STAFF REVIEW of Burnout Revenge (Xbox)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005.
by Yellowlab

Burnout Revenge Box art You know a game is good when it makes all the other games in its genre seem rather boring in comparison. Burnout 3 did just that. By the time I peeled the Xbox controller from my sweaty palms and moved onto other racing games, I noticed they all seemed to move too slowly and felt rather mundane. Burnout 3?s success was largely due to its innovative ability to seamlessly blend an action game with an arcade racer. The result was an incredibly fun, fast, and furious style of gameplay with plenty of carnage to assault your eyes and ears.

Almost a year to the day Burnout 3 was released, EA presents us with the sequel, Burnout Revenge. There are a handful of changes and additions, but none of them have an Earth shattering effect on the gameplay. It was nice to see that they did not fix what was broken, but at the same time the game feels like a new car without that new car smell.

The tweaks to the game are a mixed bag between good and bad. Hands down the best change is to the racing courses. Not only are the environments better from a visual perspective, but they are also much more entertaining to race through. Gone are the tight enclosed racetracks found in the previous Burnout titles. These courses are loaded with alternate paths, insane jumps, and hazardous obstacles that are handy for ramming your opponent into. For the Burnout enthusiast, this change alone should make the game worth the price of admission.

Another change is ?traffic checking?, which allows you to ram most of the same direction traffic (with the exception of larger vehicles). The checked vehicles are sent flying like a pinball hopped up on caffeine and sugar. They can be used to take out opponents and other traffic. I was somewhat torn on this addition. On one hand, it simply looks cool, is entertaining, and it cranks the carnage meter up to 11. On the other hand it takes away a little of the strategy and makes the game slightly more simple. You essentially no longer have to worry about hitting traffic in your lane - a big no-no in previous Burnout games.

The Burnout games have never been about realistic physics, but the fact that plowing into 10 cars in your lane does nothing to affect your speed, might be slightly overdoing it. In the end, I think the fun factor wins out and makes this a welcome addition. As singer Sheryl Crow once wisely pointed out ? ?if it makes you happy, it can?t be that bad?. I?ll go with Mrs. Lance Armstrong on this one.

I was also torn over the changes to the crash mode. This was one of the slickest features in Burnout 3. It was simple, fun, and accessible for gamers of all skill and ages. Some of the changes made to the crash mode in Burnout Revenge left me largely scratching my head. For example, they added what amounts to a laugh track. Crash and you?ll hear a very fake sounding audience applauding and screaming with delight? it?s bizarre and seems out of place.

Another oddity is that to start your vehicle in crash mode, you have to kick a field goal. That?s right, I said a field goal. EA essentially took their field goal meter from the Madden games and placed it in Burnout Revenge. You have to time button presses as the meter goes up and then back down. Do it wrong and your engine could blow up or stall causing you to have to restart. It?s baffling to me as to why they thought this would be a fun addition when just pressing on the gas pedal seems like a much better idea.

Another mind boggling change is there are no longer replays in crash mode. Half the fun of making all the carnage is to be able to watch it again and again and again. This time around you are out of luck.

However, it?s not all bad. The crash mode does have its improvements. The locations (ripped directly from the race courses) are much better and more creative. The jumps are more spectacular, and some nifty wind effects have been added. The multipliers, bonuses, and heartbreakers are gone. In its place there is simply a target vehicle that you can shoot for (after the initial wreck). Having the multiplier icons removed really opens up your options and strategy as you are no longer simply aiming for icons. Overall the crash mode is still fun, but I ultimately preferred the one found in Burnout 3.

The system by which you can earn medals (gold, silver, or bronze) for races has been slightly tweaked. This time around it?s not enough to simply win the race - you also have to drive recklessly enough to earn that final star. Win while driving like Grandma (boring, with little destruction) and watch your rating go from gold to silver. This was a nice little change that added some extra challenge while encouraging more destruction.

Crash breakers (blowing your vehicle up to cause destruction) have now graduated from just being in the crash mode to being utilized in races. It can be used to blow up opponents that attempt to pass your disabled vehicle. It works nicely to combat the rubber-band A.I. ? which has the opponents right on your behind regardless of how good you are driving. It will stop those little buggers from passing you by if you make one mistake. Crashing right before the finish line in Burnout 3 and losing your first place position was incredibly frustrating. Now you can simply blow up those right behind you and still have a crack at finishing in the top spot. I deem this to be a welcome addition, even if it does make it slightly easier.

While I am on the subject of rubber band A.I., I would like to add that the Burnout series in the only racing games that this type of A.I. feels appropriate. It keeps your opponent close, which increases the element of action. Racing all by your lonesome (way ahead or behind) would be so disappointing in this game when you have so much destruction at your fingertips.

Besides the changes above, the core of the game remains largely intact ? which is a good thing. You still race through career mode with a variety of race types (preview lap, eliminator, straight up races, tournaments, and traffic checking ? which takes the place of ?road rage? from B3). The basic gameplay feels the same. If you played B3, you should be able to jump right in on Burnout Revenge with out needing time to adjust.

Visually speaking, Burnout Revenge is by no means the prettiest racer out there and it will not give games like Forza Motorsport and Project Gotham 2 a run for their money. However, it does one thing better than any other racing game on the planet ? it creates an amazing sense of speed. The environments whiz by at an amazing pace, and the effects when hitting the turbo really do their job at conveying the sense of speed. While you won?t often stop to marvel at the environment, you really won?t have time to care.

All of the vehicles are unlicensed, but many of them closely resemble those found in the real world. There is a large variety of every type? from the smallest compact cars to the massive trucks. As a cross promotion by EA, you can get a special Madden truck if you have a Madden 06 save on your console.

The game features a decent soundtrack filled with acts such as the Chemical Brothers, Junkie XL, and Billy Talent. It is no Grand Theft Auto (they?re mostly lesser known songs from those bands), but it does the trick if you like that musical genre. As an added bonus, the game features custom soundtracks, so you can rip your favorite Perry Como and Frank Sinatra CDs to your hard drive and listen to your own tunes.

Ultimately Burnout Revenge is the same fun game that we discovered in Burnout 3. If you are a fan of the series and can ignore the fact that this isn?t a major evolutionary step, you will likely be satisfied with this new addition to the Burnout family. The casual fan that already has Burnout 3 would be best advised to rent it first for a test spin.

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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