At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey Xbox Electronic Arts Criterion 1-4 (Split screen), 2-6 (Take turns, Xbox Live) Here
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Burnout Revenge review

Though it's just over a year since Burnout 3 hit shelves, along comes another edition. Are we now going to see yearly updates? It's too early to say, but with EA in control, it seems likely. Still, let's just concern ourselves with the fourth game in a successful and critically acclaimed series.

So, a graphical update and a few new cars? Well, yes, these are new features in Burnout Revenge, as is thankfully an improved online mode. However, the major change in this year's addition actually goes against one of the main concepts of the previous three titles; avoiding traffic. While avoiding a head-on collision with on-coming traffic or slamming into the side of a bus is still to be avoided, you can now slam into the back of vehicles going in the same direction as you. This "traffic checking" sends the cars and vans flying through the air, often taking out other cars, and more importantly, can take out your opponents for the "traffic check takedown".

Ah, yes, the takedown. Burnout 3's namesake was an important new element in the series - it allowed you to take out opponents by ramming them into traffic or off the track, or 'psyching them out', thus creating the excellent Road Rage mode. In Revenge, the namesake piece is actually an extension of the takedowns, and means that when taken down by one of your competitors on the track, they become a rival, and thus a secondary aim is to take revenge. This isn't just for personal satisfaction - doing so gives quite a significant gain in turbo, and so your targets for revenge are made more obvious with a different coloured label above their car. It is certainly pleasing to achieve Revenge Takedowns, though at the same time it doesn't seem to be much of a progression, considering they existed in an understated form in Burnout 3 - and arguably there are already too many ways to gain turbo, particularly with the traffic checking.

And so we've looped. Traffic checking provides such a fundamental shift in gameplay that it's hard to avoid bringing up again and again in the review. It's going to divide fans, that's for sure. Some will like the ability to keep up the pace without being able to drive through everything; however others - in particular hardcore fans of the series - will deplore the apparent 'dumbing down' for the masses, which leaves a game which is arguably too easy for anyone with a competent experience of the series and is used to actually having to avoid everything but your opponents. So is it good or bad? It depends. It is crazy, but then that fits with the nature of the series (for Burnout was never a Gran Turismo rival). It is probably too easy, but that's likely to please some people who grow tired of the extreme difficulty and required over-precision of some racing titles. It is ultimately not something that I alone can decide, though I can say that in the long run it feels like the series is almost losing it's charm, and is yet another mass-market tool for EA.

Back to what's changed. The new crashbreaker events are only an incremental increase from the events offered in Burnout 3 and in Revenge itself, but do offer the opportunity to gain an elusive "Total Payback", where every opponent is taken out in the crashbreaker explosion. In fact, the crashbreaker also plays an important part in the much-improved crash mode. The mode has always been a multiplayer favourite since it's inclusion in Burnout 2, and it was somewhat damaged in Burnout 3 due to the over-reliance on new pick-ups, in particular the 4 times multiplier. In Burnout Revenge, however, I'm happy to hear that Criterion have listened to the criticism, and removed all of these. Instead, each crash mode begins with a golf game-style swingometer which determines your initial speed (though it can also cause engine blowouts and stalls), there's ability to build up a crashbreaker through the number of crashes (which is then deployed through bashing B for 5 seconds to determine its power), and there is also a target car (who will multiply your score, and explode causing mode damage if it hits your pile-up). These all add up to a really satisfying mode, and one that definitely stands out in the series. While there may only be around 40 junctions compared to over 100 in Burnout 3, their quality makes it worthwhile - some junctions are packed full of character, destruction, and really awkward parts. And yes, traffic checking plays a part; you are able to check traffic on the way to your crash (and fly through the air without triggering a crash), allowing you to cause chaos across multiple junctions, and in areas where there's no traffic flow.

Graphically Burnout Revenge is particularly impressive. At first the darker tone of the colours might strike you as the most obvious change, but it's not until you play Burnout 3 again that you realise the improvements Criterion have made to ensure the new title is at the peak of graphics on the current generation of consoles. In fact, the game arguably looks more like an early next-generation game, so Project Gotham Racing 3 already has a good visual comparison. There is the occasional overuse of the pseudo-HDR effects (HDR being the technology that provides more realistic lighting in games such as Half-Life 2: Lost Coast) on some of the explosions, but overall the visual experience is nothing less than pleasure for the eyes.

This leaves the online mode still to discuss. Last year EA somehow managed to almost ruin what as a perfectly good Xbox Live system, with regional lobbies, an extra EA-only username and login procedure, and connection issues. This year the regional lobbies and the EA login have gone, and we now have a system that feels more like Xbox Live. There is an EA user agreement but past this you are presented with the usual options of Quick Match, Optimatch, Create Match and some Scoreboards. The new version does contain some of the features of old though - the internal text messaging system (but no voice messages), the lack of Live connectivity in offline play (so race times are uploaded, etc. ala Project Gotham Racing 2), and some connection troubles still remain. While you are likely to have far less problems this year, there are quirks are present, such as when I was dropped to 6th place from 4th when giving points because my car was timed out by the system three tenths of a second later.

There is also some cheating present on the system; during one match one player used a mod to accelerate the speed of the game, making it almost impossible to control for all of us except him. This did practically ruin the game, though it was satisfying that - although mostly through fluke - I managed to take him out near the end of the race and steal a victory away from him. Thankfully, the other players were aware of his actions, and he was kicked upon returning to the lobby, receiving feedback through Xbox Live's built-in system. Overall the system gets a thumbs up - the rankings, which are split into Race and Crash are total up individually to give an overall rating, work well to match the competition, and the game is good at keeping track of your activities online in a fashion similar to PGR2. Overall, it looks like things went right this time, although there's no accounting for French players kicking you out of your first game just because you don't speak fluent French...


Graphics The game looks very impressive, and is certainly near the peak of what this generation has offer. 10/10
Gameplay Still exciting and very enjoyable, though it has lost some major element of skill with the introduction of traffic checking. 9/10
Value There's plenty packed and the changes and additions should justify purchase for owners of Burnout 3. 9/10
Lifespan There is probably around 20 hours of gameplay in single player lone, added on top some excellent multiplayer fun both on and offline, and you've got a game that should last you for quite a long time. 9/10
Audio The music is better than last year, though still leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully you can use your own music from the hard drive, but annoyingly you still have to sort this out before beginning any mode, and it can't be changed 0- not even skipping a song - without returning to the main menu. The engines, on the other hand, have a great roar, and are accompanied by other suitably over the top sound effects. 8/10
Overall Burnout Revenge manages to ensure that the Burnout series is still the best in the arcade racing genre, but it's move to the mainstream and the possibility of yearly updates do give worries for the future. For now, however, we have a very competent package worthy of inclusion in every Xbox-owning racing fan's collection. 9/10

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