Review: Burnout 2: Director’s Cut (XB)

I said I like driving games as long as I don’t have to work too hard at them. When that is the case, there are few things more enjoyable than a good racing game. Hell, my bachelor party consisted of about 20 of my closest friends sitting around my apartment getting drunk and playing Mario Kart 64. Of course, this implies that I like a little action along with my racing. Witness my affinity for SSX:Tricky for the PS2. Or the arcade version of Crazy Taxi (I own the PS2 version, but it’s not the same. Why? Because for some bizarre reason they changed voice talent for B.D. Joe, my favorite character. He went from being this really fun-loving, cool individual, to possibly the whitest black man in the world next to Bebito and Hyatte. It completely blew the feel of the game for me).

Racing games are also the great unifiers at parties. You can alienate someone really quickly playing a FPS or a sports game, but EVERYBODY knows how to race. If the crashes are funny, then even losing can be fun. There was one course in 1080 where you went through a town. You could run smack into houses and even cars parked on the street. It was hilarious.

Anyway, I finally got Panky to let me review an Xbox game. Let’s do this.

Game: Burnout 2 — Director’s Cut
Platform: Xbox
Distributor: Acclaim
Developer: Criterion
Distracter: My 7-month old son. He likes the buttons on the controller.

GAMEPLAY

It’s a driving game. You drive. However, unlike the previous driving game I reviewed, this has a plethora of game modes. Championship mode, Single Race, Time Attack, Offensive Driving 101, Pursuit, and Crash, as well as multiplayer Single Race. Right trigger gas, left trigger brake, A-button turbo, steer, and everything else is gravy. If you want a manual tranny, you use X and B buttons. If you want in-cab views, or looking behind you, you can get that too.

The cars themselves are actually pretty easy to control with the analog stick. You’re not trying to simulate real driving situations, so nothing is too sensitive control-wise. Proper use of the gas and brake will get you through most turns; the stick control is more forgiving here than in most games. It’s not sloppy or sluggish, though. It’s just not touchy, and that’s all I ask for.

The Offensive Driving 101 mode is a short, but excellent way to learn how to fill your turbo bar. I like a game that rewards you for driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s certainly easier than trying to catch some icon in a power slide at 120 mph. This game rewards you for just generally driving like a maniac, instead of just behaving like one when a power-up is nearby.

There are two real bright spots in terms of game modes in Burnout 2. The first is the varied Championship mode, which starts out as a standard multi-race league circuit but soon throws in rounds of one-on-one races and police Pursuits. Changing up the race types is a simple but really effective way of keeping things interesting. In fact, when you progress to a certain point in the Champ mode, you can unlock Pursuits on the main menu.

It’s already well documented how much I love unlockables in games. You start with a nice selection of cars and unlock even more as the game progresses. They didn’t want to muck with licenses, and I respect that, so no Corvettes or Loti or Mitsubishis in this game. Instead, you have vehicle names like “Roadster” and “Oval Racer” and “Japanese Musclecar.” Each car has it’s own values for acceleration, control, and top speed; and, strangely enough, these values actually seem to correlate with the vehicles physics properties. What’s also nice is that you can use ANY car that has been unlocked for ANY game mode. This seems really simple to you and me, but I’ve already shown how established game franchises have forgotten this little perk.

The brightest star of this game, however, is the Crash mode. Ho. Lee. Cow. You are given a specific location and scenario of vehicles and your job is to maximize the damage done by crashing your car. No description I can put together can do justice to the immeasurable fun that is the Crash mode. There are 30 different scenarios to crash, and it’s surprisingly hard to find just the right vehicle and hit it in just the right manner to cause buses to roll over and semis to plow into your remains. I wanted to buy a copy of this game and send it to Holly Hunter (and if you get THAT reference . . . ) with the note, “Better than porn.”

Making this worse is the fact that the crashes are done so beautifully. See the graphics session for more gushing on this. Seriously, that mode could make fetishists out of normally well-adjusted people. (James Spader could not be reached for comment. Something about getting caught up with his videotapes. I think it was a lie.)

However, there are some arena problems. You can’t jump off of overpasses and bridges and the like. When you try, it becomes apparent that there is an invisible force field holding you in the desired field of play. This really stifles creativity in the Crash mode sometimes, but not enough to ruin the Crash experience. I hope that Criterion can fix this for the next version of Burnout.

GRAPHICS

Of course, anything done reasonably well on the Xbox is going to look amazing, but Criterion did a slightly different job of it. The graphics are very, very good, but maybe just a little cleaner than you’d expect. The cars look a little too shiny, the road a little too uniform; but there’s a method to their madness, I think they purposely took out some of the uber-realistic detail in the static graphics so that they could fit cooler dynamic graphical stuff in. I’m talking about sparks flying when you rub against a guardrail, or tire tracks when you peel out, but mostly I’m talking about the crashes.

The crashes, oh my deity-of-choice the crashes. Whoever did the crash model for this game should be exalted and praised and paid a whole lot of money. It’s not just your run-into-something and stop. Oh, no. We’re not even talking just flips and spins. We’re talking rolling buses, jackknifing trucks, parts — RECOGNIZABLE parts — flying off the cars and onto the street. Parts coming off in realistic fashion to the dynamics of the crash. We’re talking as close to actual automotive mayhem as I’ve ever seen. Okay, you still can’t fold the front end into the back seat, even if you ram a semi at 160 mph, but you have to do something that extreme to even start to get into nonrealistic responses. Combine this with the Crash game mode and I killed the better part of last weekend playing this game. Mind you, the spectacle of the crashes isn’t limited to Crash mode. Oh, no. You can create masterpieces of chaos and kinetic energy in any game mode you wish. You may not win races doing this, but you can do it.

Apparently the detailed crashes are part of the “Director’s Cut” aspect of this game. What a great way for me NOT to get Burnout or Burnout 2 — Non-Director’s-Cut-Edition.

There are slightly more than an average number of graphical foibles with this game, most of them side effects of the Crash mode. You can get your car into resting positions that you know the game doesn’t like them being in, as the whole view will shake until things reset. Also, I noticed something after a lot of Crash mode games. If you car comes to rest right side up, often it will kind of bob up and down there until the scene ends, like it’s bouncing on hydraulics or something. It’s not obnoxious, it’s actually somewhat amusing, but obviously unintentional.

SOUND

As I’ve said before, there’s only so much you can do with sound in a driving game. This game does it, and does it well, but doesn’t really go that extra mile. Different cars have different and appropriate sounding engines. The police car has a siren. Tires squeal . . . slightly. Crashes sound like automotive impacts. The music is appropriate and not annoying. A solid effort.

Of course, they could have varied the sound of crashes a bit more, or upped the dB on the tires, or put a little more variety into the car’s engine noises. A little extra effort here would have made this game jump out at me that much more, but I can’t fault them.

FUN FACTOR

THIS is what I like about driving games: options, unlockables, and mayhem. The Challenge mode has a nice variety of stages to keep it from getting boring or tedious. The variety extends to the single and multi-player single race modes; and, of course, we can’t forget the Crash mode. I’m not sure what is the most disturbing, the fact that you can do it at all, the fact that it was done so well, or the fact that I enjoyed doing it so much. It can be frustrating, especially when you think you’ve exhausted every possible way to cause a crash in a given scenario, but that won’t stop you from picking up the controller and trying JUST ONE MORE TIME.

Otherwise, the courses are beautifully put together. A couple have options for weather conditions, which is a neat addition. The layouts are realistic without being boring. Sudden turns are preceded by proper signage, if you pay attention to that sort of thing. A little care, and staying on the road is easy. You’ll slip around a bit at the start, and there are a couple of brutal greater-than-90-degree turns, but for the most part you can smoothly transition through curves with a little care.

Sadly, I don’t have Xbox-Live (yet) but Burnout 2 will allow you to race over it and even brags about a national “leaderboard.” I can’t comment on the technical aspects of this, but anything that extends the chaos to more people is a good thing. Other than the great crashes, I don’t know what exactly makes this the “Director’s Cut,” but if you need to pick up Burnout 2, definitely look for this version over the normal version.

Ratings

Gameplay: 8.0
Graphics: 8.0
Sound: 6.5
Fun Factor: 9.0