Let me put this as simply as I possibly can: I love chaos in video games. As much as I can enjoy a traditional RPG or adventure game, sometimes I just want a game that is more focused on rambunctious, stupid fun. In that respect, racing games have let me down more than any other genre in the last decade.
As much as I can admit that the Forza Horizons and Gran Turismos of the world are beautiful and technologically impressive, I can’t help but be disappointed when I see another racer on the market that doesn’t want to give me a heart-pumping experience like the old Burnout games used to. To me, racing games are feeling more or less completely stagnant. A good Burnout game is the perfect thing needed to inject some excitement into racing again.
We’ve been down this road before
The more I think about the current state of racing games, the more I compare it to what we know recent sports games to be. Madden, FIFA, NBA 2K, and MLB The Show are all beloved by their core audience, but the big complaint you hear from others every time one is released is, “this is the same game as last time,” or “you’re just paying for a roster update.” With racing games, it’s the same thing for me.
How many racing game reveals focus on showing you how good their licensed cars look and the new weather effects they house? From there, what is special about the location they take place in? I bet it’s probably based on real-world locations, many of which are tracks that have been done to death. At the end of the day, all of these games feel and play the same, even if they have a different name on the box. There’s no excitement to them. No explosions, rocking soundtracks, or quick moment-to-moment thinking. Just another game trying to be the most realistic experience in racing games.
Not to say that stuff is bad; in fact, it’s great for that audience. For me, though, I want something that makes racing feel like a battle. I want to smash my opponent into walls and make them spin out while we are dodging and weaving between traffic. I want my crashes to end in my car looking completely mangled. There is nothing on the market that gives that excitement right now.
There’s only room for one in this lane
When thinking of past games that embody the kind of racing game I want to come back to, I always return to the Burnout series. EA owns the IP and has done barely anything with it in the last decade, besides meekly releasing a Burnout Paradise remaster. Paradise is not a bad game by any means, but it doesn’t reach the same heights as Burnout 3: Takedown or Revenge. Paradise had an open world design that was fun in its own elements but got tiring after a while. You never really felt that fatigue in Takedown or Revenge. Slamming your opponents into obstacles defined racing, and Crash Mode became an addictive side mode that no game has yet to emulate fully. There was never a dull moment in these games.
What disappoints me most about the lack of Burnout is that instead of bringing back these beloved games with a dedicated remake, EA seems content with continually throwing out Need For Speed games that have largely lost their luster. That series has fallen into the second-rate tier of racing games with titles like The Crew and Wreckfest. When you think of a car game nowadays, it’s always Forza, Gran Turismo, or Dirt that spring to mind. Since 2010, ten different Need For Speed games have been released. None of them are memorable.
In recent years, Three Fields Entertainment, an independent company made up of people who worked on the Burnout games, has released a spiritual successor in Dangerous Driving. It has a lot of the charm Burnout brought back in the 2000s and can be a nice reminder of what those original games felt like. What I want, though, is a AAA-grade commitment to a Burnout game. Something that can go toe-to-toe with the current slate of great racing games that still offers a fun arcade experience that the others don’t in the current day.
A new Burnout game would check off nearly everything on my list for an exciting arcade racer. Done properly, they are fast, highly competitive bouts that make you think on your feet. I would be so happy with a Burnout 3: Takedown remake, but I would be ecstatic if Criterion got the chance to make a new title that went back to their classic formula with enough funding and resources to make it a big deal. In my mind, the moment Burnout games stopped releasing, racing games not named Mario Kart lost their charm. We are past due a return for Burnout to force its way back onto the racing lane.