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Burnout Revenge Review

By Jeff Buckland, 9/19/2005

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I really didn't think that Criterion had anywhere else to go with the Burnout series. I mean, aside from better graphics, what gameplay could possibly have been tweaked? What kind of new features would add to the action without taking away? I knew that Burnout Legends for the PSP would probably be a "safe bet" of a title, where they simply took stuff that worked from past games and applied it to the portable platform - and they did this with great success. But Burnout Revenge forges new ground in a series that many thought had already peaked.

I'll start off by saying that what Criterion has added in Revenge - aside from new cars and tracks - is absolutely wonderful. They've taken the little annoyances from Burnout 3: Takedown, smashed them into the ground, and put new stuff in their place that really works. While there are new events and a brand new progression system, the core action hasn't changed. You're still tasked with driving as recklessly and agressively as possible and trying to make everyone but yourself crash. Almost all the modes in Burnout Revenge follow this theme, but they all feel very distinct and uniquely fun.

EA spent a lot of money making this game, that is for sure. They've gone completely over the top with the game's interface, music, and overall look. The presentation for this game is incredible, and it perfectly matches the beautiful in-game visuals. Just about every time you accomplish or experience something new, this game's got a short movie clip showing it off or congratulating you.

The scoring and advancement system in Burnout 3 was a bit confusing, and it mostly revolved around getting gold, silver, and bronze medals in a variety of events. This time around, you're going to be graded mainly on two things: how aggressively you drive, and what place you got in the event. Each win will give you a number of stars that applies to your overall "level" - get enough stars, and you'll raise to the next rank and have a bunch of new events open up.

You can gain up to five stars at each event, and you'll need to do enough stuff (like drifts, takedowns on enemy cars, driving in oncoming traffic, and many other little things) to get your star rating up. Then, your actual placing in the race, be it first, second or third, will modify that. Get gold, and it will add one star to your rating. Silver - no change. Bronze, and a star will be taken away. If you want to get a perfect grade on every event, that means getting not only the gold, but also doing it in style.

If there's one way I can sum up Burnout Revenge, I'd say that the developers have tried to make this a racing game where you're always having fun. Now, you can smash into any traffic that's going in the same direction and send it careening around the roads like pinballs. This can be used as a pool ball to take out other cars, or you can just hit some traffic to get an extra rating for the finish. Smashing into oncoming traffic, cross-traffic, or bigger vehicles will still take you out, though, so watch out. Some tracks have also added extra stationary obstacles like pillars to bring back some of the challenge.

Criterion's also made some tweaks to their previous games to make them far more enjoyable. For example, Crashbreakers have been moved over from the Crash mode into other modes. If you get taken out and your Aftertouch takedown attempt doesn't work, you can press a button and blow up your car to get the kill.

The tracks this time around are not nearly as linear. Much like some past racing favorites like Midway's Rush games, Revenge has many shortcuts and alternate paths you can find and use. These routes actually serve a dual purpose, as in the races they'll shave seconds off of your time, and in events like Road Rage, you can use the (usually) narrower side paths to isolate and easily take out your opponents.

A few welcome changes have been made in Revenge that I really appreciate. The once-hated "Burning Lap" races, where you're flying at breakneck speeds to finish the run as quickly as possible, have been made to be actually enjoyable. Now, you can usually suffer a crash and still be able to get the gold, as long as you take the drifts correctly and maybe smash up a few cars on the way. And in the other events, when you do get put into a wall, the Aftertouch slow-motion mode now always points the camera backwards in the direction of opposing racers coming up on you. No longer will you be blindly flailing your burning husk of a chassis around with no clue where to steer it.

The Burnout series' Crash mode has always been a favorite of gamers, as its excellent visuals of crashed cars make for a very visceral, fun experience while adding a bit more strategy than most racing games usually supply. While the Crash mode in Burnout 3 was good, it moved in the wrong direction in my opinion; well this time, it's gotten a major overhaul in many good ways. Now you'll start off with a little timing-oriented minigame where you set up your car's "launch". Time it right and you'll fly off the line at full speed, but do it wrong and you'll have a tough time making it over Crash mode's many new, huge jumps.

Wind is now a factor in Crash mode, and it plays into your crash strategy very highly - especially considering that some of the heavier cars, which do more damage when they explode, simply can't get the required air off a jump. And gone are the money and multiplier icons which really made the Crash mode in Burnout 3 too much of a chore. Now, you'll earn a Crashbreaker for involving a certain number of cars in your pile-up, and you won't have to worry about hitting the "4x" multiplier to win. Crash mode is very different now, and requires a lot more strategy.

I fully expected Burnout Revenge to look spectacular in widescreen 480p mode, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. This could possibly be the best looking game on the Xbox, and if it wasn't for the lack of a full 720p HDTV mode, the visuals could actually rival what we've seen from some upcoming Xbox 360 games. The game oozes with style, and while I still wish the game could use real licensed cars, what we get are still great. The new tracks cover urban sprawls, beachside highway strips, great countryside environments, and beat-up industrial areas beautifully. Frame rates are very solid and seem to hover near 60fps most of the time, at least when the game's not having to do split-screen multiplayer.

My biggest problem with Burnout 3 had to do with the rather narrow range of music in its soundtrack. Almost the whole thing was selected from a new breed of independent rock and punk music, and while I appreciate EA's efforts to deliver a full musical experience, I just didn't enjoy the music at all. But with Revenge, EA has extended the scope of the music to some techno groups and a wider range of rock, which really helps to put some spice into the soundtrack. And overall, I found Revenge's music to be better and more conducive to the game's intense racing than what we heard in the previous game. And if these tunes don't catch you, you can always switch over to custom soundtracks you've ripped onto the Xbox hard drive.

The multiplayer modes have gotten a similar treatment from Criterion and EA in that convenience and player needs have been focused on. The Live! interface now allows you to set up groups of players to work together, and overall it's a much more streamlined, Halo 2-style environment. Some of the most die-hard players may not like this system, but I think for almost everyone else, it's a good move. There's still the great split-screen action as well, and while the frame rate does suffer a bit, the game still winds up running great.

Criterion has put a huge effort forth in making the fourth game in the Burnout series fresh and exciting. Between the new tracks, hugely satisfying new features, challenging re-worked Crash mode, and hot new advancement system, Revenge manages to take out just about all the bad and add plenty of good to this popular franchise. If you're an arcade racing fan, you'll have a hard time finding a better game than this one.

Overall: 92%



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