Burnout is coming at us on multiple fronts this year. Not only is there Burnout Revenge on PlayStation 2 and Xbox, there's also Burnout Legends on the PSP. Seeing as every other game on the PSP seems to be a racer of some sort, another one to add to the collection might not seem all that appealing, but Legends might just be the racing title to own on the PSP this year.
There's nothing new in Burnout Legends. The game throws together tracks, cars and game modes from the first three games in the series, making a bumper edition PSP version. So you'll find the usual race modes and the increasingly popular crash mode, plus pursuit makes a return after being dropped in Burnout 3. All in all, there's a lot to do in Burnout Legends.
With content from three of the best racing games home consoles have seen, how well the game played on the handheld was always going to be the key to success. It seems that Criterion can do no wrong, as the PSP handles the game brilliantly. Control with the analogue stick is excellent and the screen is sharp enough to make seeing oncoming traffic no more difficult than it is on the console versions. There have been a number of concessions made to get the game onto the handheld though.
The famous motion blur that has graced every previous version of the game has been cut back so much that it is barely visible. This does mean that the initial selection of cars feel a little slower than you'd like, but the higher end models still exhibit the speed that fans of the series will be expecting. It isn't as thrilling as playing the game on a console, but it's the best sense of speed currently available on the PSP.
Vehicles and crashes have also lost some of their flare in the port. On home consoles the cars had a brilliant sheen to them and when they crashed they would deform, windows would shatter and the car would look pretty different depending on how it was crashed. In Legends the cars are modelled well, but don't have the same sheen, and crashes do less visible damage to cars, and often deform in the same way each time you crash. It still looks great, just not as great as the admittedly stunning console versions.
These visual alterations don't make the game any less fun to play, though, and Criterion have still created the best looking racer on the system. There's plenty of traffic on screen and colours are just as vibrant as they were on the console versions. The game's frame rate isn't the 60fps loveliness that fans may be used to, but it's fairly consistent and only those who insist on 60fps in racers will object.
Take downs are as much fun as they ever were, Crash mode is still entertaining and Pursuit mode offers players something they haven't played in a while. Something that is missing is the traffic checking that has been added to Burnout Revenge. This isn't as much of a problem as you might think, but prolonged play of one game over the other will mean that adjusting to the style of play found in the other takes a few minutes.
All of this is tied together in the World Tour mode. There's a total of 175 events to play through, making this one of the most content rich games on the handheld. It's not something that you are going to breeze through in a weekend, and with a few minutes play here and there Legends will last you months, not weeks. If you do get bored of tackling the World Tour then there are a number of multiplayer modes to play too.
This is unfortunately limited to local wireless play only, but is still fun. Most of the game modes are best played with upwards of four players (the game supports six), but pursuit mode and double-impact (a two player crash mode) work great with just one friend. Online support would have been great, but we'll just have to wait for the next Burnout game on the PSP for that.
As with every recent EA game, Legends has EA Trax, and there are tunes from the likes of Goldfinger, OK Go, Junkie XL, The Dead 60s and others. It's a good selection and it's made all the better by the lack of radio DJ who ruined the audio in Burnout 3. Custom soundtrack support as seen in TOCA Race Driver 2 would have been a nice bonus, but you can live without it.
Problems are few, but worth noting. While traffic can be seen easily enough, spotting barriers splitting the road and corner markers isn't as easy as on the console version, causing a few annoying crashes until you learn the layout of the courses. There are also fewer AI opponents to race against than in the console version (four instead of six), which makes things slightly less exciting.
Overall Burnout Legends is a great PSP title. It is another port - of sorts - but its use of older games makes its content seem fresher than other ports that have hit the handheld early in its life. As a game to pick up and play every now and again or to play with friends, Burnout Legends can't be beaten on the PSP.