The Burnout series has done for arcade racing what Mortal Kombat did for the fighting genre: it reinvented it and added a few new twists. Burnout 3 was a true realization of the series and propelled Burnout to become one of the greatest franchises around today. It was a game that rewarded aggressive and dirty driving with non-stop thrills, an insane sense of speed, and some of the most insane crashes youíve ever seen. Now a year later we have Burnout Revenge, a game that takes everything good from Burnout 3 and improves on it in every way possible. The result is one of the fastest and most aggressive driving games that will grab you, with palms sweating and on the edge of your seat for hours on end.
The first change you might notice is the interface in the world tour mode which now works on a ranking system. Youíll score points in races based off of your style, like taking big jumps and taking risks which will give you ratings that range from OK to awesome. Accomplishing a certain number of race-specific goals or getting to the finish line will earn you medals which also affect the number of points you can get in a race. Gold medals will earn one point, silver will get you zero, and bronze will take away one point. Once you hit the requisite number of points youíll graduate to the next rank where a bunch of new races await you. You can also unlock new races in your current rank, new cars, and even trophies which could keep you coming back to the same race over and over again if youíre looking for that elusive 100% completion.
On your road to 100% completion, youíll be competing in over 150 different events consisting of a few different types of races. You have your standard race mode where youíll have to battle opponents for first place. Road rage puts you up against an unlimited number of opponents where youíll have to eliminate a set number of them to earn medals and advance. Crash mode is a type of puzzle game where youíre put into a busy freeway or intersection and try to figure out how to make the biggest pileups occur. Burning lap has you trying to make one lap on a track in a set amount of time. If you do good enough in certain events, you have the chance to be invited to special preview events where you can race on new tracks or test drive some of the high end cars.
While most of the gameplay is pretty much the same as Burnout 3, there are some slight changes that have been made. Burnout Revenge now allows you to hit pedestrian traffic and hurl them towards opponents and for a boost bonus. Thereís also a new race mode called traffic attack which runs you through a track as you hit traffic and rock up a damage cost. While youíre able to hit the smaller vehicles, busses and semis still remain deadly, but you can still hurdle cars towards them for skill shot bonuses. As if the series wasnít fast paced enough in the first place, the addition of hitting traffic keeps things fast and can offer some interesting strategies into the mix for the standard race and road rage modes. Having a problem catching up to the competition? Just hurl some cars at them!
The Burnout series is known for its almost overwhelming sense of speed and split second decision making. Burnout Revenge is no different in those respects since the game seems to prod you into being constantly on the move. In race and road rage modes youíll be going up against overly aggressive opponents who youíll have to run off the road, crash into walls, and into traffic in order to get ahead. Doing so will boost your boost meter which will achieve almost unreal speeds and help you to take down your opponents (and yourself if youíre not careful) much easier. If you end up crashing, itís easy to get back into the running again since your opponents will never be too far away. The same goes if youíre in first place, opponents will always be on your ass and threatening your position. It all turns out to be frantic, fast paced, and exciting no matter how good you think you are. In later races youíll have the option of using a crashbreaker after you crash to get instant revenge on your opponents. A crashbreaker is basically a timed explosion that you can set off with the R2 button that will clear out anything thatís around you at the moment and is just perfect if you want to try to keep your place in a race.
Youíll also have to be choosey with the cars that you race with since certain tracks may call for certain kinds of cars. Super light cars will be manhandled by opponents in events like road rage where you have to take down a certain number of opponents while heavier cars will be able to take them down with ease, but can lack the speed to catch up to the next group of cars to take down. Cars are also rated by the force they can ram with and their top speed.
While gauging your overly aggressive opponents and the traffic you can and cannot hit, the tracks in Burnout Revenge are brimming with shortcuts that you can keep track of to get an edge. The designers were kind enough to mark a lot of these shortcuts with blue lights so that you can quickly branch off of the main track which is always good. Some shortcuts lack any kind of traffic while others will be small alleyways with dumpsters or walls sticking out that youíll have to dodge through making shortcuts a double edged sword at times.
Another popular portion of Burnout 3 was crash mode and itís back in full force here. The crash mode is a little more refined this time around to where the bonus coins and boost power-ups are nowhere to be found. Instead, youíll start with a start meter where you have to time your start to see how fast youíll go. This offers a little more strategy into crash mode so that you can time your run a lot easier. Once you get a pileup going, a crashbreaker meter will fill at the bottom of the screen, once it fills, you can pump up a crashbreaker with the R2 button and cause an explosion that will scatter surrounding traffic and allow you to propel your car into a more opportune spot or places you might have missed. Placed strategically in every crash level is a target car which replaces the cash bonus coins in Burnout 3. Youíll have to try to somehow involve the target car in your pileup if you even want a chance to win a gold medal. Youíll have to also think about which cars to use for crash mode because the same stats in the race modes are also taken into account here. A car that can hit cars with a lot of force may cause them to overshoot their marks or heavy cars may not be able to make certain jumps. Thereís also a stat for the power of a vehicleís crashbreaker which determines how much power they can pack which youíll also have to take into account.
In addition to the single player world tour mode, Burnout Revenge also has a couple of multiplayer modes you can dive into as well. In addition to split screen racing for two players, you can also race online with up to six players. While playing online, road rage mode is team based with one team racing while the other team attempts to take them down. You can play any of the race events online and there are even some modified versions of crash mode thrown in too.
As with previous games in the series, Burnout Revenge doesnít use licensed cars since the companies that make them donít believe they can be wrecked. Instead, the game offers 78 ďgenericĒ cars that are really well designed; insomuch that it wouldnít hurt for the engineers at Ford to take a few queues from Criterion. Youíll even get a few amusing choices for crash mode like some destruction derby cars and even a mobile diner complete with a Carlís Jr. logo on it. If you have a Burnout 3 or Madden í06 save on your memory card, youíll get bonus cars which is a nice gesture of showing EA loyalty. Each car shines like it was brand new and casts reflections realistically. You almost donít want to drive aggressively with them to avoid making them look worse. Of course, thatís not a problem since the crashes and pileups youíll get into are simply beautiful. Cars will fly apart, hurdle through the air, and smash according to how theyíre hit. Youíll never encounter any kind of slowdown and pop-up is non-existent even at the speed the game is going. Other games simply donít have an excuse from this point forward. There are some issues where the camera will get stuck and not allow you to move in crash mode or itíll get stuck in the ground during a takedown and cause all sorts of blank textures to show up. Itís really just a small gripe.
I canít really get across the sense of speed this game gives, but itís definitely the best at conveying breakneck speeds. The environment will blur the faster you go giving you a kind of tunnel vision when youíre laying on the boost and giving you a lot more heart pounding close calls. Thereís a good variety of environments here, though youíll go through all of them before rank 6 is done, after that, youíll be going through different variations of the tracks for the rest of the game. Youíll race through narrow mountain passes, through the dingy streets of Motor City, the beachside roads of Sunshine Keys, the winding streets of Eternal City, and the busy highways of Eastern Bay just to name a few. Each environment is nicely detailed and true to its real life counterpart.
In true Burnout fashion, the soundtrack consists of licensed music ranging from punk to electronic and features such bands as Pennywise, MxPx, and The Chemical Brothers. Whether or not this mixes in with the action onscreen is a matter of preference. The sound makes up half of the gameís sense of speed since youíll hear things whizzing by as you pass them which should really be experienced on a surround sound system. If there was ever an excuse to buy one, this game would be it.
Burnout Revenge makes the best even better in terms of arcade racing action. While some purists may snub their noses at it, anyone who has ever enjoyed an arcade racer in their lives owes it to themselves to play this game. Itís truly the most exciting thing to happen in racing games in a long time.
- Brad Hicks (Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media