Burnout Legends Review
Burnout Legends has a bevy of play modes including Crash (smash cars for cash), Burning Lap (beat a specific time), Road Rage (knock out opponents while you race), Eliminator (last place each lap is eliminated), Race, Time Attack, Legends Face-Off, GP (series race), and the old favorite, Pursuit Mode (chase the bad guy). There are 175 events in all, and the game progression is similar to that in Burnout 3. You start in one fictitious city, go for a gold medal, and then unlock more cities and events after that. Crash mode is handled in a separate world map from the standard races, which is odd because even though you can go back and forth as you please, it would have been nice for them to be automatically unlocked as a change of pace.
Races are the most basic mode in the game. You simply try to beat three other cars to the finish line. Since there are only four cars total, they aren't particularly exciting, despite the obvious attempts of the rubber band A.I. to make things close. Saving up some boost (which is earned by smashing opponents or driving dangerously), staying near the front of the pack and then blowing past everyone at the end is a very successful, if not boring strategy. I personally felt that three laps as the default in the world tour is too long and not conducive to on-the-go play. You can change the amount of laps in the single race mode, and when playing Ad-Hoc, but it's locked at three laps in world tour.
Pursuit mode will remind old-school gamers of Chase HQ, where you are given a target vehicle and must "arrest" the driver by smashing their car until the damage meter is empty. It's simple at first, but as you progress, the target vehicle gets bodyguard cars to protect it and make your job more difficult. It's a welcome addition because it adds some much-needed depth, but it's not a particularly exciting mode.
Crash mode, the addictive game where you smash your vehicle into traffic in an effort to cause the most amount of monetary damage, is back and it's largely unchanged from Burnout 3. There is, however, one exception - like in Burnout Revenge, there are no more crash multipliers. In theory this encourages you to not focus on one particular way of crashing your vehicle, but in reality there's only one way to approach many of the courses, so it doesn't do a whole lot to change things up. The camera for this mode still stinks, showing the action from horrendous angles and making it a guessing game as to where to aim your crashbreaker.
The look and feel of the game will instantly be familiar to veterans of the series, and the simple controls can quickly be learned by even the most novice of racers. The X button accelerates, square brakes, triangle changes the view, circle honks the horn, the right shoulder boosts and the left button looks behind. Like most games on the PSP, long play sessions will likely cause hand cramps, though the alternative control scheme, where breaking and acceleration are handled by the shoulder buttons may alleviate that somewhat. As is to be expected, the controls are incredibly tight and responsive, making it a breeze to weave in and out of traffic, should your reflexes be quick enough.
You can select from a large amount of vehicles, including compact, sports, muscle, trucks, SUV's, and a few different police cars. Only three different compact cars are available at the start, but by winning races, earning points for driving feats, and wrecking opponents, you'll quickly end up with a large roster of vehicles. Several old favorites from the first two games are back, including the classic gangster car, and many others.
Legends has wireless multiplayer, and it's nothing short of fantastic. You can play race, crash, pursuit and road rage modes via Ad-Hoc, and each mode works flawlessly. Don't underestimate how much fun it is to trade paint and wreck your friends while in the same room. In addition, each copy of Burnout Legends ships randomly with 5 of 25 unlockable cars; the additional 20 can only be collected by playing friends in WiFi challenges. In a nice bonus for cheap gamers, you can upload a level of Burnout Legends to a friend's PSP so you can both play - from just one UMD.
Burnout Legends does a great job of showing off the power of the PSP. The framerate is crisp, locked in at a solid 30 FPS, with only the occasional hiccup. The sense of speed you expect from a Burnout game isn't there at first, but after unlocking a few of the faster vehicles you'll be getting all the speed you can handle and more. The car models aren't spectacular, but they look good and are of course, fully destructible. Even sparks, motion blur, and explosions are present, and while they aren't as impressive as what you see in the console versions, they're pretty snazzy.
Levels from the first three titles are included and all of them have received minor tweaks for the transition to the handheld. Unfortunately they didn't get enough attention as medians are incredibly difficult to see, as is traffic that's moving along with you. The developers do a nice job marking your rivals with an arrow and a name tag, and on-coming traffic is easy to spot since they've got their headlights on, but it's incredibly easy to hit traffic that's cruising along with you because they're so small and blend in with the scenery. The median problem should have been easy to solve; a brightly colored guardrail would have done the trick, but many of them are nearly the same color as the street, making them difficult to spot and easy to hit. Another way to improve visibility would have been to get rid of some of the shadows that the buildings and overpasses create. Sure it's realistic for things to cast shadows, but when passing through a dark area, it's very tough to see the road and what's ahead of you, making frustrating crashes a frequent occurrence.
There's no way to sugar coat it - Burnout Legend's audio is lousy. Twenty-one no-name, non-descript, pseudo-punk bands plague the EA Trax song listing, making it just another EA game where you have to turn off the music. At first, the sound effects seem pretty good, but upon closer inspection, the engine sounds don't match the vehicles. It goes without saying that cars like the "Mustang" clone shouldn't sound like sport bikes. Crashes also sound disappointing as it's clear that not all of the vehicles on screen are making noise as they're smashed to bits. It's not a huge deal, but the small size of the screen and poor camera already make the crashes less impressive, so the poor audio doesn't do anything to help.
Burnout Legends is a very good game, but minor issues, and lack of new material make the game fall just short of the high expectations that surround it. Don't be mistaken, it's a blast to play, and anyone who has enjoyed any of the previous games will certainly be happy with Legends.
9/14/2005 Aaron Thomas