In the world of arcade racing, the Burnout series reigns as the undisputed king. And back in 2004, I must’ve spent hundreds of hours winning races, taking names and crashing into concrete walls. Crashing into walls more so than anything else, actually. But that was, and still is, one of the most appealing aspects of Burnout 3.

Upon release and to this day, the third entry is considered as the best in the series. Its unique Takedown mechanic and addictive progression system were novel at the time. And even arcade racing powerhouses like Need for Speed had a serious competitor for once.

Since then, EA has released only a single, full Burnout experience: Burnout Paradise. And the recent remaster of it bodes well for the future of the series. However, despite by how much its successor was better, the third entry still holds a special place in my collection.

Which is why we’re getting into a time machine – a fancy DeLorean, no less – and taking a nostalgic look back at Burnout 3: Takedown. Let’s find out what exactly made this game so special and whether or not it holds up 15 years later.

It’s What’s Under the Hood That Matters

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Burnout games are notorious for not featuring licensed cars. But when you’re going at an average of 200 miles per hour, who cares? Through the blur, you’re not going to see that car, anyway. And that’s not even considering the nitro bar, which filled from actions like drifting and driving on the oncoming lane. More importantly, the cars included in the game were vaguely modelled after real manufacturers, such as Ford, Lexus and Nissan.

To unlock these beautiful vehicles, you had to participate in the World Tour mode. Racing took place across three distinct continents and included point-to-point races, road rage and a Crash mode. Each event featured a target score for earning a medal: either bronze, silver or gold. In regular races, getting a shiny gold medal simply meant finishing higher, while road rage required a specific amount of takedowns.

Attaining gold medals gradually unlocked new cars and events. And despite their fictitious nature, all cars were a wonder to look at; from bulky muscle cars to nimble sports cars, all the way to a speedy formula. Burnout 3’s progression was so rewarding that most of my time with the game was spent perfecting each event and unlocking every car.

Before DJ Atomika

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Every racing game needs an appropriate soundtrack to match its speed and Burnout 3 existed during the golden age of EA’s soundtracks. With games like Need for Speed, SSX3 and even the latest iteration of NHL always taking the auditory spotlight.

And beyond the fairly obvious selling points of Burnout 3, the main star for me was the game’s amazing soundtrack. Not only did it compliment the racing itself, but also introduced me to many new artists, some of which I enjoy listening to even today.

Just to name a few stand-out tracks: “This Fire” by Franz Ferdinand, “Hot Night Crash” by the Swedish all-girl rock band Sahara Hotnights (Maria Andersson is Hawt by the way), “Breathing” by Yellowcard. And, of course, “I’m Not Okay” by the famous American rock band My Chemical Romance and “Just Tonight” by Jimmy Eat World.

Whenever I hear any of these songs, it brings back memories of carefree youth, cheap beer and unprotected… nevermind. But seriously, if it’s not obvious by now, I could easily recite the game’s whole soundtrack. Most of its tracks were based around the rock genre and brought out the best of the game’s aggressive racing.

Take Me Out

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That’s another song by Franz Ferdinand, by the way.

Unlike many other racing games of that time period, Burnout 3 wasn’t just about reaching the finish line first. It was about preventing your opponents from reaching the finish line at all. And then, of course, if you wished to, reaching the finish line yourself to attain that coveted gold medal.

But however you put it, nothing felt as satisfying than slamming into your opponent’s side and pushing their lame-ass off the track. Interactions with opponents ranged from simply trading paint and light nudging to mercilessly ramming them into a wall or a bus.

Burnout 3 revolved around its novel Takedown mechanic. Taking out an opponent always showcased their wreckage in spectacular slow motion, either crashing or flying through the air. And then crashing with pieces of metal and glass covering the entire screen. Being taken out yourself led to a similar scene, albeit with an added tactical bonus.

During a crash scene, it was possible to slow down or speed up time and control the car to a degree. As a result, you could still sabotage other racers and rack up extra points. How many racing games allow you to perform something so ridiculous and satisfying?

Aim for the Fuel Tank

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But gameplay didn’t end at that, because Burnout 3 also featured the awesome Crash mode. Instead of racing, this mode focused entirely on mayhem and causing the most amount of damage possible. At the start of each event, you had to initiate a crash by launching into traffic and then guiding your car around in slow motion.

Hitting other vehicles – especially buses and fuel carriers – would start a combo and gradually rack up dollars. Attaining a high enough combo earned you a Crashbreaker, which allowed for the detonation of the car. With a simple press of the button, it was possible to catch other vehicles in the explosion and continue the combo.

Scattered across each level were multipliers, which increased your total score. The fun was found in trying to collect every multiplier and not allowing the combo to end. And after completing a stage, you were graded on the total amount of destruction, which got increased by the number of collected multipliers.

Way back when, me and a friend of mine used to spend time at my place, passing the controller along and trying to beat each other’s score. It’s one of those game modes that’s incredible to play with a buddy or a group of friends. And best of all, having a second controller wasn’t even mandatory.

Sadly, I never got to experience the game’s online component. Back then, online multiplayer was still in its infancy and the word “internet” was kind of foreign to me. But even without it, Burnout 3 was a single-player experience to remember for a lifetime.

Challenge Everything

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In terms of pure fun, Criterion has accomplished so much with Burnout games over the years. Their commitment even earned them the right to develop two Need for Speed games, both of which were among the best in the series – ever!

With modern racing games like Forza Horizon 4 and Gran Turismo Sport, the genre has come a long way. But very few are able to compete with Burnout and its primal focus on fun and destruction. Despite its long time on the market, I think it still holds its own against the competition, and surely deserves a worthy continuation.

Those were some of my memories with Burnout 3. What’re yours? Did you play the game’s multiplayer mode? Leave a comment below with how you remember the game.

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