Bethesda brings to vivid life all the fun and action of racing in a straight line. On top of that, they add the potential for endless fiddling and customization. The result is a superb game for drag race enthusiasts and closet motor-heads alike. Basically, the game consists of a tinkering stage and a racing stage. In the tinkering stage you can choose from multiple chassis (the 1932 Ford Roadster is my personal favorite), and customize the engine, transmission, wing, tires and suspension with more options than I truthfully know what to do with. Once your car is assembled, it's off to the track to prove who has the beefiest car and fastest reflexes. You can make practice runs, make a single race on a number of tracks, compete in a full-blown circuit, or try your hand against your buddy over the Internet, LAN, or modem line.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The only complaints I have about this game, unfortunately, are fundamental to its enjoyment. Basically, the game is long on tedium and short on action. For instance, the most difficult skill you must acquire is how to line up the car at the starting line. It takes forever unless you have it done automatically. Once you finally get lined up, the race is over before you know it. The only skill you need to have in driving is starting off quickly and keeping the car from drifting to the right.
I have never seen Bethesda's X-engine look better. The cars are beautiful and fun to look at. The smoke rising from the burnout clouds your view as it passes by. The parachutes flap realistically behind the dragsters. The spectators and pit crew on the sidelines are flat, unanimated, bitmaps, but that doesn't really detract at all. Quite simply, the game is gorgeous.
The sound is also top-notch. The cars roar and the wheels squeal convincingly. The crowd cheers you on and that's about it, but it sounds good. The music for the intro is very fun as well.
While this game has high polish and detail, I would recommend it to only the most avid drag-racing fans or someone who loves to tinker with cars. Most of its enjoyment, like any simulation, comes from already being interested in and familiar with the simulated craft.
After getting burned out on all the real-time strategy games and other types of clones, it's nice to see a game company put out an original title for the PC market. Having played my fair share of racing games, I can safely say that this is the most unique drag-racing game I've come across, not that I've come across many for that matter. Some people might have serious doubts about how fun a drag racing game could be, considering that the actual races are so brief, but after giving Burnout a test run, they'll see that this niche title does have some promise. I actually think making a few more titles dedicated to this type of racing would be a good idea, though I do hope they prove to be better games than Burnout. That's not to say Burnout isn't entertaining for a while, it just has some downsides, such as an inability to decide whether or not to stick to realism or abandon it entirely.
The first thing that will make you realize that Bethesda is trying to put heavy emphasis on detail and authenticity is the fact that you can tweak cars in any humanly possible way. About the only thing you couldn't customize was the vehicle's interior, which is a real shame since I wanted to put some fuzzy dice on my dashboard. All cars in the game can be customized to an extreme level, and players can mess with the tires, wings, engine, and whatever else they'd like to change, so that your dream dragster can be created. A feature that has been disturbingly left out, however, was a paintbrush kit that would have let players detail the car and its hubcaps.
While giving us the ability to play with the stock cars in the garage helps add to the realism of the game, any illusion of reality that you might have had is shattered once you hit the strip. When I watched NARHA races, I was amazed when I saw smoke spewing out of cars' engines & tires and how before the race the drivers would flaunt their in front of the audience by driving 500 ft. down the strip before returning to the start line. Bethesda's design team obviously doesn't have ESPN, nor do they watch these events. When burning rubber down the track, all of the excitement of the game, not to mention it's authenticity, seems to go up in smoke. To start off, in order to get the race to begin you have to go through the pre-stage and staging points correctly. Unless you eat, drink and breathe drag racing, you'll want to set up this part of the game so the computer does it automatically, because it's too damned tedious for most people to enjoy. Next, where's the smoke from the cars that is always present during real drag races? The only vapors that come out of the engine do so during the pre-start, and then only if you have the smoke option turned on. Last, and worst of all, when the light did turn green, and the race actually began, the speedometer told me I was traveling over 100 miles per hour, but it felt as if I was taking a casual stroll down a highway. Drag racing fans are not going to be amused by a game that doesn't provide you with any feeling of speed.
My largest complaint with this game has to be that the box screams about taking advantage of 3DFX cards, yet just about everything except the actual car is made of 2D sprites. Wow, gee, that's great, we've got a game here that supports 3DFX, but does absolutely nothing with it but slightly improve the frame rate.
Despite my harsh critique, I'm not trying to totally downplay Burnout because it will appeal to some, but I really have a hard time trying to actually recommend this title. The game is original and can be fun if you're a serious drag racing nut, but most people, including the casual drag racing fans, won't be pleased with it. Strange inconsistencies as far as the level of realism goes mixed with some ho-hum graphics kill most of this game's appeal.
People who downloaded Burnout Championship Drag Racing have also downloaded:
NHRA Drag Racing 2, NIRA: Intense Import Drag Racing, Hot Rod: Garage to Glory, Gearhead Garage, Track Attack, Dirt Track Racing, Hooves of Thunder, F1 Challenge '99-'02
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