#12: Burnout 3: Takedown
When it comes to delivering the very finest in ludicrously high speed, ultra-thrilling racing, Burnout 3: Takedown still resides in pole position, despite it being some 11 years old at this point. That's because Criterion Games' super-aggressive, PlayStation 2 festival of automotive madness and mayhem took arcade racing to a point that – to be blunt – was exceptionally difficult to top. While its graphics might be looking chunkily dated these days, Burnout 3: Takedown's gameplay is still as fresh as it was when it was first released in 2004: It combines speed and fury in a way that no other racing game has done before or since.
If you're unfamiliar with the game, it's a classic racer in which the driver chases down the checkered flag on a variety of road and city courses. There are other vehicles present on the tarmac – not only competitors, but general street traffic that has to be avoided, or indeed used to help precipitate crashes that will catch out your rivals and send them spinning spectacularly to their doom. Yep. Crashing – a thing usually to be avoided at all costs in most racing games – is a core tactic of getting to the finishing post ahead of your rivals in this game. Whether you're jostling another driver off the road, bumping them so they collide head-on with a car approaching in the opposite direction, or using "Impact Time" when you yourself have crashed, to "aftertouch" your flaming wreck of a vehicle into other cars to take them down with you, smashing your opponents out of the way and generally driving your car like you stole it is part and parcel of this hugely entertaining game.
"... [Burnout 3] represents the very pinnacle of arcade racing. While current cutting edge arcade racers like Forza Horizon 2 and even the latest Need for Speed games are enjoyable and fun – and of course feature graphics that are two generations ahead – they feel positively pedestrian in terms of their speed and action."
It's the sheer speed of the action that makes the game such a terrific driving experience. There's just enough forgiveness in terms of the collision detection to enable you to pull off what feel like miracle moves as you avoid objects and other cars at incredible speeds. The game is slightly flattering in that respect, but that's a good thing. It encourages you to go for impossible-looking gaps, corner while doing spectacular drifts, and put all of your momentum into huge sideswipes to send other cars spinning to their doom.
While racing is the main headline feature of this game, one particularly entertaining additional aspect that Burnout 3: Takedown boasts is Crash Mode. The objective is to race as rapidly as possible towards certain annihilation – perhaps a busy intersection or a piece of roadway packed with traffic – with the objective of creating as spectacular a piece of vehicular destruction as possible. Here, the "aftertouch" feature of Impact Mode really comes into full effect as you guide your wreck into other vehicles and objects, finally making it explode to create a chain reaction that – if you do it right – creates hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage that's hopefully enough to hit that particular level's objective.
This gleefully wanton destruction is phenomenally addictive and fun, and the mode's targets are set just right to make the game challenging enough to keep you coming back repeatedly to try to score gold on each level.
The reason why Burnout 3: Takedown is on this list is, like I said earlier – it represents the very pinnacle of arcade racing. While current cutting edge arcade racers like Forza Horizon 2 and even the latest Need for Speed games are enjoyable and fun – and of course feature graphics that are two generations ahead – they feel positively pedestrian in terms of their speed and action. Burnout 3: Takedown sets a pace and intensity that no other racing games have ever managed to best, because, to be frank, if a game were any faster it would likely be nigh on impossible to play.
Ultimately, Burnout 3: Takedown gets the balance of speed, playability, and forgiveness absolutely spot-on. It puts you into a racing zone that constantly has you executing scrapes and maneuvers that you can scarcely believe you managed to pull off, but you somehow manage to do it time and time again – and it feels so good doing it. It's simply brilliant stuff – and if there's ever a racing game that needs to be remastered for current generation consoles, it's this. - Jaz Rignall