The Burnout frachise has emerged as my favorite franchise for this generation. No other series has really matched the exhilaration, destruction, simplicity and fun that Criterion has done with this series. Last year's Burnout 3: Takedown turned the racing genre on it's ear by being the only game that gave less a crap about tuning, modding or overly complicated racing models and just gave us simple flame-broiled racing goodness. Burnout Revenge is much like Burnout 3, maybe more so in some areas, and perhaps less so in other areas. But it's still one hell of a ride that you should take, especially if you love wonton destruction.
Burnout Revenge is similar in design to Burnout 3, but some tweaks have been made (some better, some worse). The progression model is different this time, where you have 11 different ranks to reach. You can increase your rank by performing "well" in races, by causing takedowns, driving in the wrong lanes, etc., and in what place or goal you meet by the end of the race. The problem, however, is that experienced Burnout players (like me) can blast through the ranks rather quickly. It's not that hard to get 4 or 5 star ratings for each event, and you can actually hit the top rank before you even finish the game. At least there is some incentive to get 5-star ratings for each event, though. Completing all events will take between 16-20 hours, depending on how many times you go back to an event and get a better rank. Sadly, Criterion decided to remove the Single Player mode altogether, so going back for a racing or crash quick-fix is tougher this time, because you'll have to hunt through the world tour to find the location and event your looking for. At least it keeps track of your records, and the stat-tracking is pretty thourough. Online play still remains, as does multiplayer.
New elements to Burnout Revenge has been added to the races, including crashbreakers, traffic checking, and a couple of new takedowns. Crashbreaker races are probably one of the most fun and satisfying elements to Burnout Revenge. Here, races are the same, except when you crash, you can fire off a crashbreaker that (depending on how much boost you have) unleashes a wave of fire and explosive force. Manage to takedown anyone using a crashbreaker, and you've scored a "payback" takedown. You can actually blow up all 5 opponents in one blast for Total Payback, which is pretty funny as well as satisfying. Be careful, though, because if you blow up your car and NOT hit and opponent, you lose your boost. Traffic checking pretty much allows you to plow through most of the same-way traffic during a race. If you thought Burnout 3 was too tough because of the traffic getting in the way, traffic checking makes things easier. You can hit small cars and vans, but busses and trailers, as well as cross traffic will still cause you to crash. You can also takedown opponents with the cars you hit, but for some reason they can't take you down with traffic. A couple of new takedowns have been introduced: the vertical takedown and the revenge takedown. If you land on top of a car from a jump (or just getting air), you can score a vertical takedown. Revenge takedowns were supposed to be the "best takedowns" you could get according to the developers, but I really can't see how. They really don't boost your rank all that much, and the only real use is for meeting the goals for the course. I'd say that the Payback takedowns have more weight than the revenge ones do.
The crash mode has been tweaked, and made a bit more challenging this time around. You've probably heard before that the crash mode in Burnout Revenge was going to be similar to golf. In a way, it kind of is. When you start the event, you'll have a meter on the left side where you need to hit the "sweet spots" (usually in green) for a perfect boost. It's not that tough to master, and does add something to the event. How the cars are positioned this time is much more challenging before. It's not just one area you'll need to hit to cause massive destruction. There may be two or three spots you need to reach to get the highest crash total possible. This can be done through crashbreakers, which build up with the more cars you cause to crash. When you get one activated, you need to press the button repeatedly to deploy the crashbreaker at full strength. The mode is much tougher this time around, and does require some skill. Unfortunatley, the number of crash events has been cut from the 100 in Burnout 3, to 40.
Some race events got a bit of a makeover, too. The Eliminator event has actually seen a change for the better. Now, every 30 seconds someone who is in last place gets eliminated, rather than just lap by lap. It makes the race go by quicker, and adds more challenge to the race. Road Rage events now have a timer as well, where when you eliminate "X" number of cars, you get more time
to stay in the race. Why you can't get additional time after you get a gold medal is beyond me. A new event to Burnout Revenge is the Traffic Attack mode, where you can go Lindsay Lohan on same way traffic and make money at the same time. Again, this is a timed event, and each car you hit adds a second or two to the clock, and getting trick shots (hitting cars into oncomming traffic) can refill your timer. While it seems like an easy event, the later stages prove otherwise.
I think I covered much of the gameplay, so lets move on to visuals. While Criterion opted for a "darker look" for the game, it's not nearly as dreary as they made it sound. In fact, only a couple of courses seem to have a monotone look to them. Much of the other courses are colorful and dripping with bloom lighting. The game moves as fast as it did before, with the framerate staying almost constantly at 60 fps. I did notice a little hiccup here and there, but it takes a hell of a lot of effects to make that happen. And speaking of effects, Burnout Revenge has the best looking particle system out of most games on the market. The fire and explosion effects are excellent as well and just round off a slick looking package. Even the car models are better this time around, with smoother looking, and more realistic models. One question, though: WHERE THE HELL IS THE PERSON DRIVING THE CAR? Why not just eat the T-rating and put somebody in there? Burnout Revenge is one of the most visually solid multiplatform games ever to be released in this generation. I own the Xbox version, but I played the PS2 version, and it's pretty impressive that everything in the Xbox version can be pulled off in the PS2 build with no real problems.
The audio is excellent as well. You not only get a visual sense of speed, but an audio one as well, where you have all of the whooshes you expect to hear at high speeds. They still do a better job at this than EA does for the NFSU games. The crashes seem a little more subdued, at least with your car, in some instances. There's a few times where when I crashed all I would get is a bass-heavy thud. But the traffic and opponent crashes don't really have this problem. One of the best audio elements is within the takedowns. If you didn't like the takedown camera before, you might want to leave it on here, because the cuts are quicker and better, as well as loud as hell. It's like everytime you takedown an opponent, you get this loud, heavy "whoosh" that you really can't get enough of. The soundtrack really didn't strike me as "good" this time around, and I would go as far to say that it's actually a little worse than Burnout 3's. I know everyone else hated Burnout 3's soundtrack, but I really didn't have that big of an issue with it. Hey, at least there's custom soundtracks!
I hate to say this, but Burnout Revenge just isn't at the same level of greatness where Burnout 3 was. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great game, even an excellent one. But some of the changes and omissions kind of impacted my feelings towards this installment. My biggest problems are with the hurried progression and the removal of the single-player race modes. But it's still worth playing, as the crashbreaker races are just too fun to pass up, as well as the rest of the game itself. I know Criterion wanted to shake things up from Burnout 3, and in some ways they did, but I think they needed a little more than just 11 months to surpass the bar they set with last years game. But, even with those complaints, I still reccomend the game highly.