"In some ways, this is more Burnout than other Burnout titles," claims Criterion Games' Richard Franke, who is aware top-down spin-off CRASH! might not fit the image many people have of the series. "Burnout always came from that sense of complete, free-for-all mad destruction and fun gameplay, and that's exactly what this is."
That said, it seems to have some fans worried. With a top-down view, 'cartoony' aesthetic and a game-show vibe to the whole thing, some people were quick to dismiss the idea. I subscribed to the same mentality this time last week, but now having played the game, I'd recommend that you don't write it off just yet.
The XBLA and PSN game boasts three gameplay modes (although a separate, Kinect specific, party mode is due to be revealed at gamescom): Roadtrip, Rush Hour and Pile Up. Each shares the same basic principle: to cause as much vehicular carnage as possible. Franke likens the game to a pinball machine, and with its bouncing cars, game-show host and medley of arcadey beeps and boops, it's clear to see why.
Road Trip is your 'main mode', where you'll play through a series of intersections across America, unlocking new areas as you go. The idea here is to not let any cars pass through the crossroads. By exploding your car at exactly the right moment (by using your 'crash breaker'), you can stop traffic and create make-shift road blocks. Should you let five cars pass through unscathed, it's game over. Each intersection has five stars to earn, which demand satisfying score-based requirements and challenges.
Franke likens Rush Hour to Supermarket Sweep, only without Dale Winton and his orangey aura. Here, you have 90 seconds to simply rack up as many points as possible. I got to play with Kinect for this one, gripping an imaginary steering wheel to guide the car into the intersection. Once you've crashed, you can move about your environment to change the direction of the explosion, and jump to detonate.
It was a little awkward, if I'm honest, and certainly not the best way to go about nailing those all-important high scores. Kinect can be used across all three game modes, but most people will prefer sticking to the pad.
In Pile Up, you have a set amount of time to stop as many cars passing through the intersection as possible, after which you'll enter an 'Inferno Mode'. Here, you'll need to use your crash breaker to chain together explosions. Once you've run out of things to explode, it's game over, however, so you need to work your way around the environment in such a way that the combo is maintained.
Autolog fuels the whole experience. Without it, I expect the game would quickly run out of gas. As well as the whole comparing scores with friends malarkey, and notifying them when they've been beaten, there has been several additions since Hot Pursuit and Shift 2. The new Autolog challenges feature allows you to send specific challenges to a friend, which one of you will then win a trophy for. Autolog Recommends has been expanded, too, suggesting friends of friends who also play the game.
Autolog is a great fit, complimenting the score attack nature of the game perfectly. Still, many people are likely to find the game too far removed from the Burnout they know and love. Regardless of its name and developer, however, there's no denying CRASH! is an addictive little game, and those that embrace it could quickly find themselves hooked.
Burnout CRASH! is due for release in August.