Remarkably, quality arcade racers have been somewhat scarce on the PS2. All that changed recently when Burnout 2 and EA's Need for Speed 2 were released. While NFS2 focuses on traditional racing, Burnout 2 is about racing with wild crashes, white knuckle driving, and extreme handling.
Presentation/Graphics : 97
One thing you'll notice about Burnout 2 is that the game moves along at a consistent pace. Despite a number of AI opponents and a significant amount of civilian traffic, the game never slows down or skips a frame. In addition, the game doesn't have any pop-up or draw-in issues. In the distance you occasionally spot some minor pop-up, but it won't detract one bit from the enjoyment. Simply put, the graphical engine is superb.
The graphics excel, even with lush graphics coming from other cars and surroundings. One of the settings is an airport, where you'll find yourself driving by airport terminals and through tollbooths. The graphics are highly detailed including aircraft stored in hangars and road signs overhead pointing your way. At times, the game utilizes weather effects, such as realistic snow or rain covered roads. Throw in things like excellently modeled tire smoke, rotating windmills, and spectacular crashes and you have one nice looking game.
Presentation/Audio : 95
The sound is equally impressive in Burnout 2. Each car has a unique sound as it shifts through the gears. Rounding a curve at too high a speed yields a realistic tire squeal. When a traffic cone is hit, a great sounding thump is heard. And of course, when a major collision happens the sound of crushing metal is perfectly recreated.
Interface/Options : 75
When first starting the game, there are a limited number of menu options available. Aside from the game modes, the options include audiovisual settings and some controller settings. Strangely there are no difficulty settings. This is a game that requires methodical unlocking of races, tracks, and cars. The unlocking mode itself is the pre-programmed difficultly progression. Eventually you have modes such as single race, time attack, crash, and the championship available to you. The crash and championship modes involve a series of races or missions. Both modes are linear in fashion and fairly short.
Gameplay : 85
The two main modes in the game are the crash and championship modes. In crash mode, you get behind the wheel of a car and are tasked with causing a major traffic accident. You are scored on the amount of damage in dollars done to other vehicles. If you bang up a few cars you get some modest bank, but if 18 wheelers or buses get involved the stakes rise significantly. To increase the rate of return, chain reactions are cumulative. That is, if you hit a car and it hits a car, you get the equivalent of a chain bonus. And it goes on and on. After the mission, the damage is totaled and you are awarded a gold, silver, bronze, or no medal. By earning a medal more locations are unlocked. Unfortunately, this mode just didn't hold my interest. Getting through all 12 scenarios is a simple task that can be completed in a single play.
Fortunately the championship mode saves the game. In this mode you progressively go through a series of races or challenges. The first type of event you'll encounter in this mode is the standard race against AI competitors. The multi-lap races are made tougher by oncoming traffic; however you can use the traffic to your advantage. By driving on the wrong side of the road you fill up a meter, which when full, gives you a short speed burst. Other ways of filling the gauge include, driving dangerously close to pedestrian traffic, catching some air, and executing drifts. The dangerous driving style, particularly driving against traffic, really makes the game enjoyable and taxes the reflexes. However, if you crash, the meter drops somewhat and you lose position on the circuit.
Another type of racing in this mode includes a pursuit mode. Here you take control of a police car and have to pursue an AI car. The objective is to bump the car until it suffers enough damage to give up. To make the task more difficult, you have the same road hazards as the race mode and have a time limit. This mode is one the most challenging in the game in that it requires strategy, skill, and luck.
The AI traffic is fair in the game. Burnout 2 comes from Acclaim, which also released Vanishing Point on the Dreamcast and on the Playstation. That game had some brutal traffic AI. The traffic would often get right into your path at the last moment. In Burnout 2, lane changes are rarely sporadic and it comes down to using your reflexes to gauge the oncoming traffic. Also, your AI opponents aren't perfect drivers. They too occasionally make mistakes.
Replay Value : 70
Unfortunately the game is too short. After the championship mode the custom series championship is unlocked and this series is similar in construction to the one you just completed. While the racing is enjoyable, it is redundant. Once you complete that mode the incentive to continue playing is reduced. An oversight by the developers is the lack of a difficulty setting for races. For skilled racers, the racing isn't enough of a challenge.
Overall : 83
Burnout 2 is certainly one of the better arcade racers on the PS2. The positives include some great graphics and sound, as well as entertaining gameplay. The inclusion of oncoming traffic makes this "twitch-racer" a fun one, but the fun won't last forever. The championship series is short and the lack of difficulty settings limits the challenge. If the game had more depth or difficulty it would perhaps be the top arcade racer on the PS2--instead it's just a very good, though not great, game.