Reviewed: October 3, 2005
Released: September 13, 2005
I may have been late to step into the current generation of consoles – I waited almost a year and a half post launch before picking up my first PS2 – but I wasn’t late on the Burnout wagon. In fact, the original Burnout was the very first game I played on my own PS2, and that particular game changed my view on racing games completely.
You see, prior to Burnout I had become a bit of a racing simulation snob – relishing the “caRPG” elements in the likes of the Gran Turismo, Colin McRae and ToCA franchises, while consciously avoiding the arcade-styled meanderings of the Ridge Racer, Test Drive and Need for Speed titles. I was obsessed with tweaking and tuning, trying to get every last bit of traction or acceleration out of my rides – and if a game didn’t offer such options, it wasn’t worth it in my book.
But on that particular day – the Friday evening when I finally swapped $200 of my hard-earned cash for a used PS2, a pair of controllers and a memory card – I stopped off at the local rental store to pick up a copy of Gran Turismo 3, only to find that every single copy had already been rented out. In fact, nearly every PS2 game was rented out save for a few lame puzzle games and a single copy of a recently released and relatively unknown game from Acclaim called Burnout. I knew nothing of the game, but without many options, I chose to take it home.
I was not expecting much from Burnout – and boy, was I surprised. The game instantly took me back to my early days of gaming – back before I knew what terms like “downforce”, “camber” and “body roll” meant, back to when pulling off a perfect powerslide was every bit as enjoyable as nailing a good racing line, and back when crashes made you smile rather than triggering you to restart your race.
Burnout featured a blinding sense of speed and precise controls, all wrapped up in kick-ass visuals – including the now-famous larger-than-life crash scenes. What I learned (or relearned) that auspicious weekend was that a racing game doesn’t necessarily have to follow all of the rules of reality or physics, nor feature intricate tuning and tweaking options to be a heck of a lot of fun.
So here we are, four years and three sequels later; Acclaim has long been out of business and EA ultimately owns the Burnout franchise now, but with original developers Criterion still at the helms, the Burnout series just keeps getting bigger – and arguably – better.
I don’t know where to start in explaining Burnout Revenge to you readers. If you are one of those gamers who have already played any of the previous Burnout installments, then you already know what you are in for – and in the case of Burnout Revenge, the action is even faster and more frenetic than last year’s Burnout 3: Takedown, a game which is still widely regarded by the media as the best arcade racing title ever released.
For that handful of gamers who have been hiding under a rock for the past few years and never played a Burnout game, well you really owe it to yourself to go back to the beginning – if not to the original Burnout, at least to Burnout 2: Point of Impact – then work your way through Takedown and finally onto this release. Why? Because year after year, the Burnout series has offered the most exhilarating and rewarding arcade-styled racing experience in gaming, period. Ridge Racer? Nope. Need for Speed? No way. Midnight Club? Uh-uh. Test Drive? Hardly. Each of those series is a great in their own respects, but none has consistently supplied the entire package of blazing fast speeds, precise control, pinpoint accuracy and kick-ass visuals we get from the Burnout series.
The developers at Criterion have never been ones to rest on their laurels, and as a result each successive Burnout release has upped the ante substantially from the previous.
Burnout 2: Point of Impact took the popularity of the over-the-top crash cutscenes from the original title and built an entirely separate crash mode around it; giving gamers populated intersections in which to make the biggest and costliest crashes.
Burnout 3: Takedown allowed gamers to crash-n-bash with the competition (AI, splitscreen or online), performing “Takedowns” that temporarily totaled the loser and rewarded the victor with increased level of boost – an absolute necessity to winning races in the Burnout world.
Burnout Revenge takes things a step, nigh a leap, further than the others by the complete overhaul of pretty much every element in the Burnout formula making Burnout Revenge really a massively different game than any of the prior releases. And in a world where racing games often tend to make only incremental changes with each subsequent release (Need for Speed, Gran Turismo) and tout them as a “new”, having a series like Burnout totally reinvent itself time after time is a real treat.
So let’s talk about the details that make Revenge such a different and great game.
Check for Traffic
Well, that’s the beauty of it all – because not every vehicle can be checked. True, some fairly large vehicles can be unrealistically flicked out of your way, but some – buses and semis mainly – will not yield to your fancy little sports car. So, while you are encouraged to use traffic checking as much as possible (by offering rewards of boost increments and full-on traffic Takedowns), you now have to sort through all of the flying wreckage to make sure that a well-placed bus or truck is not hiding ahead. And just to keep things on the level with the prior games, you will receive the biggest bang for your boost-grubbing buck by driving in the oncoming lane – so old school needle threading is still an option.
Take the Long Way Home
Obviously, particularly attentive gamers will profit by finding the best timesaving shortcuts, but don’t expect any handouts, because the brilliant level design has made it so that nearly every shortcut comes with a price – maybe forcing the gamer to clear impossible jumps or avoid particularly deadly obstacles to reap the rewards of a shorter path.
The ultimate result of these branching pathways is that a player can log many hours behind the wheel in the career mode cycling through the rotation of events and for the most part have a different experience with each return to a particular track.
Obstacles on the Road
Burnout Revenge bumps up the difficulty substantially by laying the courses out with all of the same choke points, tunnels, and corners from before – but then removing the protective railings and walls, exposing all of the sharp edges and outcroppings just begging for head-on damage. The results are startling and severe, and you’ll want to smash your controller more often than not, but that’s the name of the game when you are playing Burnout – and it’s oh-so good.
Under the new system, gamers can use the Crashbreaker trigger in retaliation to being the victim of a Takedown, but only if they time it within moments of impact. If the timing works out right, and the gamer can successfully pull off a race Crashbreaker returning the favor to a rival who inflicted his Takedown, it will result in both an increase in boost and a better return-to-race position.
Meet Me at the Intersection of Hollywood and Vine
You know, I could go on and on about Burnout Revenge, but the gist is that the game simply rocks and is far-and-away a different game from the earlier versions. Whether or not you have played out the previous versions – you need this game.
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 are by far some of the best ever seen on the PS2. I would venture to say that pound-for-pound, they even beat out Gran Turismo 4 for overall beauty, clarity and framerate.
The game flows at a crisp 60fps with nary a quiver, 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 cars may be unlicensed fantasy rides – but they sure look sweet – all crisp and jag-less, with realtime environmental reflections and shadowing. 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.
I really can't say more about the graphics other than they really are something to behold. And just as a side note, I have compared the PS2’s graphics to the Xbox, and this is one of the very few cases where the PS2 version looks and runs just as well – if not better – than it’s Xbox brethren.
Along the same lines as the graphics, Burnout Revenge features top-notch sound quality, including some of the best sound effects and mixing in the business. And thankfully, the annoying DJ Stryker does not make a return appearance – Burnout 3 fans, rejoice!
The media and gamers alike pitched a fit over Burnout 3: Takedown’s EA Trax soundtrack, which featured for the most part relatively unknown garage and emo bands. Personally, I didn’t have much of a problem with the music, so I wasn’t all that disappointed to find that Burnout Revenge doesn’t stray too far from Takedown’s guitar-fueled flavor. There are enough techno bits to satiate the electronica fans out there (including a truly amazing Chemical Brothers cut), but for the most part the music leans towards post-punk pop and garage.
Let’s just say that I am a good 20 hours into Burnout Revenge, and I still have a lot of ground left to cover in the career mode. This game is absolutely huge for a racing game, and while some of the modes might get a bit tired after a while, Revenge is always throwing something new your way.
And if you ever do finish Revenge’s career mode, there is also a healthy online community racing through EA’s servers. Due to the intensity of the graphics, and to EA’s constantly troublesome servers, I can’t say that the online play is without flaws – in fact, you will be disconnected more that not. But when you do find a smooth party to run with, you will be in heaven.
If there’s one racing game to buy on the PS2 this year, it is Burnout Revenge. The game really has the entire package sewn up.
Year after year, Criterion has been pumping out one of the best racing franchises, and Revenge is a great addition to the family. Regardless of your feelings towards EA, you owe it to yourself and Criterion to check out their kick-ass series of games.