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First Impressions: Burnout 2

Criterion’s latest and greatest lands on the desk and Kristan turns into a bug eyed speed freak… again…

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Never before have the words 'adrenaline fuelled' and 'aaaaargggggh' had so much relevance when playing a videogame for the first time. To say that Burnout 2 is quick is like saying that John Major likes a Curry.

It's okay, I'm insured
137mph, and still accelerating...

In the week or so since we first gained possession of a finished version of Burnout 2, it's amazing how many people have crawled out of the woodwork to tell us how much they didn't like Burnout. It was 'too hard', 'unforgiving', 'looked bland', or was just 'a bit crap', which is odd, because we swear that these were the same people fawning over it when it first arrived. Fickle, some folk.

But put the same unbelievers in front of Burnout 2 and their reaction is somewhat akin to a teenager going back to school in September, only to discover that a previously plain girl has unexpectedly grown breasts and started wearing make up - and is fixing you with 'come to bed' eyes from across the classroom. Gulp.

Whatever Criterion has done to Renderware in the past 12 months, it bodes very well for all PS2 titles. Without exaggeration, Burnout 2 looks as good as any racing game released to date, on any platform. And to think that this is the same console that less than two years ago was causing gamers to wonder if Sony had created the mother, brother and cousin of all mess ups with its new baby.

Not only does Burnout 2 look great, with brilliantly rendered cars, stupendous crashes and damage model, but it moves like a deer in hunting season. As soon as you power up that Burnout meter, your car rips down the highways like you're about to take off, and the frame rate does not flinch no matter how many vehicles are on the screen.

Ok, so it's the supermodel of PS2 racers, but how does it play? In a word, majestically. The handling is perfect for a game that implores the player to go as fast as possible, with a learning curve that has been expertly realised. Yes, it's totally unrealistic in a full on arcade sense, but the whole thing works. If you bump into the sides of the tracks, you don't lose control, and if you do have a pile up, you're quickly on your way again - without completely losing your accumulated Burnout boost.

The game is also chock full of modes (Championship, Pursuit, Time Attack and the hilarious Crash mode, to name but a few), all of which are huge fun and will keep you going for ages. One slight fault is the multiplayer aspect: the visuals and frame rate take a real hit even in two player mode, although it's still good fun - just not as good looking or fast fun.

But we haven't quite finished playing it yet. Check out our definitive review in the days leading up to the October 11th release date, but until then, put your money down on Burnout 2 being one of the biggest hits of the year, and a must have for any fan of driving games.

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