And, as the game makes clear at the outset, each street and its junction has some sort of challenge for you. The meat of the game is in progressing through the game’s various licenses by winning events. These appear on the map as you explore the city, with one appearing at every major intersection, and you can enter them simply by pressing and holding the two triggers simultaneously to spin your wheels near the start line.
Some events are straight races, where you start at one place and have to get first to one of eight finish points using any route and any means necessary. Some are stunt runs, where you have a fixed score target and a time limit, and it’s up to you how to chain boosts, jumps and drifts together into combos in order to achieve the former before the latter runs out. Others are road rage sessions: blast so many cars off the road before the time limit runs out to get another point on your license. Others still are Marked Man events, where you have to make it to your destination before the sinister black cars can cripple your vehicle for good. Finally, we have Burning Route events, custom-built for one particular car and only open to that make and model.
All these events are targeted at different types of vehicle and at different sets of Burnout skills, but none drag the game down in any way. True, the races and Marked Man events challenge your navigational skills as much as your driving ones – the mini-map in the corner is your new best friend – but they still draw back on what always made Burnout great: the feeling of driving at impractical speeds while slaloming through traffic, taking chances that always leave you less than a whisker away from a collision. Marked Man is probably the most thrilling drive we’ve had since Most Wanted’s police chases, as the implacable black cars keep coming as you desperately try to outfox them. If Marked Man doesn’t get your pulse rate climbing, you might like to make your way to the nearest Buddhist monastery. You’re probably a world-class Zen master in waiting.
Now, some will tell you that the biggest bummer in the new Burnout is the fact that you can’t instantly restart an event should you fail it. Criterion made the somewhat foolhardy decision to keep everything within the in-game world. Want to take part in an event? Drive to it. Fancy a change of car? Get to your nearest junkyard. Need a repair or a respray? Better find the local shop. This means, however, that there’s no quick menu to put you back on the race line when things go pear-shaped or just skip you to the next event when you fancy it. Some people, apparently, don’t like this.