Retro Review | Burnout 2

Retro Review | Burnout 2

Currently on a Gamecube binge, John relives Burnout 2. Does one of his favourite racers stand the test of time?


Name: Burnout 2

Format: Nintendo Gamecube

Released: 9th May 2003

Developer: Criterion Games

Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment


Burnout 2, as you can probably guess, is the sequel to the original game from 2002. Burnout was an excellent arcade racer that was also released on the Nintendo Gamecube, PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox.

Burnout 2 expanded on the original game with more tracks, race modes and the introduction of crash junctions, but more on those later.

At its heart, Burnout 2 was a true arcade racer, plain and simple. The difference with the Burnout series was that you had to race amongst live traffic.

To improve your chances of winning, the game offers your cars a boost but this must be earnt during races and there are several ways to achieve it. Every time you won an extra piece of boost, a meter in the bottom corner of the screen would slowly fill up.

One way to increase the meter was by having the car leave the ground also known as achieving ‘air’. This could only be achieved by hitting bumps at high speed. This is not as easy as it sounds as most of the tracks didn’t contain enough short sharp bumps to make this possible.

Secondly, you can drive so close to traffic, either oncoming or otherwise, that you can fill your boost meter in small increments. Shoot past other road users as close as possible without actually hitting them and you will be rewarded.

The Muscle. One of Burnout 2’s early cars available to drive.

If you’re brave enough, you can drive on the wrong side of the road. The longer you stay in that position, the quicker your boost meter will fill up. This method will fill the boost meter quite quickly.

Finally, the fastest way to fill up the boost meter is by drifting around long corners. Keeping your foot on the throttle and touching the handbrake and then turning the wheel slightly would cause your car to head into a drift. When mastered, you can keep full speed around some of the longest corners in the game.

If you’re completely new to the game, you can run through the tutorial that teaches you the basics of what I’ve just explained to you.

Putting you in a little blue car covered with student driver logos, the game first demonstrates a particular move and then asks you to replicate it.

If you learn fast, or just keep practising, the game will reward you with the student driver car to use in the main game and it’s a fast-little machine. A lot of the game can be completed using this car and it outpaces a lot of the other vehicles you can win throughout the game.

Burnout 2 comprises primarily of races with each one containing a number of laps depending on their length. The races are held in different locations such as the city, snowy mountains or coastal roads.

As you play through the game it becomes apparent that the developers have created just a handful of large landscapes and you are taking different routes through the same environments.

Despite the large glowing arrows which act as invisible barriers and tell you which way to head, I sometimes tried to drive along a route from a previous race and found myself losing several race positions as a result.

These locations are so large that some of the races are not made up of laps but simply point to point, making for one long drive.

To break up the continuous race challenges, the game gives you a chance to win a new car. You must race a variety of different vehicles throughout the game in a one on one challenge and if you win, it’s yours.

Second place? Better put your foot down!

What also made the Burnout series a little bit more special was the crash physics. Whereas most other arcade racers would simply show your car flip or roll in a crash, Burnout elaborated on this.

Your car would break apart and depending on the physics, would roll and smash its way across the highway, strewing debris as it did so. Other road users would react and slam on their brakes to try and avoid but not always successfully.

This was handled well in the game with the crash sequence not lasting long enough that you were screaming at the screen to just get back into the race.

Burnout 2 featured the introduction of Crash Junctions which expanded on their impressive physics engine and made a minigame out of the art of crashing.

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Taking 15 large junctions from the game (30 on the Gamecube and Xbox), the idea was to create the largest insurance nightmare possible. Take one car from your roster, hit the gas and slam into another road user. You are also given a full charge of boost so you could make your impact with maximum speed.

You then sit back and watch as your crash snowballs and more traffic becomes involved in the destruction.

This is a great side game to play with friends to see who can rack up the most damage which is recorded as a dollar score.  I had a great time reliving this recently with my eldest son who was loving it.

Crash Junctions can also be funny and embarrassing. It’s entirely possible to hit the gas, engage the boost and accidentally slide through a gap in the traffic and hit no one!

One of the vehicles you unlock later in the game is a police cruiser. Further on in the game, a pursuit mode is also unlocked. In a mode reminiscent of classic arcade game Chase HQ, you must hit an opponent’s car enough times to cause it to stop. The chase is performed on a single point to point race so you must achieve this objective before the opponent has a chance to get away.

There was a large roster of vehicles to choose from by the games end. Muscle cars, Japanese sports, Nascar, Hot Rod and a police cruiser just to name a few. Each car handled differently with statistics based on top speed, acceleration and control.

Several times I had to try different cars for different challenges to find which one would achieve me that elusive gold medal. You had to come first! If you came second in just one race out of four, for example, the game would hold back on unlocking some of the new races.

The Hot Rod screams around the track in a replay.

As you can see, there was plenty to keep you interested. But how does the game perform visually?

In a word, stunning. For 2003 the graphics were great. Your car looked great and so did the environments. Added particle effects and smoke just made the crashes that much more realistic.

But what is most important is the speed and Burnout 2 certainly delivers. The game certainly flies along at an amazing pace and its smooth too. I can’t comment on framerates, but I never noticed any framerate drops or skipping during all the time I have played the game.

Enhancing the game further was the games electric guitar-based soundtrack as you race around the streets.

All these elements combined when your boost meter finally fills to the top. Pulling the trigger to initiate boost would cause the car to accelerate wildly up the road. The screen blurs around the edges to enhance the effect and a new rocking music soundtrack kicks in at a louder volume!

What could possibly make this even better? If you manage to complete your boost without hitting any traffic or the sides of the road, you would be rewarded with another instant fill of your meter. On some tracks, it was possible to chain several boosts together to allow you to either gain a lead or try to catch the leader.

I’ve recently sunk several hours into playing Burnout 2 again and I’d honestly forgotten how good it still looks and plays today.

If I had any negative comments, it would be that you can’t simply restart a race during a multi-race challenge. If you came 2nd in the second race or more and you want to earn gold in every race. You will have to start the entire challenge again.

In a few races, it felt like the opponents suffered from rubber banding. This means that their cars do drop behind you in races but then sometimes seem to come up right behind you impossibly fast.

These are just a few small niggles and hardly distract from the rest of the game.

Hopefully, this is a start of a beautiful and expensive crash!

Burnout 2 was an arcade racer much like the original but expanded and tweaked upon to make what I considered a great game even better. If you still have a Gamecube (or a Wii which is backwards compatible with all Gamecube games) I can’t recommend Burnout 2 enough.

Unfortunately, this was the end for Burnout on the Gamecube. The series continued on the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. I remember being bitterly disappointed as I loved the games so much.

Simply one of the best racers on the Gamecube, and certainly of the time. Highly recommended.

John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves the movies and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990's. Whilst the web page idea became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. Now he's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.