Combining high-speed racing and reckless driving, Burnout 3 is the latest, and greatest, installment of the Burnout series.

The objective behind Burnout 3 is to win races. As fans of the series know the races in Burnout are anything but standard. This isn't NASCAR. Races take place mostly in urban environments such as city streets and connecting byways and highways. Blending sim and arcade elements, you attempt to keep your vehicle out of harm's way but at the same time doing everything in your power to cause accidents for your opponents. With a variety of single and multi-player modes, including an online mode, this is the deepest and most intense version of Burnout.

Causing crashes while staying out of them is a skill. It's a skill that you will be rewarded for with boosts and points. Boosts can be earned as well as picked up on the track like power-ups. Once you hit a boost you're vehicle will take off like a bat out of hell. The sense of speed that is displayed is tremendous. The background doesn't merely blur, it seems to move in relation to your vehicle as well as the camera. At first it will feel like you're out of control but eventually you'll get used to rounding the corners with the use of the brake.

Pulling your brakes will help you take turns fast. You always want to maintain as much as a lead as possible in case you get into an accident. You might be able to start up again from a crash and still retain your position. Driving dangerously will help boost your boost meter which you can use at your discretion. Using up your entire boost meter without getting into an accident will give you a burnout. The more burnouts, boosts and accidents you accumulate the more rewards you'll receive to unlock more cars, tracks and upgrades.

Aftertouch is a new feature that adds an extra dimension to the game. By using it correctly you can actually use your vehicle in the commission of an accident and drive away from it none the worse for wear. Aftertouch slows down the onscreen carnage to slo-mo. While vehicles are piling on top of one another you will still have a degree of control to move your vehicle around so that it causes an opponent to become involved in the wreck. Doing this correctly fills your boost meter and allows you to get back in the race virtually unharmed.

Another new feature is the crashbreaker which allows you to use your vehicle as a bomb of sorts. You can target the most congested area of traffic in an attempt to create the ultimate collision. Why would you pull such a kamikaze move? Because if you use the aftertouch properly, you won't blow yourself out of the game. It's another level of strategy available to you. Beware that it happens very quickly and even in slo-mo you've got to react fast.

There is a training mode that can't be skipped. It's essential for newbies but overkill for the pros. At the very least it will inform you of all the finer points in the game. With these new features there is a greater degree of strategy and depth to the game that sets if apart from the average racer. It wouldn't be a bad idea for all players to come to terms with all aspects of this game.

In the single-player mode the AI starts out very innocuously. If you piss them off by trying to run them off the road they'll be out for vengeance. Those passive little guys will now be out to blast your ass, giving you more to concentrate on than just navigating the track and using your new features.

In the main World Tour mode you begin with smaller vehicles and gradually work your way up to more faster and powerful cars. This gives you time to adjust to the insane sense of speed which can reach upwards of 200 mph.

Going online was easy. I didn't find any lag and getting a race in the Quickstart mode was as fast as I was led to believe. Stats are posted on the leaderboards for the world to see. There are a variety of modes in which you can challenge players from anywhere on the planet. You can restrict various cars to specific races so that everyone is equally matched. You can also communicate to other racers through voice chat.

The cars control well and the arcade-style physics gives them just enough weight to feel realistic. Obviously the crashes should look and sound spectacular - which they do. Fenders crumple, glass shatters, tires bounce and the sparks fly as metal meets metal at speeds that are too quick to even fathom. While the cars may not be the best rendered in the business, they look good enough to want to smash. When you see one coming at you while your doing 150 mph, I can assure you your heart will begin pounding.

I absolutely hate the music which is a mix of cheap-sounding alternative and punk. The announcer is some dork-off DJ named Stryker that keeps repeating the same tired phrases over and over with an annoying inflection that I'm sure he thinks is cool. Turn the tunes down and you'll enjoy this game a lot more unless of course you have absolutely no taste in music.

Burnout 3 manages to take racing to another level. It may not be a higher level but it's a different level. That's definitely good enough for me.

System: PS2, X
Dev: Criterion
Pub: EA
Release: Sept 2004
Players: 1 - 6
Review by Fenix