After numerous instalments of the game the British School of Motoring (BSM) refuses to endorse, Criterion Games is preparing an altogether new beast for the next generation.
At a swanky London club, hired out by EA so its development gurus could preach the good word of the next-gen, we recently caught up with director of design at Criterion Games, Alex Ward. He was not only happy to tell us where the studio is at with Burnout 5's development, he even showed it to us a quick movie of it running on his PSP.
After sinking out eyeballs into the lovely environments that the environmental drive-by showcased, we snatched a cocktail and canapé, and got down to some serious Burnout 5 business.
What does the next generation of gaming mean in terms of what it can do for a game like Burnout? Why won't it just be a better looking game?
Alex Ward: Well, if that's what we do than we've f****d it up. The next-gen is about a totally new expression of everything we've ever wanted to do. It's not just the visuals; obviously that's what people respond to first. It's about the way the car moves, how you interact with the car, how you interact with the world, it's got to be radically different.
So what does next-gen mean to you as a developer?
Ward: To us what next gen means is making a completely different game experience than ever before. In the past our games have been racing games, very linear, the player's been restricted by loops, laps, modes and menus. So we've just looked at all the barriers in the player's way and tried to remove them.
Our new game is a totally different Burnout game. I just met a guy upstairs that said all the Burnout games are just the same. And I said 'well you tell me any series on PS2 in the past five years, where each game's different time'. Me and my team making the same game each time isn't interesting to us. And that's why we like the game's we've done.
Burnout 2 was different than Burnout, Burnout 3: takedown was different to Burnout 2 and 4. And with 5 it's about removing all the restrictions of the current-gen and making something totally different.
There was such a big leap from Burnout 2 to Burnout: Takedown. It was almost a different game completely.
Ward: That was three years or so working on the same hardware.
Can we expect the same massive leap from Burnout Revenge to Burnout 5 then?
Ward: It's going to look a lot more realistic, and a lot more real than ever before. But the graphics are just one part of it. We've spent a lot of time on the handling of the cars and how they smash. Some of the defamation we can do now is way, way better. We're actually simulating the car accidents better than ever before in Burnout 5.
How you use the controller is key, how you play the game online, how you use the HD Eye toy and the 360 Vision Camera online is really important. But the game is totally free and totally open.
If somebody asked me what game is Burnout 5 most like -
What game is Burnout 5 most like?
Ward: - it's probably most like Crackdown than anything else. It's the closest thing in terms of it's your game at your pace. You can do it in any order, anyway you want.
The big problem is that I think some people are thinking we're doing a big Test Drive game, some sort of MMO. But we're not. We're doing Burnout.
What do you think of the MotorStorms and Flat-Outs of the world?
Ward: I haven't played Flat-Out but I think MotorStorm's good. I think MotorStorm does what Burnout's been doing, ie closed laps, a car that does some sparks. If you look at the vehicles in MotorStorm you'll see that the vehicles don't deform and twist, bits just fly off.
That's what we've done before. Burnout's a car crashing game so it's down to us. If you don't believe the car crash, you won't believe the rest of the game. It's making the experience totally open.
Are we ever going to see more of Black?
Ward: Don't know. We're working on Burnout at the moment. We don't know what we're going to do next. We might do Black or we might not. Ask me today, I don't think we'll do Black next. Ask me tomorrow and we might. We designed a game in the car on the way here... we might do that next.
Moving on then, what about Wii? What can it do for a game like Burnout?
Ward: Haven't really played on it much. If we did a game on the Wii we wouldn't do a 3D driving game. I think we'd do something very bespoke for it. Might do it might not. I don't think so, at the moment we're not working on it.