Reviewed: April 8, 2006
Released: March 7, 2006
I’ve been a hardcore racing fan for nearly 15 years and a Burnout fan ever since Acclaim launched the series back in 2002. Burnout Revenge is the forth installment and second game since EA took over the franchise last year. Oddly enough, even though Criterion has been the developer on all four games, the series only got the recognition it so richly deserves after EA picked it up.
Burnout is one of those games that has been steadily improving since its inception. Everything about it, including our scores steadily increase each year, so you are probably asking yourself, “just how much better could the game get since last year’s Takedown?” or even, "how much better than last year's Burnout Revenge on the regular Xbox". The answer...a lot!
Burnout is a game that is all about speed…high speed…blinding high speed, and with high speed inevitably comes crashes…high speed crashes…devastating crashes…slow motions crashes…crashes that you can control and make even bigger and more devastating.
Last year's game added “Takedowns” to the gameplay recipe, whereby you took out your opponents, albeit temporarily, to increase your boost meter and your overall score and ranking in the “Burnout World Tour”. This year, as the name might suggest, the game adds a “Revenge” factor by which anyone who takes you out now becomes the object of your “revenge”, a feature that has been enhanced even more on the Xbox 360. But “revenge” is only one very small factor to this latest installment in the racing series.
There is a whole lot of new content and gameplay in Burnout Revenge and most of it has been tuned to perfection for release on the Xbox 360. Yes, the graphics will make your eyes bleed, but there is so much more, so let’s start at the beginning, the main menu, where you can choose from the World Tour or simply dive into a quick race or go online for any of several crash and race events.
World Tour is the place to start if you want to start unlocking cars, tracks, and new chapters in the main game. World Tour is comprised of 10 World Tour Ranks, each with numerous races of various flavors including standard Races, Traffic Attack, Burning Lap, Road Rage, Eliminator, Preview, and multi-race Grand Prix events. Of course those famous Crash Events are scattered throughout the World Tour and are just as fun as ever.
Most of the races I mentioned are already familiar to Takedown fans, but Revenge adds a few new ones and some new twists to existing modes. The Preview mode allows you to test drive the car you will “eventually” unlock when you complete the current chapter. Traffic Attack is a new mode that has you racing through rush-hour traffic using the new “checking” feature.
Checking traffic is something you are either going to love or hate. For me, it makes the game almost too easy and it can be especially irritating if you are playing Revenge and any of the older Burnout games, or even Burnout Legends on the PSP. You see, checking traffic allows you to hit other cars provided they are going the same direction as you and are not substantially larger than you (i.e. bus or truck).
Hitting any car in any of the older games resulted in an immediate and time consuming crash, so there is a bit of instinctual learning curve to fight your natural tendency to avoid traffic. Checked traffic can be used to boost your rank, take out opponents, and the designers have even created some Crash Events that encourage you to check traffic into intersections to help boost your overall damage score.
Crash Events have also been revamped for Revenge and the 360 version brings 10 new intersections to the mix along with some tweaked physics, so everything you “thought” you knew about those existing intersections may have just changed.
Instead of the intersections full of coins and bonus multipliers featured in Takedown this game has become more rooted in the basics, relying on you to create all of the chaos and actually earn those million dollar scores without the 2x and 4x multipliers, and believe me, it can be challenging.
As you may remember, Takedown featured a Crashbreaker system where you could detonate your wreck for bonus damage after so many cars became involved in the collision. There was also usually a Crashbreak icon and a Boost icon in the old game. In Revenge things are a bit different.
One significant and slightly depressing change from the other versions of Revenge is that the clutch-start system is now gone. You merely tap the A button for a perfect launch toward the intersection every time. No more blown engines and no more audience laughter. The downside is that on several of the crash challenges you didn’t always want to start at full speed. Now you don’t have a choice.
Once in the midst of all the carnage and destruction your Crashbreak meter will slowly start to rise based on the intensity of the collision. Once it hits 100% you immediately have to start rhythmically tapping the B button to maintain the explosion level for the duration of the short timer. Based on how high this meter is combined with the size of your vehicle will determine the power of the blast. Larger vehicles require faster presses of the B button but reward you with blasts that are just short of nuclear.
Also new to the Crash Event is that you can now execute multiple Crashbreaker explosions (my record is four in one crash so far), each cause more damage and each allowing you to steer your wreck into fresh undamaged vehicles. As your wreck arcs over the pile-up below there is a fiery blast and shockwave that now travels with you creating even more mayhem than before.
Crash Events start with a preview of the level and in an interesting twist, when you restart (as you will do often) the video rewinds in a hazy sepia tone visual style. It’s pretty sweet and does a good job of hiding the reload time for the level.
Each chapter in the World Tour has numerous challenges including those famous Signature Takedowns that require you to crash an opponent in a certain location on each track. You could try to do these intentionally, but chances are you can accomplish 80% of these goals through the normal course of the World Tour, then go back and pick up the missing photos later.
Level design, or should I say track design, is a lot more inventive in Revenge, with each location featuring numerous shortcuts, often highlighted with blue lights, that offer their own risk versus reward. The game is also more vertical with ramps and jumps that will have you achieving some mad-air, often resulting in the new Vertical Takedown. Shortcuts are great timesavers and will allow you to finish the courses in record time but they also take you away from the traffic, which is often necessary to earn high ranks.
Ranking up during a race is very important as it is the only way to achieve a PERFECT score for each event, and we all want to be perfect. There is an Event Rating meter that slowly rises as you drive dangerously or use turbo or perform takedowns or check traffic. It cycles through several stages starting with OK all the way to Awesome. Each meter takes longer to fill than the last and it will take an Awesome Event Rating plus a Gold medal to earn a PERFECT score and add to your Revenge Rank.
Revenge requires enemies, or in this case rivals. Rivals can be computer or real Live opponents, which leads into a serious revamping of the online portion of Burnout Revenge on the 360. The game now tracks people who have taken you out as well as your takedowns. These rivalries are tracked with green and red triangles along with a number of how many takedowns. It only takes one takedown to get your revenge.
While the concept is pretty cool in the World Tour mode, the rivalry only lasts for as long as the race. Online, you might play for a month or longer before you meet up with somebody who owes you some payback or vice versa. It’s a pretty cool concept. The online game modes also track individual records for various tracks and game modes, clearly indicating the “car to beat” before the race starts.
Bottom line; there is a lot more of the same gameplay that we’ve come to expect from the Burnout name and plenty of new and improved gameplay additions and enhancements. Even if you don’t like what Criterion has added there is still a ton of new cars and tracks and awesome new visuals that make this a must-own game.
In addition to the ten new crash intersections the 360 also offers an awesome replay feature that allows you to replay your races and record 30-second clips. You can store up to 20 of these clips and trade them online. There is even a ranking system and special achievement if you can get your clip into the Top 20.
While the replay clips are a cool idea I would have also enjoyed something along the lines of what PGR3 offers where you can watch entire races. Some of the burning laps are incredibly hard and I’m sure many could benefit from watching how other racers approaches those events.
The Burnout series has always been on the cutting edge of graphic technology – Criterion did develop RenderWare for heaven’s sake – but the graphics for Burnout Revenge on the 360 are by far some of the best ever seen in the series. Yes, it’s true that there isn’t a huge leap in quality from the Xbox version but that only goes to prove how good Criterion can program for old consoles. Even so, if you play this game on an HDTV you will get a tear in your eye.
As far as lighting, texture, construction, and overall detail, the game can best be compared to the 360 version of NFS: Most Wanted. There is a bit of hazy effect, almost like heat distortion, blooming and blurring around the edges of the screen to enhance the sensation of speed, and some of the most explosive particle effects on any 360 game to date – yes even Full Auto.
The game flows at blistering framerates, even with dozens of onscreen vehicles, flying Traffic Check wreckage, awesome particle effects and jaw dropping vistas – all onscreen at the same time – it’s all quite impressive indeed. The game suffers slightly during online play at peak times, but for the most part the game is just as smooth online as off.
The cars may be unlicensed fantasy rides but they sure look sweet, all crisp and jaggy-free, with real-time environmental reflections and shadowing. You can even see the chrome engine gleaming through the transparent cover on some of the more exotic rides. And you won’t believe how good these cars look when they get wrecked. The damage modeling is mind-boggling with hundreds of individual parts and fully deformable body panels.
And then there are the crashes. Do I really need to say anything about the crashes? Let’s just say that you have only seen stuff like this in the movies – and even then it hasn’t looked this good. The particle effects, the debris, the sparks, the fire, the rolling shockwaves – you just have to see it to believe it and even then you might not trust your eyes.
Kudos to the design team for some of the most visually inspired award trophies in gaming history. You actually get to watch as any of a dozen or more trophies are created from CG cars that smash and crash and explode into something you can put in your virtual trophy case. Of course you’ll probably want to skip the animations after the first two or three times but you can always show them of again later.
And finally, I have to give a big shout of approval to the non-static splash screens that live somewhere in the realm of 3D and holograms. Using some type of multi-layering technology you have cars, debris, and particle sparks all on their own “levels” and each splash screen slowly rocks back and forth giving you an incredible sense of depth – like those hologram pictures at the mall, only not as hard to see.
While I enjoyed the sound package of the last Burnout game DJ Stryker was the first think I turned off, so you can imagine my glee when I found he had been dropped in favor of a sexier female narrator who only talks during the opening movie then leaves you alone to experience the sound and music for yourself.
The soundtrack features the traditional rock, techno, and electronica mixes that fit with the general racing theme. There is a good selection that will hold-up for about half the game, possibly more if you really enjoy the selection, but the custom soundtrack feature was something I started using after about 20 hours in.
Sound effects are outstanding starting with the turbo that pops and roars like the afterburner on an F-15. Combined with the streaking visuals around the borders of the screen and you really feel like you are doing 185mph. Collisions are powerful with metal tearing and screeching as it pulls apart and thunderous explosions and the cracking and tinkle of glass as windshields disintegrate. The 5.1 surround mix will rock your world on any Dolby Digital equipped gaming system.
Much like the last game, World Tour is where you will spend the first 40+ hours of your Burnout experience, at least until you have unlocked enough cars and tracks to be somewhat competitive with the online community. For the most part the solo game dictates which cars you can drive so all of those new cars you unlock are reserved for the quick games and going online for the Party Crash.
I played Burnout Revenge until I achieved True Elite status, which equates to getting “perfects” on every World Tour race in the game. It’s harder than you think and most rewarding when you accomplish it, and not just for the 70 Achievement points.
There are 1000 Achievement points divided amongst 35 objectives, including one that is just about impossible to ever get. I speak of the Celebrity Status achievement, which requires you to get your replay clip into the Top 20. This is one of those achievements that gets progressively more difficult as more people buy and play the game online. Plus the fact that the guy in the #1 slot uploaded his replay a month before the game was even available just puts a sour twist on this elusive goal.
The rest of the Achievements are split between solo and online play and not terribly challenging provided you play this game for as long as most dedicated racers will. Winning 50 races online is tough but settling a rival score 100 times with the same guy is tougher. But just sharing one replay clip (whether its watched or not) nets you 10 points.
To keep online gamers from exploiting the Achievement point system or you can only invite your friends into unranked races, preventing you from “working the system”. Ultimately, you have to race strangers in randomly selected groupings to improve your rank, and only by beating higher ranked racers, does your own rank increase.
For those who like to scavenger hunt, you can take your 360 memory card around to various retailers and download custom cars exclusive to their own kiosks. Walmart, Circuit City, Best Buy, and several other retailers all have cars you can download into your garage, plus look for a host of new sponsor cars inside the game like the Logitech racer and the ultra-cool Alienware car.
It’s not often I can wholeheartedly recommend a game for mandatory purchase, especially at it’s full $59 launch price, but Burnout Revenge for the 360 is one of those games that you don’t want to sit back and wait for a price drop. There is just too much fun to be had NOW!
Whether you are a fan of the previous games or just want to experience the absolute best in arcade racing, Burnout Revenge is a game that you won’t be able to stop playing once you start, so grab a copy today and clear your calendar for the next six months.