Revenge of the Car Planet

I picked up Burnout: Revenge for cheap the other day – I really enjoyed time spent with Burnout: Paradise a while ago, so I thought I’d check out its highly praised predecessor. And it’s pretty good, really. It’s Burnout. I’m driving. I’m smashing. I’m crashing. Going fast, suddenly stopping. The usual. So usual I was figuring I’d have nothing to say about the experience, really.

But fortunately I snapped out of it and paid attention to what was going on. What’s great about Burnout is how bizarre it actually it. You’re driving around at top speed, smashing cars off the road in gruesome cars, wrapping your own car around a pole at times, and generally causing untold destruction. And that’s the point of the game. But it’s also deeply disturbing behaviour, right? I mean, car crashes are no laughing matter…

Terrible things happen in many, many games. In GTAIV I’ve crashed a lot of cars. In Mass Effect 2 I killed a lot, a lot of people. And on and on. But these games generally present those actions in a context. You’re killing people because they’re bad, or because you’re bad. There’s at least some kind of purpose. (Well, perhaps less so for the many civilian casualties in GTA, but even then it’s in the context of a city – the police pursue you, for instance.)

As far as I know, the Burnout games don’t contextualise your activities. They just are. It’s not like some story of the Car People from the Car Planet or anything… fighting a deadly battle for supremacy, blah blah blah. There’s nothing like that, there’s just cars smashing into each other. And that’s somewhat peculiar. Even Mortal Kombat had its kind of ridiculous story for why you were pummeling other people. In this way, I think of Burnout as clinging to the idea it’s a sports title. Sports games don’t need contextualisation because the sport is a context all its own. You don’t ask why people are playing football in Madden. And perhaps that’s good enough for Burnout too? You don’t ask why there are a series of insane and deadly street races going on constantly in the various locations that game presents. That’s just the way it is.

The other thing is how the cars seem to have no drivers. Presumably this is in a bid to remove the frightening idea that people are being maimed and crushed in the horrific accidents that so casually occur…

So maybe it really is Tales From the Car Planet…

10 December 2010
← next words previous words →