Why Burnout 3: Takedown is the Peak of Arcade-Style Racing

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Burnout 3 was the leap forward for the series that to this day makes fans ask the question, “Where is Burnout?” whenever EA announces a new Need For Speed game. Let’s talk about why.

Video Script:

Late last year, I was on a Forza Horizon 4 kick; since the game had just released on the Xbox One. And while playing it, I couldn’t help but to think about the joyous feeling that racing games seem to inspire. That sense of speed and intense competition as you’re zooming past opponent vehicles on a race track is unique to racing games and I feel that overall this genre of games is sort of underrated. Shout out to Sim racers like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo along with Kart racers like Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing. This video though, I want to talk about an arcade racer that I hold near and dear to my heart.

Arcade-style racers tend to put fun and speed at the forefront of their game design. Games like Midnight Club and Ridge Racer exemplify what exactly an arcade racer is. It’s less about the accurate tuning of sims or the character-driven personality, and weaponized combat of Kart racers. No, arcade racers are about what you imagine the joy of racing to feel like. One of my FAVORITE games ever made is a mid-2000s arcade-style racing game published by Electronic Arts.

I’ve not played a game like Burnout 3: Takedown since Burnout 3: Takedown. That includes Burnout: Revenge. That includes Dangerous Driving. And yes, that includes Burnout: Paradise which is excellent, but not Burnout 3. If you’re unfamiliar, Burnout 3: Takedown came out on September 8th, 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. The franchise, which started in 2001, was already known for its break-neck speed and destruction which was introduced in the first game. Burnout 2: Point of Impact introduced Crash mode which took the destruction of the original game and made that its own objective. In this new mode, the goal was no longer being the first across the finish line but causing as much destruction in a level as possible in order to score points.

Burnout 1 and Burnout 2 were both developed by Criterion and originally published by Acclaim who would go on to become defunct in 2004. EA would come through and scoop up Criterion and publish Burnout 3: Takedown that same year, and if Burnout 2 furthered the idea of destruction that the original game had established, Burnout 3 introduced rage into the equation.

Burnout 3 was the leap forward for the series that to this day makes people ask the question, “Where is Burnout?” whenever EA announces a new Need For Speed game. 3 wasn’t only a graphical leap forward, offering colorful, clean visuals among the best that the PS2 had to offer, but the game also presented better physics to convey destruction, a more intense sense of speed, and a further fleshed out crash mode. Burnout 3’s Crash mode boasted an impressive 100 different crash levels. Each level was like a puzzle, in which the player would have to figure out how to rack up as many points as possible by causing as much destruction as possible. This fully-featured and highly-addictive, physics and destruction based puzzle mode being included in a racing game helped set Burnout apart from the competition.

Along with upgraded graphics and a greater crash mode, Burnout 3’s biggest addition was the Takedown mechanic. In racing modes, hitting other racers and knocking them hard enough into walls, cars, or other obstacles would cause them to crash and ramp up your momentum. Each takedown would add a chunk to your boost meter, which by the way, you have nitro boost in this game. Not only that but simply trading paint with other cars and driving recklessly would grant you more boost and further that momentum. Pop ups would flash on screen similar to getting a kill in Call of Duty to indicate that you’re doing good by hitting opponent cars. Driving on the wrong side of the road, tailgating opponents, nearly missing traffic, and similarly aggressive actions contribute to building your boost. In single-player, even after crashing you have the option to hold a button which causes a slow motion effect and grants you the ability to veer your crash into other players in order to score an “aftertouch takedown”. Burnout 3’s increased speed, ramped up action, hardcore attitude, and unique level of polish all worked together to create an experience that still to this day, keeps that same energy it had in 2004.

Burnout 3 did everything it could to reinforce and support the idea of aggression and recklessness in its driving and it was a better game for it because it leaned into the fact that it’s a video game. Up until Burnout, running into other cars in racing games had been purely penalized for the most part. But Burnout didn’t care. The game’s most lauded mode, Road Rage, was a mode purely for Takedowns. Rack up your Takedown count and try to make the high score. I’m not sure if it was because they nailed the physics, or the visual feedback, or if there’s something just innately messed up about us as human beings, but each takedown was cathartic. It never got old. Especially with pop-punk blaring in the background and bonus points blasting on screen.

See, this was originally supposed to be a video about a game called Dangerous Driving and how it attempts to recreate Burnout 3 and carry on its legacy. But once I got into writing the script, I realized how much I had to say about Burnout 3 alone.

With EA focusing on Need For Speed games, and Criterion being converted into a support studio for games like Battlefront, the Burnout franchise has effectively been sunsetted. Dangerous Driving, a recently released game developed by Three Fields Entertainment – a team comprised of some of the original developers of Burnout, has made for a fun replacement. But, Dangerous Driving doesn’t necessarily capture the same energy and momentum that made Burnout 3: Takedown the pinnacle of arcade racing. Of course, there are mechanics that are shared between the two such as crashes, takedowns, the boost system and more; in fact, Dangerous Driving is practically just a carbon copy of Burnout 3. But the amount of love and polish that is apparent through every facet of Burnout 3; the modes, the overworld map that I didn’t even mention, the deluge of various vehicles including a firetruck, the signature takedowns you could perform based on landmarks in the courses, the diversity in race tracks that span regions of US, Europe, and East Asia, and even DJ Strycker who was endearingly obnoxious keep Burnout 3 in a higher echelon of existence.

Burnout 3 is a near perfect video game. An arcade racer that is equally good at being a dumb arcade experience as it is being a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled racing game. So I guess the point of this video is to say that 1. We need more arcade racers and 2. We need more arcade racers that try to replicate what Burnout 3: Takedown did. But I guess until then, I’ll spend my time Driving Dangerously, or hanging out in Paradise City, or maybe I’ll be playing Forza Horizon 4. Who knows?

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