Burnout 2: Point of Impact offers adrenaline-pumping tunes, wince-inducing crash effects and a nitro boost that sounds like a jet engine. Mix them all together and you end up with an audio extravaganza that puts a smile on your face.
At the time Stephen Root (not to be confused with an American actor with the same name) and his partner Steve Emney produced original music and sound effects for all of Criterion’s games. Stephen Root was also head of audio for RenderWare. Dolby Pro Logic II technology, combined with RenderWare Audio, version 2.0, allowed them to concentrate on creating realistic, full multi-channel sound.
Criterion tried to appeal to an American audience, so it was obvious that there had to be a lot of rock involved in some way. Hence the search began with wide range of rock groups, from nu-metal bands like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit for the 'noise' element, to groups such as Feeder and Hoobastank for something half-musical". The team also got inspiration from the massive car event in Guildford called the “Guildford Cruise”. Basically all the streets would be lined with boy racers in their cars; you could hear all this bass coming out of their huge sub woofers.
Stephen Root put these three diverse musical forms together and made a consistent and unique soundtrack for the game. He also added a few more personal influences, including 1970s rock groups such as Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and Led Zeppelin.
To achieve a true 'rock' sound, a synthesizer just wouldn't cut it. Live musicians performed in the Criterion's state-of-the-art recording studio in Guildford. The next step was to ally the music with Burnout 2's game play, which encourages you to drive faster by pumping up the soundtrack when the boost kicks in.
The ingenious solution was to create two arrangements of the same tune that would be streamed simultaneously, and then switched between according to the player's in-game performance. In game a scaled-down music mix is played, which could just be the main rhythm of the tune. The sound of the car engine is very prominent, but as soon as you start boosting the music goes into a heavy, fully arranged, distorted version of the tune and the engine note comes down. This means that when you boost the music responds.
Sound effects in the game were given a lot of attention as well. Every vehicle you encounter - be it car, monorail or aero plane - has its own authentic accompanying effects. The most important sound must be the engine, and in the case of Burnout 2's larger-than-life vehicles, the aim was to give an audible impression that these machines were really being pushed to their limits. In most driving games at the time it was common to record a few car samples and pitch between each of them. In Burnout 2: Point of Impact they tried to make the engine sound like it's coming under load. They would then bring in a distortion algorithm to break it up.
Alex Ward, Creative Manager on Burnout 2: Point of Impact saw this technique as a vital element in making the secret cars desirable, regardless of their performance. "Why drive the Hot Rod? Is it one of the best cars in the game? No, but it's funny, it's big and it sounds nuts. The audio on the secret cars is key.”
To make the sound effect for the crashes Criterion bought a battered car from a junkyard. They then smashed up the car and recorded the various samples.
As for the relatively simple-sounding boost, between 30 and 40 different samples were combined to get the memorable whistle just right. As well as sounding great, it's also practical. "We wanted to create this fantastic nitrous boost sound that you just remember, and every time you use it you know what you're doing. There were some situations when people didn't understand what the boost was or how to use it, so we wanted to make things familiar to people this time."
A lot of effort and creativity went into creating Burnout 2's audio. I think that most of you that have played the game will agree that the audio is one of the most important aspects of the game. At least for me the music is probably the most important feature of Burnout 2: Point of Impact. It gives you a total different feel of speed that just needs to be experienced.
As a final note I just want to mention that “The Burnout Team” has announced that the soundtrack from Burnout 2: Point of Impact might be released “sometime soon”. I really would like to be able to play this soundtrack in my car!
Also a similar soundtrack was created for Burnout 3: Takedown. This was replaced with EA Trax before the game was released. This soundtrack has never been heard outside Criterion and might also one day be made available…