This is part 15 of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
As a video game fan, and occasional hired writer, I’ve had to learn to never make broad statements or judgement regarding games, that I may later come to regret.
For instance; I may often speak out against certain free-to-play games, but I’m careful to never dismiss them outright. After all, I’ve put almost 500 hours into Team Fortress 2, which could in some ways the poster child of that concept. This extends to other games, systems and developers as well, but the general lesson is that you should never make general conclusions regarding games or…well anything else for that matter.
It’s a lesson I actually learned 10 years ago, by playing Burnout 3: Takedown.
2004 me didn’t consider himself to be much of a racing/driving game fan. I had dabbled in the genre from time to time, but outside of a brief infatuation with Gran Turismo 2, and some Mario Kart matches, I really didn’t find many games in the genre I cared for at all. It was too the point where I had no qualms in saying I didn’t like the entire concept, period.
That being the case, I’m honestly not sure what led me to picking up Burnout 3 initially. I believe it I may have rented it, having been spurred to do so by the near-unanimous overwhelming positive reception to the game. Of course, knowing my own disposition at the time (I was a teenager after all), I probably picked it up just so I could say I played it, before bad-mouthing it to my friends.
Other racing games might have crashed and burned against such a wall of cynicism. The funny thing there is, Burnout 3 was uniquely crafted to take advantage of just that mentality.
The Burnout franchise was always about two things. Bonkers speed, and an emphasis on crashing. The arcade-like speed of the games, of course, separated it fairly quickly from the simulation racers of the world, but it’s actually that crashing aspect that separated Burnout from other games of the same style.
Whereas a title like F-Zero might punish you for not being able to handle its blinding speed, Burnout encouraged recklessness as an offensive measure, and softened the blow of your own wrecks by making them as cinematically rewarding as possible.
There was even a separate mode in Burnout that encouraged you to make as large of a crash as you could. A mode that is, in and of itself, worthy of its own game. A mode so great, in fact, I distinctly remember having to wait for my dad to be done playing it, so I could have my own turn.
What separated Burnout 3 from the other games in the franchise was in the execution of its concept. Not only was it a much tighter experience than the previous games in the series (the controls are simply perfect), but somehow it managed to improve upon the presentation elements of the franchise that were already the regard as the highlight of the Burnout concept. Burnout 3 in motion is truly a sight to behold.
The result of this perfection of the series’ formula, is a game that’s simply more fun than any other game of its kind. Simulation racing games may promote themselves by offering the ability to test drive your dream car, but Burnout offers a simulation of the idea you’ve manifested in your head of what that experience may be like. It offers something impossible then, and it does it damn well.
And that’s why I try to not make broad statements anymore. In my mind, the best thing a game can offer is the chance to truly immerse yourself in another world, and the assurance that you will enjoy every minute of your time there. Burnout 3 does just that, and does it better than almost any other game I can think of, regardless of genre.
It pains me to think I might have missed out on that just because of a pre-conceived notion, and from the moment I played Burnout 3, I knew I could never leave room for such an error in judgment to happen again.
10 years later, Burnout 3: Takedown feels like justification for the entire concept of video games.