Destruction is the name of the game in Burnout Crash. If the screen isn't a canvas for burning hatch-backs, upside-down lorries and the smouldering remains of buildings, you're probably doing something wrong. While in the real world, with its seat belts, traffic lights and sleeping policemen, you'll do everything possible to avoid a vehicular altercation, in Criterion's first XBLA and PSN offering you'll do anything possible to cause them.
True, this isn't the Burnout you know and love. A cartoony aesthetic and gameshow vibe immediately separate the game from the rest of the series, but Criterion is adamant that, in some ways, Burnout Crash is more Burnout than other Burnouts. Regardless of whether the change in tone works for you or not, there's no denying the 80's gameshow feel is executed well. With cheesy vocal motifs, boinks, buzzes, and the occasional outburst of Spandau Ballet's 'Gold', this is the perfect compliment to the erratic nature of the game.
The idea behind it all is simple: cause as much vehicular carnage as possible and thus prevent cars from leaving the intersection (or crossroads, as us Brits prefer to call it). This is achieved through your Crashbreaker, where a tap of the A (or X, for PS3 players) button will explode your car's engine, sending it flying in a direction of your choice. It's about crucial timing, anticipating the right moment to blow up your car for maximum points. Burnout Crash is all about those points, too - it's about high scores, leaderboards and rubbing your friends' noses in it when you beat them. God bless you, Autolog.
The simple crash mechanic is brought to life in three modes: Road Trip, Rush Hour and Pile Up, each with five stars to earn for meeting specific, usually score-based, requirements. In each of the six locations Road Trip must be completed before unlocking the other two modes, and involves strategically planning your pile-ups so that no cars entering the crossroads make it out the other side. If five or more slip through unscathed, it's G-to-the-ame Over, man.
The tactics you'll employ are largely defined by your choice of vehicle. While the Strongbox truck has impressive damage, its aftertouch - the distance it can travel after the initial explosion - isn't so great. The Dust Storm, on the other hand, can travel half way across the screen with a single tap of a button, but its power rating pales in comparison. The more stars you earn, the more interesting vehicles you'll unlock.
While there are few things in life more satisfying than blowing things up, it does often feel like your actions are inconsequential. You can sit in the middle of the intersection for extended periods of time without pressing a single button and carnage will still unfold around you; reserving your Crashbreaker until precisely the right moment is a key strategy, in fact. The game finds ways of purging the carcasses of crashed cars from the map, and this is the last thing you want when you're trying to create a blockade. Explosions are triggered regardless of whether you want them to or not, which often puts to waste all your hard work blocking exits. Any kind of strategy in Road Trip is quickly ruined by power-ups and other factors which lie outside of your control.
As you flit from crash to smash, a meter in the top-left of the screen will gradually fill based on how much damage you've inflicted on the area. When it's full you'll be awarded a power-up, usually involving a certain type of vehicle or environmental oddity interrupting the intersection. Police cars, for example, will set up road blocks at one of the junction exits; bank trucks will drop huge sacks of cash once they've been hit; and ice cream trucks will bring about the Big Freeze, stopping all traffic in its tracks.