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     " Trust me, fellow simians, this Does Not Get Old... "

      Title: Burnout 3 by EA Games

      Format: Xbox Arcade Racer

      Reviewing Monkey: Reader Andrew Eigel

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Burnout 3's graphics are stellar, and a definite improvement over the other games in the series. The Renderware engine upon which the game is built delivers some intense racing and crashing situations at a buttery 50fps. This game has not the merest suggestion of a hiccup, even on the busiest streets clogged with Tuk-Tuk cabs, city busses, fuel tankers and faux-Fiats.
          The cars themselves remain generic, although the stylings point to otherwise recognizable models, and their paint jobs can be modified slightly to taste. The finish on the vehicles gleams as if someone rubbed them obsessively with a cloth diaper for six hours.
          A lot of modern racing games have been trying to catpure that elusive feeling of speed. Earlier efforts in the genre offered lots of little bits of detail scrolling past as fast as the platform could pump the polygons. This is still true of Burnout 3, however the developers took a hint from the effects wizards responsible for the race sequence in The Fast and the Furious. The screen goes blurry around the edges, and the blur thickens the faster you go, and everything seems to stretch slightly. Hit the Boost button, and the camera performs a very slight zoom, allowing you to see farther ahead. As a result, this is the first racing game I've ever played where I actually FELT like I was going 150mph.
          Unlike others in the genre, THIS racer revels in it's car-nage (pun intended). Collisions produce a veritable fountain of sparks, and realistic vehicular damage is modeled so subtle you're not likely to catch the transitions happening. And then there's Crash Time, the slow motion, bullet-time effect the game shamelessly uses to show off it's many wrecks like a drunk co-ed on spring break. There's nothing that'll bring a tear to the eye of any true gamer faster than taking down an opponent and sending him flying through the air in slow-mo, glass shards glittering in the realistic lens-flare, to explode into a sizeable fireball upon impact with terra firma. Aw yeah. I can feel the love.
          The backgrounds are luscious, vibrant and even contain destructible elements which can give you the edge, such as when you drift around a close corner on a French-Riviera street, smashing through table and chairs and park benches for those extra few tenths of a second in a close one-on-one race. The tracks are crowded with detail... buildings, trees, backdrops, billboards (advertising other EA games)... hell, even readable (and accurate) street signs in the local language. The small touches count in a big way for a lot of the roads, too. You'll zip past rustic gas stations, campgrounds (with Winnebagoes!) and I even thought I saw a sasquatch one time. Ok, so I lied about the sasquatch, but given the sheer perfectionist skill that went into scenery you often shoot through at 150 mph, seeing one wouldn't have felt out of place.
          A word should also be said about the soundtrack. Whoever is in charge of this aspect must have listened to hundreds of hours of demo tapes, and, in the end, chose the most evocative tunes I've ever heard underlying race gameplay. Spanning the spectrum from the Ramones to Franz Ferdinand, it is nothing short of Genius. Seriously, this is the first game where I actually ripped the mp3's to listen to outside the game. 4.5 out of 5

      Playability: The most concise thing that can be said of Burnout 3 is that it's a racer for gamers who don't dig racers. It succeeds in this by fixing a few of the things that the casual gamer finds frustrating about the genre. First off, there's the simplicity of the controls themselves. Burnout 3 has Left, Right, Reverse, Brake and Boost. All the cars go the same top-speed, as there is no tuning element here. That being said, you can attain Boost by driving as recklessly as possible. Tailgating, bumping, racing full-speed against the flow of traffic, all these things help you fill your Boost meter and allow you to get an additional 10-20mph edge over your opponents. The elegance of this scheme means that anyone can pick up the controller and be driving like a pro inside of 15 minutes. The thumbsticks are beautifully responsive to your slightest twitch, which is good when you often have less than a second to evade an oncoming bus. By the same token, it is very hard to over-steer. If you smash up your ride, it's likely you hit another car, not the guardrail. Other racing games often punish the hapless driver with penalties to their time (putting them behind in the over all race) and a lame accident animation, which doesn't so much as mar the car's finish. B3's wrecks cause the action to slow to a crawl for the explicit purpose of giving you a chance to wreak your revenge. While you're going down the game switches into Crash Time, and you gain the ability to control your car's trajectory slightly in mid-flight. That means if you are skilled and lucky enough, you can tag a passing opponent's vehicle in an After Touch Takedown. Ordinarily, a wreck would mean you would loose precious Boost, but an After Touch means that not only did an opponent suffer your fate, but you also get to keep your Boost meter full. This simple mechanic turns what would ordinarily be a game-stopper into another chance to get ahead for playing well.
         The gameplay modes encompass many of the other tropes often found in racers: Time trials, one-on-one, straight out races against 5 others, and a Gran Prix. The most impressive thing about B3, though, is the remarkably fun modes not seen in other racing games. One of these is Road Rage, and yeah, it's as fun as it sounds. You have a time limit and a target rich environment, and you must take down as many opponents as possible. The AI is good, but you are often better. Fast, simple, brutal, and oh-so-satisfying. Crash Junctions, the other mode first introduced in Burnout 2, are part puzzle and part suicidal catharsis. The object in these vignettes of flaming joy is to run your expensive sports car into traffic and cause the absolute biggest pileup you can manage. After a certain set number of impacts, you attain the ability to invoke the Crashbreaker, which basically blows up whatever is left of your car. As in Crash Time, you have the ability to maneuver your flaming hulk to cause more accidents or to pluck from midair the few scattered bonuses and power-ups that hang enigmatically above the road. And the more damage you cause (calculated in dollars) the more and bigger crash vehicles you unlock, from the SUV all the way up to the City Bus and the Tractor Trailer. Each is more massive and explosive than the last, leading to ever more complex and kinetic pile-ups. Nothing I have played this year comes close to the sadistic glee I feel when Crashbreaking next to a tanker truck. Trust me, fellow simians, this Does Not Get Old, even after 60-odd Junctions. 5 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: In a word, endless. It moves you from dinky 110mph compacts to screaming 270mph Formula 1, constantly challenging you to learn and relearn the courses, literally backwards and forwards. At no time during my 100+ hours I've spent did I ever feel as if the game was rushing me or offering me a challenge I couldn't rise to. A friend of mine bought the game and was significantly behind my own progress, and yet it was still challenging to race in a slightly slower car when I played single-player at his house. The tracks change in different areas depending on the type of race, and the races never seem to be the same way twice. The crash modes alone are worth the price of admission. Their massively destructive, slow-motion evolution of pileups continually beckons the player to just get that LAST car involved. The ever-proceeding unlocked vehicles are the carrot drawing you in, further and faster. Add in multiplayer on the same screen, or online with 5 other coco-locos and you have a game which will last and last... at least until Burnout 4. 4 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Burnout 3 is a rare game. It offers casual and veteran gamers alike a screamingly fun destruction racing game that never takes itself seriously. Its controls are simple and responsive, its graphics are some of the prettiest to be found on any console, and its framerates are ridiculous. Its soundtrack thumps along under the squealing tires and explosions, and NO other game mode this year will elicit more cackles of pure retribution than Road Rage. Get a copy for yourself, then invite a bunch of other chimps over. Chances are, they'll buy one for themselves the next day.

      What it's Worth: Full price... A steal if you can find it used.

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