With two great arcade racers on the road in the past week (Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 being the other) arcade racing fans will have more than their fair share of action. Burnout 2, the nitro pumped sequel to last years smash hit (pun possibly intended) is everything AND more than it's excellent predecessor and that makes me a happy guy.

The biggest complaint I had with last years game, concerned the triple replays of the crashes which ignored the laws of time and space as your opponents would often suddenly rush past you on the third replay. It's a replay! How could they get ahead of me? Thankfully Criterion removed this from Burnout 2, and although you will still be slightly delayed after a horrific crash, the space time continuum remains intact.

Burnout 2's meat and potatoes mode is Championship, which will provide you with a small selection of vehicles at first as you try and progress past the initial races. Racing well will open up other tracks or challenges which you will have to beat in order to advance. The races might be lapped, pursuit or point to point races which may take place over several tracks.

The concept in Burnout 2 remains the same. Driving dangerously (driving on the wrong side of the road, near misses, getting air and powersliding) fills your boost meter which allows you to take off like a shot. As long as your boost meter is filled you can utilize it at any time, but it only remains available if you don't get in an accident. Knowing when to use the Boost can make the difference between a first place win or a last place kick in the pants.

The games vehicles are generic, but you'll be able to spot the realworld vehicles they represent. Depending on your skill level, you should be able to use almost any vehicle in the game, as the control is tight and responsive, even with the games faster cars. If Criterion had bothered with a more simulated physics engine, Burnout 2 would have been virtually unplayable. When flying (and I mean flying) down the highway in this game, you'll want control that hugs the road like Chris Blair hugs a cheeseburger.

Graphically B2 is one of the PS2's finest looking games. It may not have the majesty of Gran Turismo 3, but it sure does look purdy. The framerate stays tough, even when you're zoom zooming down the road like a rocket. If the framerate was prone to slowdown or hiccups, once again, B2 would have been almost unplayable due to the precision that is needed. Now you can't go yapping about the graphics without mentioning what B2 is all about: The insane crash animations. Criterion should win an award for the sheer level of horrific detail they have included here. I kid you not, I couldn't help thinking of the little virtual people I was killiing with my insane driving. It's not likely anyone was walking away from most of them.

Since crashing is such a blast, Criterion thought to include Crash mode, which is exactly as it sounds. Take a car, zoom it down the road and try to do as much damage at one time as you can. The 3 levels start off easy, but become progressively harder as you advance (earn at least a bronze medal in each level to open up 3 more Crash events). By the time you get to the 15th event, you'll have a knack for exactly what should be done, which often involves planning and strategy - not unlike a game of killer pool. The Crash level isn't exactly deep, but it's a blast to keep going back and trying to rack up insane amounts of damage and destruction. Unfortunately you can't save your crashes in the PS2 version, but the Xbox version does support this feature.

All in all, my only complaint with Burnout 2 is either that it's too easy or I'm too good. I blew through over 60% of what B2 had to offer including all crash events in an evening. I had a sore thumb and I didn't take the 10 minute break each hour, but I sure kicked ass! That's not to say you wouldn't enjoy this game in your collection. Showing off the game to friends or going back for more Crash events until you earn Gold in each event will provide some replay value. I love this game, the only thing I'm not sure of, is which racer do I love more? Need For Speed: HP2 or this one...Hmmm.. I think it's a tie.

System: PS2
Dev: Criterion
Pub: Acclaim
Release: Oct 2002
Players: 1 - 2
Preview by Vaughn