Burnout Legends REVIEW

Burnout Legends Review (PSP)

If you're not familiar with the Burnout series, you should be.

The popular arcade racer has a rabid following, and with good reason - It's one of the most exciting and spectacular titles ever played on console. Armed with an amazing sense of speed and violently visceral crash physics, Burnout's style of play harkens back to classic video game design, where fun and excitement reigned supreme. Now, Electronic Arts delves deep into Burnout's history - creating what's essentially a "greatest hits" collection for its first release on Sony's new PSP. While the PSP is not short of racing titles, Burnout Legends deserves to take a spin in every gaming fan's PSP drive.

The heart and soul of Burnout's game play is in its dazzling sense of speed. On the PSP, this sense of speed is every bit as prevalent as it is on its console brethren. Colors are bright and vivid and draw you into the game, and the exhilarating blur effect ensures that you'll feel slightly out of control at almost all times. As to be expected, the PSP version suffers from a case of the "jaggies", and while this in and of itself is not a problem, the combination of the "jaggies" and the PSP's relatively small screen makes recognizing objects - or even certain turns - at a distance somewhat difficult.

Unfortunately, you'll likely be reaching what's in the distance in a hurry.

It doesn't truly hamper game play or diminish the experience, but there may be some frustration at times when you smash into something that you didn't see until it was right on top of you. The game does compensate with slightly exaggerated headlights and brake lights from the traffic and that does help navigation. Fortunately, the "distance vision" issue may be a frustration to gamers at the start, but soon enough you'll become accustomed to it (and the tracks), so this issue will quickly become a non-factor. Besides, the crash animations look so good, that you may not even mind the occasional wipe-out, anyway…

There are a few other graphical issues - some clipping occurs from time to time, and you'll often knock opposing cars right out of the game's rendered world - which can be jarring. The frame rate will stutter during large crashes (which is understandable), and when a new song loads (which is not). However, almost all of these bugaboos are but minor blemishes on an otherwise gorgeous game.

All in all, Burnout Legends is a fantastic looking title, and it certainly holds its own against the anything that the PSP currently has to offer.

I'm often surprised by how much audio punch the little PSP can pack. Burnout Legends takes full advantage of that with solid engine sounds, great environmental effects, a robust soundtrack and the unmistakable sound of metal on metal. You'll hear the unavoidable and ubiquitous "indie"-fare EA Trax, of course, and while they sound fine through the PSP's tiny speakers, the sounds of the music, along with the rest of the game's noises are remarkably clear while listening through headphones. I'm personally a bit sensitive to the warbled sounds of compressed audio, but Burnout's audio package is quite solid on the whole, and I didn't notice anything distracting. The combination of the high frame rate and sense of speed coupled with the tremendously good environmental audio completely immerses the player into the game - even as the game's being played on a tiny little screen. It's an impressive achievement, and don't be surprised if you find yourself leaning back and forth, trying to dodge the traffic with your body as much as you will your thumb.

Burnout Legends' feature set is remarkably robust for a handheld game, and it can be favorably compared to the console versions of any of the previous Burnout titles. The Burnout World Tour is the main single player experience, as it is on the Xbox and PS2. Comprised of normal races, Face-offs (one-on-one races to win the CPU's car), Eliminators (the last car to finish a lap… well, explodes), Burning Laps (time trials), the brilliantly deviant Road Rage events (where your goal is demolish as many target cars as possible in a set time), and the triumphant return of Pursuit mode to the series (where you'll drive a souped-up police vehicle - seriously, you haven't lived until you've piloted an Formula One black-and-white - in an effort to take down the perp), there's a lot of meat on Burnout's bones.

As you progress, you'll unlock new and even faster car classes to keep you busy.

The game's signature Crash mode is also part of the World Tour, and it combines the best of the series' previous titles while removing the multipliers - which limited the player's creativity in Burnout 3. It's the best of both worlds, and while the amazing graphics of the console versions aren't fully replicated here, they're still plenty exciting to watch.

It would be nicer to have had more tracks included, but the selection is adequate, and there are plenty of Crash junctions to vent your frustration upon.

The beauty of Burnout lies in its tried-and-true gameplay. Like the greatest video games of the past, the game's not intricate, the control scheme isn't complicated - It's accessible, fast and simply one hell of a lot of fun. My mother can play Burnout, and have a blast with it without the game having to be being overly simplistic for me. That, ladies and gentlemen, is good game design - and Criterion hasn't strayed from the formula. Drive as fast as you can, keep your car in one piece, and you're in business during any of the races. The controls are intuitive and tight - even with the PSP's analog nub. The "aftertouch" controls (which allow you to momentarily pilot your smoking heap into your opposition) are responsive, and they make playing the game's inimitable Crash mode a breeze. In Burnout Legends, the only thing the gamer needs to worry about is the game itself - everything else feels exactly right.

Burnout lends itself perfectly to the PSP's nature as a handheld - it’s gameplay is broken up into small, easily digestible chunks that don't require a large time commitment. If you have five minutes to play, you can play Burnout. If you've got an hour to kill, then there's still plenty here to keep you entertained.

It's a beautiful thing.

The lack of Internet (er, "Infrastructure" in Sony's inexplicably clunky lingo) play is disappointing. Burnout's lifespan could have been doubled with its inclusion. However, if you've got friends around with their own PSP and copies of the game, there are options. Using "Ad-hoc" (sigh… another intuitive descriptor…) connection, virtually every mode in the game can be played by up to six players simultaneously. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test this out myself as I don't have a lot of friends with a PSP and a copy of Burnout Legends, one of the main drawbacks of Sony's "Ad-hoc" mode. To what it's a great way to sell systems and games it's not exactly the most sensible option for groups of gamers. For the amount of money people would spend on a PSP and a copy of the game each, one would think that that same hypothetical group of gamers could purchase an Xbox or a PS2 so they could all play together on a screen dozens of times the size of the PSP's. Since Ad-hoc mode is very short-range, most players will have to be in the same room anyway, so it seems both easier and more sensible to simply play on one system and a television. But maybe that's just me…

Regardless, that certainly not EA's fault - but this reviewer would hope that in future releases, if Electronic Arts has to focus on one multi-player mode, they would choose Infra…. I can't say it anymore!

Internet play over local network! Pick that one, please - people can actually use it!

Ah, the score - the most overrated and frankly least useful part of any review. I hate these things.

Burnout Legends is an outstanding game; a wonderfully fun and exciting romp through Burnout's history without feeling staid or terribly repetitive. It's also a technical marvel that will wow even the most jaded gamer. EA has taken great strides on the PSP in a short time - even the game's load times are acceptable. I suppose that if one were to look at this game from a purely critical standpoint, one could say that the game is something of a Frankenstein; cobbled together from recycled parts of old games - and that's not entirely untrue. That and the lack of Internet play are the only reasons I won't give it a 5/5 - but if you choose to deny yourself the opportunity to try one of the finest games available for the PSP solely on a number, then you're missing the whole point of reviews in the first place.

The game is a looker, the gameplay is spectacular, and the whole experience is perfect for the on-the-go gamer.

Burnout Legends is a winner - no matter who's counting.


Burnout Legends Score
out of 10