marino's Burnout Revenge (Xbox) review

Improving on Burnout 3 Proves to Be Difficult

Burnout 3 was one of the best games of 2004; some would even say THE best.  Creating a followup to a game that great is always difficult but Criterion has answered that challenge successfully.  Burnout Revenge, although not as "holy shit look at this" as its predecessor, is an excellent game.  By bringing back almost everything that was great about Takedown and adding such features as "Traffic Checking," vertical takedowns, and an increased focus on track variations, Burnout Revenge has firmly placed itself next to its precursor as a must-own title for racing fans and non-racing fans alike.     
 
 
Graphics 
Once again the graphics are incredible, which you would expect from the company that makes the engine which so many of the other companies use.  The game has an overall grittier feel than previous entries and the courses have a much more varied design.  Every track has seemingly dozens of different routes to the finish line, whether they're underground, through the woods, or through the air.  Revenge does have a bit of Rush in it this year with the amount of jumps and airtime you'll be experiencing.  The first time you nail a Vertical Takedown is one you'll not soon forget.  The EA ads are back, but not as predominant as last year and definitely not as sickeningly present as Underground 2.  So no 70ft high Tiger Woods heads thankfully.  The blazing sensation of speed is back and better than ever, especially when have a good, long, continuous boost going.  The tracks take place in some real-world cities this time but for whatever reason they can't or simply don't use the real names, so Detroit is "Motor City," L.A. is "Angel Valley," Rome is "Eternal City," etc.  The game supports 480p, which is great, but you'll have to wait for the 360 version for 720p.  The only complaints are some questionable calls in the presentation design, but all-in-all this is one of the best looking console games to date.     
 
 
Control 
Much like the graphics, back and just as good before.  All the new features from last return, though with a bit of an update.  You now have the ability to hit almost anyone driving the same direction as you without causing yourself any trouble.  Trailers and buses are a no-no, but pretty much everything else is a go.  They refer to this as "traffic checking," and it allows you to create wreckage to take out rivals behind your, or even makeshift projectiles to take out people ahead of you.  If timed correctly you can check a car into oncoming traffic for a "Trick Shot," effectively destroying dozens of cars going the opposite direction without ever risking your own car.  This is definitely fun, but it does take away that constant edge-of-your-seat fear of crashing that was part of the fun of Burnout 3.  To go along with this new feature is an all new mode called Traffic Attack, which starts you off with a timer and a goal of a certain amount of money.  The object is to create as much wreckage as possible within the time limit.  Each car you total earns you more time on the clock as well as adding to your monetary value of damage.  They have also added Crashbreakers, originally only in Crash mode, into regular races.  They aren't always armed, but if they are, whenever you get taken out, you can blow up your car and get immediate revenge.  Crash mode has some new features as well.  They have removed all of the power-ups, which in-turn makes the mode require more strategy rather than just aiming for the 4X icon every time.  Crashbreakers are ignited by racking up cars which fill up your boost meter.  The crappy part is that once your Crashbreaker is armed, you have to rapidly tap A to keep it at 100% before it explodes creating a massive shockwave.  This is fairly stupid.  Another annoying new feature in Crash mode is the starting line.  They've added the dreaded EA arch from every EA Sports game ever.  So basically you tap A to start the meter, tap to set the power, then tap at the bottom to set.....accuracy?  Yeah...I guess.  Thing is that if you screw up the start, your car could explode.  What purpose this serves I do not know.  It just wastes time.  To finish up, one cool new feature in Crash mode is the effect that wind has.  This adds even more strategy to your crashes since most of them include crazy jumps and huge drops now.     
 
 
Sound 
Well, the soundtrack isn't as exclusively indy-punk-pop-rock as it was before, but it's by no means great.  Luckily you can still choose to use your own music so I'll let the soundtrack slide.  The sound design in the rest of the game is amazing.  The overall sense of speed mentioned above owes just as much credit to the sound as it does to the graphics.  If you have a surround sound setup, you simply must own this game on that premise alone.  The sound effects are some of the best ever.  On the presentation side, the DJ has been removed, which is probably a good thing.  A female voice narrates the tutorials from Crash FM, but she does not appear mid-race like last year's game.  One question I have is why did they add cheering sound effects to the Crash mode?  Aren't hundreds of innocent people dying?  Oh well. 
 
 
Replay Value 
Burnout Revenge sports a hefty single player game much like last year with a balanced mix of event types that will keep you far from bored.  There is a new progression meter that ranks you based on your performance.  So in every event you are not only trying to win, but win with style.  You start an event as just "OK" but as you drift, slam, grind, jump, and takedown opponents, you earn more stars and your rank will go through "Good," "Great," and hopefully "Awesome."  The goal is to achieve "Awesome" AND win the vent.  Doing so will result in the ranking of "Perfect" and five stars towards your overall rank.  If you achieve "Awesome" but only score a Bronze, your rank in that event will actually drop to "Great."  So it's all or nothing almost.  So if you're OCD like me and have to have 100%, you're gonna be doing many of the events several times to get that Perfect score.  Overall though, the single player World Tour seems a bit easier than last year.  Whether that's due to a year worth of practice on 3, or if it's just flat out easier, I'm not sure.  Online the game uses a similar progression system, although you will move through it alot easier.  For multiplayer it uses a version of Halo 2's matchmaking to put you with racers of your current rank.  They also use the party system from Halo 2, which is a great upgrade from the bland lobbies of Burnout 3.  If you don't have Live, you're still gonna be glued to your set for a long time.  The game is just that good.     
 
 
Conclusion 
This is still an amazing game.  It is definitely a must-have for any PS2 or Xbox owner.  Just like I said last year, by not playing this you are doing a disservice to yourself.  It definitely has its quirks though.  Like why did they take out the Single Event mode?  Now I have to dig through the World Tour to find that Crash event in Detroit that I want to play.  How hard would it have been to make a text menu with "Location:, Event:, Car:"?  And what's the deal with the ridiculously slow rewind effect on Crash mode when I hit "Retry"?  Minor hiccups in the grand scheme of things, but still dumb design.  If you own a PS2 or Xbox, go get Burnout Revenge right now.  You deserve it. 
 
 
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***
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