Sunday, May 13

Burnout 2-Time Trials

I'm a huge fan of Burnout 2: Point of Impact. I bought the game years ago for my Gamecube and haven't stopped playing since. While the series didn't become too popular until the release of Burnouts 3 and 4 (great games in their own right), Point of Impact is still a fantastic racing game, and, actually, my favorite racing game of all time. For those who don't know, the Burnout franchise is developed by Criterion. The first two games in the series were published by Activision, the latter two, and the upcoming Burnout 5, were/are being published by EA, who bought out Criterion a couple of years ago.
The Super Car is King.

Back to the Burnout 2. There is so much to like about this game, so may great things. But lately I've been playing a lot of the Time Trial mode. Time Trial is in almost every racing game you can find, from San Francisco Rush to Mario Kart. The mode challenges players with racing against the clock and subsequently themselves. No other opponent racers are present on the track, just the player. As a lap of the track is completed, a ghost car replay runs in real-time, beginning the same time that you cross the checkpoint line. Players then race against an ethereal version of themselves, which is an exact recording of that player's best lap. Burnout 2 keeps track of three time statistics while racing, Record Time, Best Time, and Current Time. Record Time is the fastest time on the memory card. Best is the best time of that time trial session. And current is the second-by-second timing of the current lap. What I've found in playing time trial mode is a hierchial series of challenges.

First, players must beat the record time. Then, players must top that time. This usually requires boosting almost constantly while also running a perfect lap, or making it to the finish without crashing. Whats interesting is that this also requires players to be boosting as they cross the finish, something not possible during the first lap of the session. Once players have bested their record time by running a perfect lap, the real challenge begins. What unfolds is a series of increasingly difficult time's to beat. Players must not only race a perfect lap, but they soon realize that they have to race better than ever before as well. This means boosting more often, drifting better, and not running into walls. It's pretty amazing, and funny, to watch your ghost- self racing right in front of you. You find yourself saying things like, "What the heck! How is he going so fast?" Or, "Man, this guys good." Only to realize its yourself you speak of. Gotta love the self-animosity. But really, it effectively challanges players. At leat I think, "Hey, I can do better than that."The point of all this is the that instead of racing unpredictable AI, or even other human opponents, players create their own challenge. Each time trial session becomes more and more difficult as players vie to beat their own best performance. It's really fun to continually race yourself, always knowing two things: A, your doing better than you did before, your skill has improved. Or B, your doing worse than you did before, try harder. Time Trial mode is unique to the racing genre. No other genre allows players to challenge their own ability. Take advantage of it, if you haven't. Time Trials may be more fun than you think.

Do you ever play time trial mode in any racing game?
-Have you noticed anything else that you like?
Could you see a sort of time trial mode being existant in another genre?
-How about RTS or FPS? How would a self-challenging system work for these genres?

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