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Burnout Crash! preview: Pinball wizard


Ever since I was a young boy
I've played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
But I ain't seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball

Right about now, I imagine you're wondering what The Who's "Pinball Wizard" has to do with a downloadable title about crashing cars -- but with the Kinect functionality, it's those last two lines that really linger. Burnout Crash! in motion with Kinect is like some foreign ballet that my brain just doesn't have the faculties to understand.

It's also apt because the team at Criterion working on this had two clear influences: pinball and game shows. Richard Franke, game director, explains that Criterion took the "depth, strategy and features" of pinball and combined them with the "lights and sounds that generate excitement" from game shows. If you close your eyes and just listen to the game in progress, it sounds like you're at the local arcade, pinball machines blaring.

Gallery: Burnout Crash (XBLA/PSN) | 3 Photos

The wrappings of Burnout Crash! are very much the same as the once sidelined "Crash Mode," now called up to star in its own feature, save for the Kinect controls: by jumping, you initiate an explosion, and by stepping and leaning in different directions, you control the direction of the car post-explosion. The score system is largely the same -- the biggest alterations to the formula here are the cutesy 2D graphics and my lingering question: Why isn't this game just on my iPad right now?

I was impressed by how responsive Kinect was, especially in the small space Criterion had it set up at EA's Redwood Shores HQ -- and, no, there wasn't a Nyko Zoom attached to it. Kinect functionality is a big selling point of the game, and minimal impact enough that sustained play isn't an impossibility.

"Using Kinect is pretty much as easy as using a pad," Franke said. "We really wanted to make it seamless, balanced and not too complicated, so it would get you up and moving. If you've got people playing with you, it's just more entertaining when they're moving around."

During my preview session, I was able to see two different modes in action: Rush Hour and Road Trip. Rush Hour is pretty simple: you have 90 seconds to cause as much destruction as possible. Crash mode fans will have no problem doing that.

Road Trip is a bit different, though. At the start of the round, you have five strikes, each representing a potential escaping car. The goal is to cause pileups and prevent any car making its way onto the map from leaving, and basically surviving as long as possible -- an icon in the top-left corner shows remaining cars waiting to emerge on the map. Franke promised "outrageous features will be triggered, just like a pinball table" should players be able to survive until no cars remained. And for each ambulance that shows up and is left alone to pass through the map, one filled strike is removed.

Burnout Crash! will also employ Autolog. While I wasn't given the full tour of the Autolog area, a recommendations tab keeps players up to date on what their friends are up to and immediate, one-button access to challenges. If your friend beat your score on a particular map, you get a message in your feed and can jump right to that challenge and try to best them. Standard Autolog fare.

Burnout Crash! will launch on both PSN and Xbox Live Arcade this fall.

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