Crash 'N' Burn is an arcade-style racer with a mean streak. If bumping and banging your way to the finish line, demolition style, in the heart of the city is your kind of thing, then Crash 'N' Burn may be right up your alley - both figuratively and literally.

This is the consummate Christmas morning game. It can be played by anyone almost immediately but it's not a cakewalk. It's challenging in that there are many variables to consider such as dodging attacks from other racers, veering around traffic and avoiding the wrecks that stay on the track for the duration of the race. The sounds, the graphics and the spectacular animation of the crashes are sure to leave a few jaws agape. Of course you've seen a lot of this before in games such as Midnight Club, Burnout and the Need For Speed Underground series.

Each race consists of 16 vehicles. Damage to each vehicle affects performance and you can expect to take many hits from the AI which are prone to such offensive driving tactics a the expense of their own lives. Sparks fly as you kiss fenders. Glass shatters and dents appear as your car takes a beating. Those that sustain too much damage die on the course and remain there for the duration of the race. Other crashes result in astounding carnage as vehicles flip, turn, twist, crumple and erupt in a wall of flames with the announcer calling for an ambulance.

The cars handle great. They don't go particularly fast but they feel as though they have some weight to them and appear to respond to real world physics - albeit in an arcade fashion. They are very colorful, almost plastic looking which just begs you to put some wear and tear on them. There are four classes of vehicles which include muscle, sports, pick up and compact.

Money awarded for races can be used for primarily cosmetic upgrades such as paint, scoops, hoods and rims. You can really get your vehicle looking fly. Performance upgrades include steering, brakes and turbo but the focus of the gameplay is not solely that of racing, it's destruction which kind renders these upgrades somewhat impotent. Perhaps armor and weapons should have been included as upgradable options.

Customized vehicles can be uploaded online where the action varies from lame to intense depending on the skill of the other racers. This game is so accessible that it attracts a wide range of players - many which end up as debris on the track. Human racers tend not to be so reckless since they want to stay in the race. It's the unavoidable accidents that keep you on your toes.

Tracks are located within the various city limits of places such as Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and Detroit. There will be live intersections with city traffic to deal with. One particular mode, Kamikaze, has half of the cars racing in one direction with the other half racing in the other direction. This is a lot of fun and there are plenty of head-on collisions to witness, avoid, or take part in.

I could do without the soundtrack that passes for rock music and the announcer needs more dialogue. He sounds like an automaton on a Disney ride. The cars sound generic but at least the crashing sounds have some meat to them.

Crash 'N' Burn is a fun, if shallow, game that is geared for intermediate gamers that just want to break something and not have to spend half a day learning which button does what. There is a "budget-quality" feel to the game which robs it of personality but treat it like the arcade beeeeatch that it is and you'll do fine.

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System: XBOX
Dev: Climax
Pub: Eidos
Released: Nov 2004
Players: 1 - Multi-Online
Review by Kelly