not-crash sounds, such as the slams and scrapes, and the whooshes from everything that passes you durning the boost (and even the fire sound from the boost itself) sound great, and LOUD. But for every good, there's a bad, and that falls upon the soundtrack. It's not that it's completlry awful, there are some good songs in there, but this compliation of EA Trax is just disappointing when compared to what was done for SSX 3. Also, I have to question some of the songs they chose for the soundtrack. The song "Lazy Generation" is just confusing (not to mention stupid), and couldn't they have picked a better classic song than "I Wanna Be Sedated"? Wouldn't AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" make a lot more sense? Of course, as Xbox owners know, if you don't like the soundtrack provided, you can just use your own. That's something to shove in PS2 owner's faces.

I Never Said I Was Perfect

As great as Burnout 3 is, there are some things I would have liked to see in the game. For one, licensed cars, but as we all know, there would be a chance in hell that would happen, so I would have at least like to have seen cars that actually looked like real-world cars. A photo mode would have made a great addition to the game, and I really can't think of why this wouldn't be possible. Super Smash Bros. Melee has this feature, as well as Sega GT 2002 and the upcoming Gran Turismo 4. It would have been great to take a snapshot of the devestation you caused, and save it into your hard drive, and even share them online. Also, Burnout 3 once again lacks the abillity to save a replay, which I guess would be harder to do, since the particle effects from the crashes may be too much to remember for a small file. But what about saving crash replays like you could do in the first Burnout? It would also be nice to see the pursuit mode from Burnout 2 and the survival mode from the original Burnout make a return, as it would have added more replay value. And what the hell happened to the THX certification that EA was slapping on games last year and earlier this year? Although the game does sound pretty close to having THX, it's a bit odd that EA didn't give this game the certification. The gripes are really here and there stuff that would actually just make the game better and not totally improve the overall design. Criterion did give us a lot more than ever before, but you can't help but think of the possibillites to enhance the experience.

Final Thought

This has to be one of the most detailed, as well as one of the longest reviews I have ever written for a game. But there was so much to say and cover about Burnout 3: Takedown that you can't help but write everything down (now I see why some sites have 3,4 page reviews). So what should you take from this review? Well, for one, Burnout 3 was worth the wait, and is the best game in the series. The level and number of improvements that have been made really does show that this game has made an evolution rather than an upgrade from something before (like a lot of games out there). It's also a challenging (much more that the past Burnouts) and exciting game that rewards reckless behavior and wanton destruction, and really how many racing games allow to do that?

And let's face it, the arcade racing genre is starting to become a dying breed. I think all we have for 2004 in terms of arcade racing is this and OutRun 2. Everything is becoming a racing sim, or something dealing with street racing. Not that I don't like that, but the pure arcade racing game just doesn't seem to be hanging around anymore. Even old standbys, such as the Ridge Racer series has changed, and we don't seem to be left with much anymore. But I think that any fan of the racing genre can get a lot out of this, just because it's an easy game to get into, but really hard to put down. It might be the one racing game that can truly appeal to any gamer, no matter what genre they like. Like a bus speeding from an intersection that slams into your car, Burnout 3: Takedown is the kind of experience no one saw coming.