Given the speed and intensity of Criterion's destruction-minded arcade racing series, it was probably hardly surprising that EA's Burnout 3 announcement made it out of the blocks early. Today, the world's biggest publisher has confirmed the poorly kept secret that it will help to develop, and eventually publish, the latest instalment in Criterion's pacey racing franchise. Given the success of its own high production arcade racer, Need For Speed Underground (still at the top of the charts this week), few would doubt EA's credentials in this area.
More interesting than what we already knew however are the three or four scantly detailed paragraphs beyond the trademark symbols and Nasdaq references of EA's press release. They reveal that the PS2 and Xbox racer will be released in September 2004, with single and multiplayer options, including online crash and race modes - though, in keeping with EA's current policy, this means we'll only see it on PS2 Online and not Xbox Live. Grrr.
EA promises a "unique 'crash and burn' racing concept" to go with this one, and a new special effects engine to liven it all up. Perennial party favourite Crash mode will reappear, but otherwise very few details are available. Fortunately, EA is more than happy to let the first screenshots of Burnout 3 speak louder than words - and they do.
Clearly visible is the Burnout meter, now throbbing and flaming to a previously inconceivable degree, with sparks flying, cars screeching, soft-lighting and gentle wisps of smoke, a Takedown bonus given for overturning a rival racer, and clear evidence of the good old action replays - one of which demonstrates the degree to which the vehicles in Burnout 3 will be able to fracture, crumple and disintegrate. Well, they all do, but one of them features a head-on collision...
Criterion Studio Head Fiona Sperry had this to say: "Working closely with EA's European Studio on the development of Burnout 3 is exciting for Criterion and the Burnout series. We are thrilled that the game will benefit from EA's development and publishing expertise that ensures a worldwide audience will be able to enjoy this phenomenal game." EA for its part said Burnout 3 was "a perfect fit". Given the inevitability of another Need For Speed sequel, it'll be interesting to see how true that proves to be.