Criterion Games made car-crashing into a veritable art form with 2004’s Burnout 3: Takedown, which boldly asked gamers to cause wrecks instead of avoiding them. Crash Mode, a cherished aspect of Takedown (fans griped endlessly when it wasn’t included in 2008’s Burnout Paradise), challenged gamers to drive headlong into bustling intersections at high speeds, levying as much property damage as possible. Indeed, Crash Mode was exactly the sort of nonsensical, cathartic escapism that videogames do better than any other medium.
Crash Mode has been reincarnated as Burnout CRASH!, a downloadable game that applies a pinball-style spin to the presentation of the original Crash Mode. The game’s point of view, as fans of the original will note, has been exponentially widened, as if the player is now viewing the action from a low-flying blimp. This makes the crashing, and the resulting heaps of smoldering vehicles, feel much less intimate and immediate. The distant vantage point makes gamers feel less like nihilistic drivers hellbent on personal self-destruction and more like spoiled children determined to lay waste to an impressive Hot Wheels collection.
Gameplay is spread across three nearly identical modes: Road Trip, Rush Hour, and Pile Up. The amount of havoc you cause determines your score, always defined in the millions of dollars. Your score subsequently determines the number of stars—five total—that you’re awarded for each stage. Earn more stars, and you’ll unlock more intersections and vehicles. CRASH! is also forever comparing your scores with those of your CRASH!-playing friends, and annoyingly notifying you whenever anyone has inevitably bested you.
Turning Crash Mode into a dedicated game is, in theory, a good idea—no doubt some Burnout fans are salivating even as they read this—but the execution feels half-assed and thin. The game’s painfully stereotypical voice acting includes an announcer who employs “Boo-yah” early and often, and the obnoxious soundtrack—“Ice Ice Baby” plays whenever the frost power-up is triggered—will have even the staunchest Burnout fans scrambling for their old copies of Takedown.