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BURNOUT LEGENDS (PSP)
I'm not usually one for games featuring cars. For some unaccountable reason the mainstay of racing games make me want to gouge out my eyeballs with a spoon. That's how much joy and enthusiasm the next generation racers dictate in my fragile little mind due to their utterly soulless, bland and uninspired sameness. With assurances of unbelievable amounts of realism and control, it's not until you realise your PS2/X-Box controller is not a steering wheel that you suddenly recognise the fallacy behind such bold statements. Games with Gran Turismo's languid style and realism are, quite simply, dull. And then I go and purchase a PSP where racing games happen to be the genre the handheld system is wealthiest in! D'oh!
However, there's always an exception to the rule. Burnout 2 on the PS2 was a massive thrill-ride, mostly for its inspired unrealistic nature. Given licence to drive stupidly fast whilst crashing your way through oncoming traffic and ploughing your motor into a pylon like a deranged nutter made for notoriously great fun. So it's no wonder when Burnout Legends ventured onto the PSP I went against my prior disposition on driving games, hoping that the fun and frantic nature of Burnout 2 could be encapsulated on the handheld format. Luckily, it doesn't disappoint. Burnout Legends is essentially a "best of" title, incorporating tracks, scenarios, vehicles and racing modes from the first three Burnout games, yet maintaining the same damn exciting and dangerously addictive gameplay that made those games so refreshingly brilliant. Additionally, Legends simply makes fantastic use of the PSP technology, providing an impressive audiovisual experience, with racing quick loading times, to complement the fast and frantic adrenaline rush from the racing action.
For those new to the franchise Burnout Legends offers two distinct game modes for you to apply your driving skills. Firstly - and the foundations of what made the original Burnout so unique against other racers - is the crash mode, where the whole point is simply to cause as much havoc as possible in a carefully crafted traffic scenario. It's pure simplicity. Drive into the scenario and pick up assorted bonuses before smashing your way into a crossroads of traffic inflicting as much carnage as possible, in order to progress to yet more difficult crash scenarios. The crash mode is an enjoyable aside, but it can get tiresome fairly swiftly. Whilst the scenarios provide a suitable challenge and the crash graphics look fantastic, the method of crashing varies little and, in the long-term, can get dull and repetitive fairly quickly.
Luckily though, the crash mode plays second fiddle to the more conventional racing where the player is likely to spend most of their time. Along with the normal race mode along the streets of a particular city scenario - whereby you compete against three other opponents whilst dodging through on-coming street traffic - there are burning laps (essentially a time-trial); one-on-one face-off's against opposing vehicles; Chase HQ styled police pursuits; eliminator's (where the car in last place at the end of a lap is eliminated); grand prix's; and road rages with the aim of taking out as many opposing cars as possible.
However, when I say 'more conventional racing' that's not necessarily true - most racers don't permit you to play chicken with a bus, or to overtake the competition by ramming them into roadside crash barriers. Indeed, the road rages are, without doubt, the most fun you're likely to encounter in any game on the PSP! And this is where Burnout differs to most of its contemporaries. Within Burnout you are practically encouraged to assimilate all sorts of dangerous driving that would freak out your Mother. Although here, driving like a complete maniac may be great fun, it's also a necessary component of being successful in the game as it allows you to acquire and accumulate the all important, and infamous, 'boost'. Drifting round corners, getting air, near misses when overtaking, nudging cars, driving against the flow of traffic and creating spectacular 'takedowns' (easily the most fun way to earn boost) of opponent's vehicles, allows your already speedy motor to go into spectacular overdrive. Hyper-drive even! Never has a game conveyed the feeling of speed quite so spectacularly when hurtling round corners and through the middle of two lorries as when you press the boost button in Burnout. It's a good thing it's only a game, otherwise it would be squeaky bum time…
Indeed, the graphics complementing the driving insanity are quite stunning. The essence of speed is captivated superbly when applying boost, overwhelmingly so, that scenery and other vehicles on the road just whiz past in a spine-jangling manner. At times, as you chuck your high-speed motor round another blind corner hoping the inevitable on-coming traffic doesn't appear, it's like a roller-coaster ride with you simply hanging onto the PSP for dear life. Woah! And then there are the crashes! Whilst you will not see quite the same level of detail compared to the PS2 version, the crash effects are still pretty fantabulous. Explosions and particle effects may have been toned down, but when the sparks fly, boy, do they fly. Sending your car, or better still an opponents, into a triple somersault airborne spin or turning it into a deformed wreck after a head on collision is incredibly satisfying - especially when you can slow the action down to see the event in all it's glorious detail! More impressive is that such level of detail is maintained throughout despite the increasingly fast pace - not that you'll get all that much time to admire the scenery - and along with an impressive frame-rate, which never appears to slow down or suffer from annoying glitches, Burnout Legends provides a graphical master-class in what can actually be achieved on the PSP.
And still the positives keep coming. The loading times, often the grand annoyance for PSP gamers, is absent, presumed missing, meaning you actually play the game more than waiting for the accursed thing to load. A joyous bonus! Furthermore, if there's anything a game needs featuring maniac styled driving it's a kick-arse bombastic soundtrack. Again, Legends doesn't disappoint and the 24 in-game tunes, including Nine Black Alp's awesome Shot Down, just adds to the whole speed-freak atmosphere. When you add the fact there are 175 different events to partake in through the World Tour option, with getting 'gold' in all the varied races making for a formidable challenge, Burnout Legends shows it has just as much endurance as it does speed and style in gameplay terms.
Quite frankly, Burnout Legends is the most fun I've had sitting on the tube or on the bog since purchasing a PSP. It does exactly what a driving game should do - enthral and excite as if riding a roller-coaster - it looks and sounds great, is devoid of any obvious weaknesses and on top of that it makes perfect use of the hand-held technology, so that you can utilise the medium in the exact way it was designed (i.e. toilet hugging). Masterful, masterful stuff that you're unlikely to find elsewhere. Especially the parts where you run other cars off the road in spectacular takedowns... yeeeee-haaaaah!!
Overall - Crash, bang, wallop! Burnout Legends easily ranks as one of the best games the PSP has yet to offer. Gorgeous to look at, incredibly addictive and hugely enjoyable fun, this comes highly recommended.
As one of the first games to come out on the PSP finding a copy of Burnout Legends is becoming increasingly difficult. Unlikely to be stored on the local high street store such as Game or HMV, your best bet is to search the net. Amazon currently has it available for £14.99, which is reasonable enough for such a top-bollocks game!
Sounds interesting... lots of speed... can you drink drive? Great review...
missy0303 04.04.2007 20:41
My son would like this one....he loves all the race em and smash em up games! x
Vheissu 30.03.2007 00:30
I don't know what it is, but the Burnout games just have something about them. I hate cars in both physical and game form, yet the ability to smash as much stuff up as possible at ungodly speed just speaks to me. hah. Alex