The wonderful world of Burnout: easily my favourite racing series of the last decade. With Burnout: Revenge I'd even suggest that the series has surpassed the infamous Ridge Racer franchise. Each game in the series has developed further and always seems to improve. It's a perfect blend of fast, arcade racing and an old school smash em up, destruction derby style.
Where does Burnout Legends fit in with other Burnout games? It could be labelled as a Burnout compilation, as it takes familiar tracks and cars from previous versions of the game and tries to cram them all onto the DS. However, Legends has the same feature set and gameplay as Burnout 3: Takedown, which means new gameplay elements added in Burnout: Revenge, such as the ability to ram same-way traffic, have not been included in this game.
The gameplay system and menus will feel very familiar to people who've had the pleasure of playing Burnout on a console, and as per usual there are a multitude of gameplay modes. There’s World Tour, the single player game, Single Event, for quick bursts of play and Multiplayer - for playing against friends.
Danger rules the roads. When driving around in Burnout, you gain special "Boost" power for driving as dangerously as possible, driving on the wrong side of the road, near misses, jumps and drifts all gain you valuable boost power. This boost can then be used to fire your car into excessive speeds all to help you win the race.
But that's not all, Burnout now has Takedowns. The idea is to smash into as many rival cars as possible. Causing a rival to crash will give you a "Takedown", for example you could ram a rival car into on-coming traffic to achieve a Takedown. Takedowns give you extra boost and also increase the size of your boost bar. Takedowns are very cool. Another addition to Burnout 3 was impact time. If you happen to crash during a race the game instantly goes into slow motion and you get to control the direction of your crashing car allowing you to guide your car into oncoming rivals gaining you a "After-touch Takedown".
Legends features the regular event types of Race, Time Attack, Road Rage, Pursuit and Crash. Race is simple; you’re racing against rivals to see who gets to the chequered flag first. Time Attack puts your driving skills to the limit where you try to set your fastest lap. In Road Rage, the idea is to get as many takedowns as possible before your car gets totalled. Pursuit is similar to Road Rage, but you’re given one car to hunt and take down within a specific time limit. Finally, Crash mode takes scenarios where the idea is to crash your car in such a way that causes most damage to the surrounding traffic.
One of the many standout features of Burnout has always been the excellent control system; it’s actually a pretty similar style to Ridge Racer as you drift the car around corners at high speed. Sadly the DS directional pad doesn't really seem that responsive when compared to an analogue stick, so as a result the in-game controls are pretty lagged and don't at all feel precise. Whether it’s the fault of the DS or the game, it’s immediately apparent that the control system is severely compromised.
It's quite nice to see familiar tracks from previous Burnout games, but graphically they are quite over-shadowed by their console versions. Obviously the DS can't cope with the complex environments that the console games see, but even then, the graphics aren't that hot, and the simplistic barriers and road textures make the game boring at times. Oddly, the graphical quality also seems to vary from track to track, as some are a lot better than others.
While high-impact, slow-motion crash physics have always been very important to the world of Burnout, sadly this is another area that is lacking in the DS version. Crashing often looks like little more than a shunt; car damage is unnoticeable and it generally just feels like a bunch of metal boxes bumping into each other.
Along with the poor physics, the sound effects also let this game down. Crashing noises are harsh and barely resemble anything recognisable. Even car engine effects are pretty half hearted - and don't forget that highly annoying cop car sound in Pursuit mode. Even the music sounds pretty awful, however, I do get the impression that maybe the developers have just chosen the wrong type of music to play on the DS's small speakers.
One of the good points of Burnout Legends is the overall presentation; menus are well designed and very easy to follow. The game actually boasts a good number of tracks and the World Tour will last you quite a while as you race through the different vehicle classes of Compact, Muscle, Coupe, Sports and Super. That's as long as you don't get too frustrated or bored with the control system, though.
There aren't many good driving games on the DS at the moment; ironically, considering its quality, this is actually one of the better ones. Whilst the Burnout series is highly popular and critically acclaimed, it’s pretty easy to see why this game has been rated badly by the majority of people. It tries very hard to work, but sadly it’s been let down by a few key fundamental elements that just don't work. The developers have done a good job to cram pretty much every aspect of the console game into this handheld version, but it just doesn't feel like a true Burnout game. It's slow, sluggish and certainly doesn't hit anywhere near the high quality standard we've seen from all the previous Burnout games.