Burnout (series)

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Logo of Burnout.png
Burnout series logo
First releaseBurnout
1 November 2001
Latest releaseBurnout Paradise Remastered
16 March 2018

Burnout is a series of high-speed racing games for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 game consoles. A Microsoft Windows version of Burnout Paradise, was also released.[1] The game series was developed by Criterion Games and published by Acclaim Entertainment for the first two games and later Electronic Arts from the third game onwards. Burnout and Burnout 2: Point of Impact received critical acclaim and a large fanbase in Europe, as well as an underground following in the US. It was not until the release of Burnout 3: Takedown that the series gained mass appeal to US players. In April 2013, Alex Ward said that Criterion was steering away from the racing genre, placing the future of the series into question.[2]


Burnout's origins came by way of Criterion Games, a division of Criterion Software Ltd. established in 1999 to showcase the type of games that its RenderWare game engine was capable of, with Fiona Sperry in charge. Their first game was a fast-paced skateboarding game, TrickStyle, published by Acclaim Entertainment for the Dreamcast and released in 1999. As a follow-up title, Sperry's team, now with Alex Ward on board, developed a racing game that showed off the capabilities of the newest iteration of RenderWare, named Burnout, also published by Acclaim in 2001. Burnout was aimed to be an arcade-style racer, placing fun over realism as series like Gran Turismo offered.[3] Burnout was successful enough for a sequel Burnout 2: Point of Impact, released by Acclaim in 2002. Besides races, Burnout 2 introduced the series' signature "Crash mode", in which players would drive a car into a tableau of other cars and objects to try to do as much damage as possible. At this point in the series, the games were focused on driving on rural and country roads, and while the crashing mechanics were part of the game, these were not emphasized as gameplay elements but simply the undesirable result of a collision.[4]

In 2004, Acclaim filed for bankruptcy and sold off its existing properties to other publishers. Electronic Arts (EA) acquired Criterion Games as well as the rights to the Burnout series and RenderWare for an estimated US$48 million that year.[3][5] EA had been interested in Criterion before from their TrickStyle game, and were initially in 2002 hoping for them to expand that out to be an open-world type skateboarding game under the Skate or Die! moniker, similar to the popularity of Grand Theft Auto III. However, Criterion could not find a way for that to work and the project was dropped; it is believed by journalists that this would ultimately be released in the 2007 game Skate by EA Black Box.[6] The cancelled project left some animosity between Criterion and EA, but in 2003, EA reached out to Criterion, wanting to resolve the matter and to have them work on a second Burnout sequel. Criterion agreed as long EA left them with creative control over the title.[7] The game was near completion in 2004 by the time of Acclaim's bankruptcy and EA's acquisition. Burnout 3: Takedown took the series in a different route, as Criterion incorporated some of the more combative elements from the SSX series, such that players were "fighting through traffic" rather than just "racing through traffic", according to Ward.[8] Players were able to ram into opponents to focus them into crashes ("Takedowns"), which not only temporarily knocked them out from racing, but also benefit the player by providing some boosting effects.[9]

Burnout 3 was highly successful, with more than 2.3 million copies sold through 2006 in the United States alone.[10] Criterion continued to develop additional Burnout games, culminating in Burnout Paradise in 2008. Paradise was envisioned by Ward as putting the Burnout series in an open world, giving players the option of what routes to take to complete races, alongside other traditional game modes, while adding a social element to the game.[11]

Around 2008-2009, Criterion had jokingly asked EA if they would be able to work on one of the Need for Speed games, which were similarly arcade racing games, but with more focus on stunt-type driving that collisions. The Need for Speed series had been bounced between several of EA's internal studios at this point. To their surprise, EA allowed them to develop a title, which became Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit released in 2010. The game was both critically and financially successful, leading Criterion to ask EA to be put in charge of the Need for Speed series, as they felt the approaches they used there helped to shake up their own development processes. EA transferred the series to Criterion in 2012, though Criterion stated at the time that Burnout was "not going away" as it was "a defining part of who Criterion is".[12]

However, within the year, EA made the decision to transfer the Need for Speed series to its newly-formed subsidiary Ghost Games, as well as moving 80% of the developers at Criterion to Ghost Games; the remaining 20-some staff at Criterion were left as advisors for the Need for Speed series.[13][14] Disenchanted with the direction EA was taking Criterion, Sperry and Ward left Criterion Games later in early 2014, later forming a new studio Three Fields Entertainment.[15] The remaining staff at Criterion came up with plans for the "biggest game that Criterion's ever made" with Burnout roots in mid-2014; the game was teased to include additional vehicles like ATVs, motorcycles and helicopters. However, by June 2016, the game had been cancelled by EA.[16][17] Since then, Criterion has primarily served in a supporting development role for other EA studios.

The IP for Burnout still remains with EA, but the current environment for racing games is said to unlikely lead to a new Burnout game; EA did commission Stellar Entertainment Software to remaster Burnout Paradise for newer consoles and computers in 2018.[18] Car destruction games have lost their place with players, evidenced by the poor sales performance of Codemasters' Onrush in 2018.[19] Further, car manufacturers see racing games as advertisements for their vehicles, and are unlikely to license their car designs to be used in games with destructible cars such as Burnout.[20] While Burnout remains dormant, Three Fields Entertainment had spent several years working though smaller game ideas to develop a spiritual successor to Burnout, with Dangerous Driving the first game that is meant to capture several aspects of the Burnout series.[21]


Aggregate review scores
Game Metacritic
Burnout (PS2) 79[22]
(GC) 78[23]
(Xbox) 75[24]
Burnout 2: Point of Impact (GC) 89[25]
(Xbox) 88[26]
(PS2) 86[27]
Burnout 3: Takedown (Xbox) 94[28]
(PS2) 93[29]
Burnout Legends (PSP) 86[30]
(NDS) 38[31]
Burnout Revenge (PS2) 90[32]
(Xbox) 89[33]
(X360) 89[34]
Burnout Dominator (PS2) 76[35]
(PSP) 76[36]
Burnout Paradise (X360) 88[37]
(PS3) 87[38]
(PC) 87[39]
(PS4) 81[40]
(XONE) 80[41]
Burnout Crash! (iOS) 77[42]
(PS3) 69[43]
(X360) 66[44]

The most notable feature that the series is known for is its crash mode. This series is well known for its emphasis on aggressive driving and high speed. In-race rewards are given to a player if they take risks such as driving towards oncoming traffic or deliberately attempting to make their opponents crash. In Burnout 3: Takedown the latter action, referred to in-game as a "takedown", was showcased extensively and gave rewards such as points and boost when successfully performed.

It was not the racing element of the game but the slow motion replays of crashes that show the cars being deformed realistically that brought Burnout to the attention of the public. Criterion picked up on this and introduced a special "Crash Mode" as part of Burnout 2: Point of Impact. In this mode players are instructed to cause as much damage as possible by crashing their vehicle into traffic in a specially designed level featuring "crash junctions", areas where lots of vehicles are passing by (such as a highway). During these events, traffic is constantly the same, utilizing a trial-and-error method to succeed. The mode was excluded from Burnout Paradise due to the arrival of Burnout Crash!.[45] Instead, it is replaced with a "Showtime" mode, which allows the player to crash "anywhere, anytime".[46] Point of Impact also introduced a Pursuit mode, where the player drives a special police car and must chase down a speeding racer and stop them before the race course ends. This mode was discontinued, but it was featured in Burnout Legends and has reappeared as an available upgrade for purchase in Burnout Paradise known as Cops And Robbers.[47]

The takedown element of Burnout 3: Takedown is what differentiates it from other racing games. It is an essential strategy for winning races, especially in single player. There is also a "road rage" mode in which the object is to takedown as many opponents as possible.

Burnout Revenge was released on 13 September 2005 for Xbox and PlayStation 2, and later for the Xbox 360. This game introduced the "traffic check" feature, which made it possible for the player to hit smaller traffic vehicles without crashing and to use them to try to take down rivals. Burnout Dominator was announced on 5 December 2006, only to be released for the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation Portable and without the inclusion of the crash mode from the previous games. Dominator mainly focuses on the original game's "Burnout", which is using up the entire boost meter non-stop and trying to chain boosts as long as possible.

Burnout Paradise was announced on 29 August 2006, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This Burnout game added new features such as its open world gameplay where players could explore Paradise City at their leisure and race whenever they want once they get to race-starting areas called "intersections". It also introduced a feature called "mugshot" where, using the Xbox Live Vision camera or PlayStation Eye, it takes a "mugshot" of their opponent once the player took them down.[48]


Burnout originally featured a small collection of cars, including the small Compact, the Saloon (as well as a sports-modified GT version), the Pickup and the Muscle. This collection grew in Burnout 2 to include cars such as the Oval racer, the Cop Car, the Classic, The Gangster and the Hot Rod. Once Burnout 3: Takedown was released, the original cars were no longer used, with the exception of the Custom Coupe Ultimate, a lime green Coupe that was one of the "Custom" cars in Burnout 2 (this car also reappears in Burnout Legends, Burnout Dominator, and Burnout Paradise (The Paradise version is called the Hydros Techno). The same happened in Burnout Revenge where the car collection was entirely new. For the most part, Burnout Paradise's car collection is all new but there are some vehicles (such as the aforementioned "Custom Coupe Ultimate" and the Custom Roadster from Burnout 2 or the Revenge Racer from Burnout Revenge) that are models from previous Burnout games. Paradise is also the first Burnout game to designate manufacturers and realistic car model names for its vehicles (such as the "Carson Annihilator" or "Nakamura Ikusa GT").

Another thing to note is how many of the cars could be based on their real-life counterparts, especially the vehicles from Burnout Revenge and Burnout Paradise. An example is the "Carson GT Concept" from Paradise, which resembles a fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro.

Certain games in the series also have compatibility with other games, such as in Revenge, where players can unlock the Madden Challenge Bus by having a save file from Madden NFL 06,[49] and a Burnout 3: Takedown save file unlocks the Dominator Assassin.


  1. ^ "Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box for PC - EA Games". Ea.com. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b "Burnout creator Fiona Sperry on leaving EA, going indie and Dangerous Golf". MCVUK. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
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  5. ^ Fahey, Rob (28 July 2004). "EA buys Criterion; deal includes game studio and RenderWare". GamesIndustry. Archived from the original on 28 June 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
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  10. ^ Campbell, Colin; Keiser, Joe (29 July 2006). "The Top 100 Games of the 21st Century". Next Generation. Archived from the original on 28 October 2007.
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  19. ^ Singletary, Charles (23 July 2018). "OnRush Sales Underwhelm, Leading To Codemasters Layoffs". Shacknews. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
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