Friday, September 23, 2011



Welcome to "Demo Impressions," a new feature for The Video Game Tome! As I explained in "The Gamer I Am," Xbox 360 is my choice console for the time being and I absolutely dig XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade). Perhaps the best part about Microsoft's Game Marketplace is that every Arcade and Indie game has a downloadable demo for free. You typically get to try out the first level (if it is a level-based game) or you have a time-limit (usually 30 minutes or less), upon completion you are asked if you would like to purchase the game. It is a wonderful system and I am thankful for the opportunity to sample before I purchase. Ice cream parlors have been employing such a The Game Marketplace also sometimes features demos for the big-budget games. That is how I first played "Just Cause 2." After playing the demo again and again and again (it is an open-world game and so it had a 30-minute time-limit), I realized I really needed to pick the game up for myself. So I did.

Typically these demo impressions will be regarding the Arcade and Indie titles as found on Xbox Live's Game Marketplace, but any demo from any place could potentially be featured. As a college student, money is tight and so is time. Experiencing the demos is great way to stay up on games without have to spend much of either of those two limited resources. I believe a demo is not adequate for a review, so I call these "impressions." At the end of each "Demo Impression" I will give the game one of the following ratings:

- Buy It
- Try the Demo
- Don't Even Download

It is similar to the "See / Rent / Skip" format that some film reviewers use. I despise the  "Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down" mentality. Sorting something into one of two polarizing camps is unacceptable in my mind. There ought always be a middle camp available. The great thing about these demos is that you can always give them a try for yourself! While I may encourage you to go ahead and purchase the game or advise you to not even waste the space on your hard-drive, I think it is fair to assume that I will always recommend the middle camp (unless I especially love or especially loathe). Try it for yourself, for you and I are two very different gamers.

Thank you and enjoy my first impressions for "Burnout Crash!"

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Burnout Crash!
Released 9.20.11
Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3

Developed by Criterion Games
Published by Electronic Arts

"Burnout Crash!" is a significant departure from the previous installments in the racing series, but still manages to be maddeningly entertaining, zany, and rather irresistible.

Like many demos this one only allows you to scratch the surface to the game, but I loved it all the same. This is the eighth game in the popular series, but the first time it has adopted a top-down perspective (a la the original "Grand Theft Auto" games). What's more? Racing is not even in the equation, let alone an option. Hence the name, this game is all about crashing. The Crash Mode was always the most popular feature of the franchise, so Criterion Games decided to make that the one and only feature this time around.

The full game gives you 18 intersections to cause havoc in. You are only allowed to destroy Windrush & 1st in the demo. There is the initial moment of driving your vehicle (the Takedown 4X4 in the demo) towards it and then the initial crash, usually into a conveniently passing 18-wheeler, and then things start getting interesting. When you have caused a significant amount of damage your Crashbreaker meter fills up, allowing you essentially explode your car and even steer where it flies and lands. Your Crashbreaker meter can fill up again and again, enabling some lengthy destruction scenes that would even have Michael Bay dropping his jaw. It is a ridiculous concept, but like so many games and films that share this adjective, that makes it ridiculously fun. 

There are three modes available, though the demo only lets you play one of them: Road Trip. Herein your play ends when five vehicles pass through your intersection without crashing.
This basic mechanic works so well and you will find yourself replaying intersections to improve your score (a monetary amount of how much damage you have caused).

Every time a car looks like it is going to make it through all the burning wreckage unscathed is a nerve-wracking moment. Some of the best games are able to capture such feelings from players. Luckily, there is an occasional ambulance, which if it makes it through without crashing can take away one of your strikes. It is always a refreshing moment and turns the gameplay around. Another meter onscreen keeps track of how much traffic is left. It can be filled up three times during a session, each time unleashing a special event. In the demo these include cops who will block one of the four routes in/out of the intersection, thus helping you from potential escapes from your wrath, one special turned my car into a giant magnet for a brief amount of time (getting a wreath of cars around you and then employing the Crashbreaker is pretty spectacular), and finally a tornado, which served as the climax and cleaned up all the wreckage around. Did I mention that all of this takes place in a destructible environment? Other special events include bulldozers, UFOs, and even monsters! It is all a very arcade-y experience, which will no doubt make a game with such objectives more appealing and less offensive. 

The top-down choice is certainly an interesting one. For some it is downright bewildering. I was of that school of thought until I actually tried the game. The graphics are far from innovative, but it is colorful and detailed enough so that you know exactly what is going on. This also allows the game to never show the slightest bit of lag, even amidst the most heinous acts of desolation. It works wonderfully, the same way those Micro Machines and Matchbox toy cars kept our childish imaginations busy. I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but just last month I found myself playing with toy cars and staging elaborate crashes in an intersection made out of popsicle sticks. See what happens when my nieces leave their toys out... Yes, I'm 23. Now that "Burnout Crash!" is available on XBLA and PlayStation Network I won't have to resort to such desperate measures when I want to "play cars."

Official Xbox Magazine's Ryan McCaffrey bemoaned the Kinect-ability for this game in his review. Since I don't even have it, that's not even a factor for me. It has also been pointed out that the announcer and the Crash City Radio DJ quickly become annoying. I do not doubt that, but this game has so many bells and whistles that such grievences seem to get lost is the chaos of it all.  Like other EA games, this one has slick title and menu screens, catchy tunes, and the all-around polish we've come to expect. In the full game the Autologs enable you to challenge friends and leaderboards over Xbox Live and PSN. I highly recommend checking out "Burnout Crash!" and consider it a welcome addition to the already superb library of Arcade games for this generation's consoles.


CONTENT: vehicular and architectural destruction

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