Burnout 2: Point of Impact Review
When you went to Driver's Ed, they put an emphasis on driving safely; observing speed limits, checking your mirror before changing lanes, and making sure you weren't being some sort of showoff daredevil passing cars within inches of clipping them. Enter Burnout 2: Point of Impact, Acclaim's follow-up to their moderately successful arcade-style racer. In Burnout 2, everything you've learned to earn your driver's license is thrown out of the window in favor of everything you'll do that'll end up in having it revoked. You better drive dangerously to win, or you'll find yourself permanently inhaling your opponents' exhaust in one of the fastest racers to ever come out for the PlayStation 2.
The first Burnout was graphically appealing, but not incredibly impressive. Acclaim has overhauled the graphics in Point of Impact to make for much more whistle-worthy eye candy. For instance, one of the most stunning features is the gleaming reflection of the sun off of the asphalt, and the shining glare off of the cars when racing directly in the sun. You'll see some cool smoke effects from burning tires, skid marks permanently left on the tracks, rims appearing to spin backwards from the optical illusion of the wheels moving at fast rate and for the first time in the Burnout series, rain. You'll get to see your tires leave trails in the water as it reflects all the action off the track very realistically. You'll even notice traffic vehicles flashing their headlights at you when you cut them off. The models of the vehicles are built well, with a high polygon count. As mentioned before, they look increasingly realistic when the sun bounces off of them. However, the texturing leaves a little to be desired. The courses are designed very well showing off creativity and attention to detail. You'll see airplanes taxing when you're zipping through the airport terminal and gas stations and small food stores when you're zooming across the mountain roads. You'll also see green arrows blocking off certain paths directing you to the proper ones, which activates a nice little graphical touch; before you approach these arrows, your turn signals will blink accordingly.
One of the most impressive graphical feats of Burnout 2 would be the stunning crash sequences. Whenever you crash, the camera advances to another angle to show you from a dramatic vantage point the carnage you were just involved in. If the crash was spectacular enough, you'll witness hoods flying into the air, wheels popping off like champagne corks, doors crumpling inward, and windshields shattering into shards of broken glass. These crash sequences are further enhanced when you're fortunate enough to ensnare your competition in the wreckage. You'll be glorified as they smash head-on into your mangled car, auto parts scattering about the pavement mixing in with yours. The attention to detail that went into these crashes is simply admirable, and you can even run over bumpers and lost wheels that are still rolling from the car that crashed right in front of you. There are a couple of small drawbacks with these sequences, though. The first is that they interrupt the flow of the gameplay. When you crash, gameplay stops to show the wreckage, and then resumes. The second drawback is that sometimes the gameplay doesn't resume quickly enough, making you lose a few vital seconds. Still, it's these crash sequences that sets Burnout 2 apart from unimaginative racers.
The gameplay of Burnout 2: Point of Impact can be simply described as pure adrenaline. As previously said, this sucker's fast! The streets and highways of Burnout 2, as in the first, are populated with traffic. Getting to the finish line won't be easy if you don't know how to tap into your lightning-quick reflexes. You'll need them not only to dodge vehicles, but to do it by narrowly missing them, barreling headlong into oncoming traffic as long as you can, drifting around corners, and catching big air to fill up your boost meter. When you tap R1 to activate your boost, you'll really take off, nearly doubling the risk of completely wiping out. The boost lasts as long as you hold the R1 button but once you let up on it, you must build it back up from where you left off by continuing to drive reckless. If you manage to hold the boost down all the way until it runs out -- depending on any narrow misses, driving further into oncoming traffic, etc. you do while boosting -- you'll get another full meter of boost to use. Great distances between you and the leader can be closed within seconds if you master your offensive driving.
For being such an arcade racer, it isn't the quickest to pick up and play for the first time. When you first begin, the ONLY mode that you have opened to you is a mandatory training mode entitled Offensive Driving 101. This mode consists of six lessons, teaching you everything from how to drive into oncoming traffic to using your boost. It's all and well for those unfamiliar with the Burnout series but for those who are, or who just want to jump straight into the game, they'll be annoyed by the inability to forgo this mode. Once that's all finished, the rest of the modes become unlocked: Championship, Single Race, Time Attack, Crash, Multi-player (yes, Multi-player is not available at the start!), and Records. In Championship mode, you'll have several race variations you can compete in. There will be multi-course race cups, point-to-point cups, head-to-head face off challenges where you can unlock new cars, and Pursuit races where you must smash up a car before it escapes. If you succeed in stopping the fleeing vehicle, you unlock it. Single Race and Time Attack modes are rather self-explanatory. Crash is a pretty fun mode that provides a great change of pace if you need to lay back for a little bit. In Crash, the objective is to cause as much total damage in a scenario, or zone, as possible in one crash. You'll be given an infinite amount of boost to use and when you plow into your first vehicle, the camera will then go into slow-mo. Once the chaos comes to a halt, you'll then be treated to an aerial shot from a helicopter as each crash you were responsible for gets tagged with a dollar amount. There's nothing like causing a 14-car pile up and watching the damage soar into the millions!
As with the first game, the cars are fictitious bearing no licenses, but resemble such cars as Mustangs and Speedsters. They also vary greatly in body style from compacts, to coupes, SUVs and pick-ups. The plethora of unlockable vehicles includes hot rods, classic cars, police cars, stock cars and several others. The game is very arcade-simple, so don't expect such simulation staples as altering gear ratios, fine-tuning suspensions or adding in turbos to boost horsepower. In fact, the only option you'll have to tinker with these cars is changing their paint jobs (most unlockable vehicles don't even have that option). Each car has different ratings in the following areas: acceleration, control, and top speed. A peculiar feature in this game is that, even though most of these ratings appear to be different on paper, the effects don't seem to be greatly apparent. You'll swear that you muscle car should beat the tires off of a pick-up, but it doesn't seem like such a given. Still, the cars are fun to control, pretty to look at, and just plain fun to wreck the hell out of!
The control in Burnout 2: Point of Impact is about as far from a simulation as you can get. Staying way clear of games like Gran Turismo 3 and Sega GT and more attuned to Daytona USA and Need for Speed, players will find themselves dodging cars with relative ease, but fighting to master the art of steering. Drifting is an important element in the game, easily initiated with a simple tap of the brake. Once you begin to drift, you'll find that you'll be taking the corners well, but as with the landings of a plane, it's correcting out of them that you'll want to nail. Once you get this down, you shouldn't have much trouble winning. You'll also want to be aware of the touchy drifting that'll occur when you turn too sharp. This could have you riding walls without a second's thought. Don't worry if you're not a racing prodigy; the game will normally give you a good margin of error, as the computer will make mistakes too. Don't count on it all the time though, as the leader will perform perfectly in some races. The controller rumble also comes in surprisingly well, making the impact of crashes that much more felt.
Audio wise, the game's about as impressive as the visuals. The sound effects are executed well with distinct engine noises, high-pitched tire screeches, and loud metallic bangs and crunches. You'll love the sounds from the exhaust as the gear boxes shift and the boosts ignite. Your hairs will stand on end as cars continuously honk their horns at you for nearly sideswiping them. In the Pursuit mode, when you wear down the escaping car, you'll hear a heartbeat start pumping that lets you know you're getting close and that you'd better hurry up and finish the job. The rock/techno influenced soundtrack in the game isn't much to get excited about, but it's standard fare for a racing game. To sum up the audio, it really helps to immerse you in an adrenaline-fueled racer where you may have to remind yourself to breathe.
Burnout 2: Point of Impact is the racing game fans of the genre that are sick of cookie cutter titles clogging the PS2 have been waiting for. Although it doesn't have as much depth as say, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and especially Gran Turismo 3, it does make up for it with an exhilarating sense of speed, totally destructible vehicles, and sheer arcade fun. The game definitely has a wealth of replay value, because it's no easy feat unlocking all the tracks and cars this game has to offer; you'll have to win a gold medal in every race to achieve that. And it can be simply hilarious at times to witness the infinite variety of crashes that happen all the time in this game! Why, just seeing the face of your friend who's laughing at you change to humiliation in an instant when he smashes into the car you sent spinning in front of him may well be worth the 50 dollars alone! It certainly won't appeal to all racing fans, however, so if you're unsure about this title, a rental is suggested. If you're a fan of the first, this is a must-have!
10/26/2002 Lucas Stephens