The PSP is quickly becoming the house that racing titles built, with many of the handheld’s driving games consistently ranking at the best titles on the system. Console gamers have long enjoyed the Burnout series with its sense of speed, visual intensity for crashes and depth of play. So what happens when you take this critically acclaimed franchise and debut it on the portable? You have one of the fastest, deepest and most addictive games on the PSP to date. You may want to put on some racing gloves, because your hands are going to burn some rubber with Burnout: Legends.
Fans of the Burnout franchise will immediately pick up on how much the earlier titles in the series have influenced Legends’ gameplay. In particular, Legends takes much of its format from Burnout 3: Takedown in the way of visuals, gameplay modes and depth, although there are some features of the original and Burnout 2 that creep in here and there. For instance, the pursuit mode that was a lot of fun in Burnout 2 makes its return in Legends, and ratchets up the adrenaline you’ll feel racing through the courses in the game. For the most part, however, it meshes most of this in with the World Tour mode from Burnout 3 to present every single race type that you’ll experience in the game. The tour starts you with some locations initially available to you, and based on your success and the amount of time you put into the title, you’ll unlock more and more areas to go through.
Apart from the standard race mode that you’re accustomed to, many of the classics from Burnout 3 make their mark in Legends. You can take on your competition in a series of races in the Grand Prix. There’s both a time attack to beat the best lap time and its variation, the burning lap mode. The last car in every lap is removed from the track in the Eliminator. You can wreck as many cars as you can in Road Rage, or you can act as the law in the Pursuit mode. This race type places you in a police car where you have to destroy a targeted vehicle within a certain amount of time to succeed. There are also Face-off modes where the winner of the race wins the loser’s car. The same is true of the Legend Face-off, which is a good way to add extra machines to your garage.
On the flip side of the speed races are the crash events, which tasks you with smashing your car into the other vehicles and creating the biggest pileup you can. These are more puzzle-based, requiring you to figure out the best way to accomplish these accidents and what other ways you can augment your score once you’ve collided with the vehicles. Part of this can be done thanks to the numerous crash icons found around the course, which gives you money or explodes your vehicle. The other mechanic is the use of a crashbreaker, which detonates your car, sending surrounding machines flying into nearby lanes.
For the most part, gameplay is insanely fast-paced, as you fly down the course. Since the primary thing you need to focus on is your speed, you’ll basically keep your pedal to the metal, driving erratically to gain additional boost and colliding with competitors to further your lead. For the most part, while your opponent’s won’t fire off boost as well, they’ll try to take you out whenever the opportunity presents itself. Fortunately, if they succeed, you’ll have the potential to return the favor thanks to the aftertouch feature. Using aftertouch, you can direct your smashed car back into traffic to hopefully crash into your opponents. What’s more, this winds up carrying over to the multiplayer game, where you can take out up to six friends. One of the cooler features of the Multiplayer, apart from being able to compete in crash mode against friends to see who can create the best accident, is the ability to set up tournaments using the various race modes. So you can start off in Road Rage, move into Crash and finish up with a race.
Something that is extremely impressive is the fact that the sense of speed from the console has been imparted to the portable title. While you may think you’re going quickly in the first few stages of the title, once you start unlocking some of the later games, you’re really flying down the course. It’s impressive to see the game’s frame rate remain constant within the confines of the PSP, and while you’re not going to have the massive cascade of sparks or radically deformed cars from massive crashes, the collisions that do occur seem just as large on the handheld. In fact, most of the computer driven opponents will barely show off the damage modeling at all. There are a couple of odd glitches that may pop up from time to time, such as cars that seem to phase in and out of other obstacles. For instance, I noticed a couple of times that opponents that I bumped went through other vehicles instead of colliding with them.
You may also have trouble detecting oncoming traffic or upcoming turns as the game is rendered. In fact, it can take a bit of time to adjust to how it shows these trouble spots as you’re racing down the street, but once you realize how the game depicts these threats, you’ll be able to handle it most of the time. Sound is excellent, thanks to the EA Trax selections included in the game. There are 21 songs in all from different groups, and there’s enough variation in the included tracks that you’ll be able to listen to them without getting too annoyed by them. Fortunately, when they copied some of the features from Burnout 3, Stryker was left out, so you don’t have to worry about being annoyed by the DJ.
While there aren’t a lot of gameplay issues, there are a few that might pop up here and there to affect players. First of all, the control, while tight, sometimes doesn’t do exactly what you want. It can be a wee bit tight to turn or powerslide at times, even when you’re not boosting down the road, which can cause more crashes on your end. Similarly, once you’ve had an accident, cleanly pulling off aftertouch the way you’d want it to happen feels a bit rough. In fact, there are some times when you could be completely lined up for an aftertouch takeout and it just doesn’t work the way you need it to. Another problem is the reduced number of competitors. While you won’t necessarily have too much of a problem with racing against the computer, there’s only four cars on the track at one time racing, yourself included. This means that Eliminator races really aren’t that much of a challenge, since you just need to survive one lap to place. Similarly, you shouldn’t have too much trouble in other modes if you clear out most of your competition early and try to establish a lead. Although you’ll have to fend off some rubberband AI, there shouldn’t be much to worry about if you take out any stragglers that come up behind you.
With a great sense of speed and deep gameplay inspired by Burnout 3, Burnout Legends is one of the best racers available on the PSP. This is one of those games that you can sit down for a few minutes and enjoy or get lost in for a couple of hours. Racing fans will really enjoy adding this to their portable collection.