Five years ago…

Before I started writing professionally I created a videogame website called Press Start Online. I wrote quite a lot of the site’s content with the help of a number of other writers, several of whom have gone on to write for proper websites and magazines. In December 2005, I wrote a review of Burnout Legends on the DS, which remains to this day the worst game I’ve ever played.

I decided to try and find the review to see if I still had it, and lo and behold it’s still there on my hard drive. Do bear in mind that I wrote this five years ago. I think my writing’s improved quite a bit since then, and I do think the tone of the review is perhaps a little aggressive, but hopefully you might find a couple of bits chuckle-worthy.

You may have heard a few things about Burnout Legends on the DS. You may have heard that it’s not an entirely successful port. You may have heard that it seems to be a bit of a rush-job. You may have heard that it’s just plain bad.

But Burnout Legends DS is not bad. No. It’s much, much worse than that.

Burnout Legends is so abysmal it’s difficult to know where to start. It’s like swallowing a sharp chip. It’s like eating an orange and then realising you have a paper cut. It’s like waking up to find someone’s removed your pancreas while you were asleep. It’s like Carmageddon 64 never happened.

Robert Mugabe’s committed lesser atrocities than the makers of this game.

But this is a review, and mere comparisons to some of life’s unpleasantries and the historically vomit-inducing aren’t going to suffice. So perhaps I should begin listing the crimes against videogaming it commits; crimes so numerous and so appalling even Phoenix Wright would struggle to mount a defence. But I’ve only got so many words and only so much space, so here are the edited highlights:

How about handling so inept that your car turns like Jade Goody wearing blancmange ice-skates? Or the horrible screen zoom effect that occurs whenever you boost, making the game resemble someone holding one of those Magic Eye pictures in front of you and then moving the book rapidly towards and away from your face? Or the horrendously dull font that the game uses throughout, even during the race, when it flashes up such gems as “Tailgating” and “Takedown” with all the enthusiasm of a Jack Dee gig at a home for the manic depressive? Brushing past another vehicle for more than a nanosecond (assuming the game’s hopelessly inconsistent collision detection doesn’t register it as a crash) brings up the legend “Rubbin’” (sic). Which, for all the world, you wish would just be honest and say “Rubbish”. Though, to be 100% truthful, the word would have to be twice the size and fill the screen for the duration of each race.

Not enough? Well, try these on for size: the car models are utterly, and without exception, atrocious, the bus model deserving particular attention for being one of the worst 3D models we’ve EVER seen – it makes Zarch look like Gears of War. The crashes are the least spectacular collisions ever brought to silicon, with tiny triangles spraying from your vehicle like a two-year old making a pathetic attempt to throw confetti. The yellow “sparks” that appear when you rub against a barrier are even more embarrassing – they look more like someone urinating from the window of the car. Perhaps it’s a visual metaphor, as if you spend £30 on this pile of useless shovelware dreck, you’ll certainly have pissed away your money.

Then there’s the way it seems possible to win races despite crashing over twenty times, usually thanks to the game failing to recognise the difference between hitting a wall at a ninety-degree angle and slightly scraping your paintwork against a rival vehicle (which seems to randomly result in either a takedown for you, or a crash that occasionally puts you ahead of said opponent when you restart). There’s also the genius way you can spend almost the entire time holding down boost and accelerate while constantly scraping against the barriers to win races, as long as you remember to occasionally press left and right. There’s the fact that drift is accomplished not by a combination of accelerate and brake, but by simply pressing left or right to turn. The fact that Crash mode can see you get a gold medal by hitting THREE vehicles in total – anyone familiar with the series will recoil in horror at the sight of “Crashbreaker in 2” after hitting the first car in your sights. And that the Crashbreakers themselves consist of your car immediately turning black, and performing a Harrier Jump Jet-esque vertical takeoff and landing.

There’s the presentation itself, which consists of a mercifully brief intro wherein you can’t see a thing that’s going on. There’s the sound effects, which are tinny, bland and entirely unmemorable, save for the burnout noise, which sounds like someone opening a packet of crisps while three people applaud. Much like the reaction to a Charles Kennedy speech at a Lib Dem conference then.

So are there any positives about Burnout Legends on the DS? Well, there’s a couple that immediately spring to mind. First of all, there’s no EA Trax. No, instead they’ve been replaced by the most brain-numbingly generic guitar riffs and dance beats imaginable. So no real change there, then. But I’ve not mentioned the incredible jump-shock scares that put the likes of Condemned to shame. It’s entirely possible to be casually driving (and I use the word in the loosest sense – “vaguely controlled sliding” would be more appropriate) down the wrong side of the road, when all of a sudden a vehicle will suddenly appear immediately in front of you. It’s the sort of shock that perhaps occurs too frequently to be entirely effective, and it eventually becomes tiresome, but the first time it happens it’s soiled trousers time. Or maybe not.

Any more pluses? Well, Pursuit mode is marginally more fun than the others, in the way that hammering rusty nails into your testes is slightly preferable to being burned alive. But that’s about it.

In all honesty, it pains me to say anything positive about Burnout Legends because it’s quite frankly one of the most horrifically misguided, shockingly coded and downright unplayable abortions I’ve ever encountered in all my time playing videogames. It’s shovelware of the very lowest order, and it can’t possibly be recommended to anyone other than the terminally masochistic. A better way to spend £30 would be to buy a 6-pack of Special Brew and a piece of iron piping for the local tramp, then ask him to drink the former before beating you to within an inch of your life with the latter. If it stops you playing Burnout Legends DS then it’s a sacrifice worth making, and money well spent.

I’ve shat better games than this.

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