I love a good racing simulator, I really do. I've played more Gran Turismo than I can remember, F1 2013 is one of my most played games on Steam, and just a few days ago I bought Milestone's motorbike sim, Ride, which I'm loving. But you know, sometimes I just want to crash a pickup truck into a busy crossroads. No game series quite has Burnout's mix of high-speed arcade street racing and pure mayhem and destruction.
2002's Burnout 2: Point of Impact was one of the first games I ever played on the PlayStation 2, and it was probably the game I played the most. The reason for this was simple: the crash mode. It was glorious. The goal was simple: drive really fast into traffic at a junction in order to cause as much carnage as possible. The more you smashed everything up, the more points you got. What's not to love? The regular race modes were awesome, too, so insanely fast that through sheer speed alone the game delivered challenge to arcade-style driving that could seem lackluster in other titles. But it was the crash mode that made this game unique and meant it is the game I remember most fondly when I think of Burnout.
The removal of the crash mode in 2007's Dominator was a huge loss to the series, and it never came back. The following year's Burnout Paradise (which provides the screenshot above) was a great game for many reasons—there was a huge choice of vehicles, the open-world setting wasn't overused at the time, and the racing was fun. But without something a bit different to change it up when I got bored of main game, it didn't hold my attention for very long. There were a lot of modes in Paradise, but they all revolved around the same principle: drive really fast from one place to another. Sometimes you had to ram other drivers off the road, sometimes you had to avoid being wrecked yourself, but you were always just driving really fast from one place to another. Driving really fast into a bus is so much more satisfying.
There seems to be a bit of an obsession at the moment with making racing games super serious. You either have simulators like the aforementioned Gran Turismo and F1 games, or you get arcade racers like Need for Speed with dull racing mechanics that they try to spice up with some kind of ridiculous story that nobody ever cares about. Realistic racers can be fun, but games are at the stage now where it's really quite easy for developers to make a car (or motorbike) look photo-realistic. The upcoming Project CARS has been preceded by trailers full of very pretty car models and hugely detailed interiors, but these aren't things we haven't seen before. Every time a racing sim comes out it claims to be the most realistic, or the best-looking yet, but really there is very little difference between most of them. There are some less serious racers out there, granted, but other than Mario Kart they don't get much publicity. And Mario Kart doesn't actively celebrate your effort in causing traffic collisions.
The only racing game around right now giving us something like the Burnout experience is the early access title Wreckfest. Developed by Bugbear Studios, it could be considered a spiritual successor to FlatOut, the demolition derby and stunt driving series. The trailer on Steam is full of rusty old bangers crashing into each other, and bits of metal flying all over the place. It's the only racing game around in 2015 where the goal is destruction over actually winning races. (Or, at least, the two are placed on an even keel.)
But while Wreckfest does look good, it's not quite the same as Burnout. The racing isn't as fast and there is no dedicated crash mode. A demolition derby is cool, but it's still a race in the sense that it's a competition to see who comes out on top. The crash mode in Burnout pitted you against the game, not other players. There's also the fact that Burnout is road, not track racing. It not only encourages you to recklessly endanger civilians, it rewards you for it.
Some Germans having fun with 'Burnout 2: Point of Impact'
With Burnout Paradise, developers Criterion made a truly awesome game. That was the last proper Burnout (2011's Crash! doesn't count) and it came out so long ago that, surely, it's time for a new one: more high-speed racing, even more cars being sent flying through the air in slow-motion, and the old crash mode (please). Alas, such a release seems unlikely. Criterion is working on a new IP, but apparently the Guildford-based studio is moving away from cars. While I'm sure their new game will be great—it apparently has helicopters, planes, and ATVs, among other things—the fact that there might not ever be another Burnout makes me sad.
So I suppose there's only one course of appropriate action. Dig out the old PS2, stick Point of Impact in the disc drawer, and drive into things, fast.
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