Review: Burnout Revenge (XB)

Review: Burnout Revenge (XB)
Developer: Criterion Games
Distributor: Electronic Arts
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 9/13/05

Burnout is probably the best series of racing games for non-racing fans ever created. Forget realistic steering or accurate physics. Forget having to choose between 700 different cars. And forget worrying about gaining enough money to modify the hell out of your car. Burnout is all about action and destruction. And ye gods is it fun!

The Burnout series has also been known for its vast leaps in quality from entry to entry. Put Burnout and Burnout 2 next to each other, and it’s easy to see all the improvements that were made. The same can be said for the differences between Burnout 2 and Burnout 3. And now we have the fourth iteration in the series, which is once again looking to improve upon its predecessors.

But can you really improve upon Burnout 3? After all, last year we gave it a score of 8, which is practically unheard of around here. Technically that means you can improve it; after all, there’s two whole points left in the rating scale… But if you’ve been reading the IP game reviews with any kind of regularity, you know that getting above an 8 is a feat of monumental proportions. So, does Burnout Revenge manage to squeeze by Burnout 3? Or does it fall short of the high standards?


1. STORY/MODES

As far from Gran Turismo as Burnout is, it’s still a racer. As such, there is no story so to speak, so let’s take a look at the various modes offered up by the game.

All of the games various modes are wrapped up in the single player World Tour, where you complete various objectives in order to increase your rank and unlock more courses, events, and cars. Since this is a racer there is, of course, a racing mode where you compete against 5 other cars to come in first place. Adding a slight twist to that is the Eliminator mode, where the last place car is automatically destroyed after every 30 seconds. There are also a number of lap races which put you on a course in an attempt to complete it within a certain amount of time.

Next up (and my personal favorite) is Traffic Attack. The general idea here is that you are taking revenge on rush hour traffic, and your goal is to crash into as many cars as possible to earn points. This event is timed at 30 seconds, but the more damage you cause, the more you can extend your time.

Crash Mode is also back, although it plays more like a demented game of golf than a racing game. A little meter will be shown on the screen, and timing your “swing” properly will send your car off into the busy streets to do as much damage as you can. This is actually more difficult than it sounds, as it is part luck and part skill. A straight shot might not cause as much damage as allowing your car to spin off to the right or left, depending on what traffic is doing.

There’s plenty to do here, and all of it is a blast. And when you are playing with friends or online, you’ll find all the normal single player modes with a few new twists that really add to the overall experience of the game. You couldn’t ask for much more.

Story/Modes Rating: 9/10


2. GRAPHICS

Like them or hate them, Electronic Arts tends to distribute games that have fantastic graphics. And the same can be said here.

The cars themselves are incredibly well detailed and look very realistic. Since the game contains no licensed vehicles, the developers had to either mimic the looks of real cars or design their own, of which they did a bit of both. The overall effect is a number of cars that look like real road racers, but are really products of the developer’s imaginations.

Other vehicles on the road don’t look quite as well detailed, but when you’re passing by, or through, them at 100 mph, you’ll hardly have time to notice. They still look good, just not quite up to the quality of the main racing cars.

Backgrounds are equally impressive, sporting realistic textures and colors. The amount of details that went into the various buildings, roads, cities, fields, and skies is wonderful. The overall effect is actually slightly better than Burnout 3.

Of course, not all the eye candy is just sitting there while you pass it by. A good amount shows up when you crash into another vehicle and watch it go flying into other cars or explode in a ball of fire. The fire and smoke effects are all excellent, even if they do come off looking like every car is rigged with a ton of explosives and gasoline. Other lighting and particle effects are all top notch, from the sparks that go flying as you grind against a wall to vehicle headlights reflecting on your car as you pass them by.

Overall it’s really hard to find anything wrong with the game’s graphics. There is so much information on screen, but I never experienced any slow down. The cars, backgrounds, buildings, and explosions all look great and move fluidly. My only complaint is that some of the loading screens take a while, but that’s just being nitpicky.

Graphics Rating: 10/10


3. SOUND

Another area that EA games tend to shine in is the sound department. And once again Burnout Revenge is no exception. If you’ve got a nice surround sound setup, be prepared to be blown away.

Everything, from the whine of the cars engines to the squeal of the brakes to the massive roar of an explosion, is fantastic. Sounds will come flying out of your speakers in crystal clear quality and really put you into the action.

The game’s soundtrack is almost equally as good, presenting you with a nice variety of rock and techno music. Granted, it’s a little short on variety, but with the X-Box version of the game you have the option of setting up your own custom soundtrack. However, none of the music ever took me away from the game or seemed inappropriate, and it’s much better overall than Burnout 3 in my opinion.

Once again, I really can’t complain much. The sound and the music both come together perfectly here to compliment the gameplay and just add to the overall quality of the experience. It would have been nice to have just a little bit more variety in the music, but a game like this certainly doesn’t lend itself to many other genres.

Sound Rating: 9/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

If you’ve ever played a previous Burnout game, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. For starters, the controls are about as perfect as you can make them for an arcade racer. Most of the time you’ll only ever be using three buttons and the analog stick: the left thumb stick for steering, the R trigger to accelerate, the L trigger to brake, and the A button to use your boost.

When you crash, the A button also puts you into Impact Time, which allows you to play your crash in slow motion and potentially steer your car into an opponent. At the same time, certain stages will also allow you to perform a Crashbreaker with the B button. A Crashbreaker detonates your car, with the size of the explosion being determined by the amount of boost power you have. This can be devilishly fun, as you can immediately pay back that annoying opponent that just slammed you into a wall, and potentially keep your position in the race.

The other buttons perform a few little things, but aren’t overly important when it comes to actually playing the game. The Y button allows you to change your camera from a first person to a third person view, while the X button allows you to look behind you, and the black button switches the music track.

Not only are the controls perfect, but your car is incredibly responsive to them. You don’t need to worry too much about spinning out or losing control of your car here. For that matter, you don’t even need to worry too much about using the brake. Very rarely will you encounter a corner that you can’t just fly around at top speed, plowing through traffic at the same time. The system makes driving so easy that you can focus on what’s important in the game: hitting other cars. The engine is so good in fact that Eurocom Entertainment borrowed it for their Batmobile stages in the Batman Begins video game (which was arguably one of the best parts about the game).

The newest addition to Burnout Revenge’s gameplay is Checking Traffic. This allows you to slam into same way traffic from behind or from the side and send it flying off in all directions, even straight into other cars or oncoming traffic. Every mode in the game uses this new system, and it’s pretty impressive to see some of the combos you can string together with it. Not only can you throw cars into other cars, but sometimes you can set them up as ramps, launching you into the air for a huge jump and potentially even an aerial attack on an opponent. For that matter, sometimes they act as ramps for your opponents as well, and if you set it up right, you can send them flying off into a building to explode in a ball of flames. With the addition of Checking Traffic, a whole new dimension of gameplay has opened up.

There are also a ton of courses and cars to unlock as you play. And some cars even have special abilities like bigger Crashbreakers. And unlike some other racing games, there’s really no push to use a handful of cars over the majority. You can pretty much choose any car you want and perform equally as well on the track. Although there certainly are some cars that are more enjoyable to play than others.

As I mentioned before, this is the perfect racing game for non-racing fans. Instead of just being a boring race where you continually drive around in circles, you have an action packed destruction derby that is sure to please almost everyone. The controls are tight and responsive, and the gameplay is not only excellent, but it’s fun. Overall, it’s as close to perfect as you can get.

Control and Gameplay Score: 10/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

Whether you prefer multiplayer or single player, Burnout Revenge is almost infinitely replayable. With the single player World Tour, you have multiple modes to play and improve your scores or times on. Getting gold medals on every track is going to take a while, especially as you start to open up more courses. But even if you do tear through single player, there’s plenty more to do.

Multiplayer is almost as extensive as single player. There’s six total mode, or variations of modes, to play with. From the suicidal golf like Crash Mode to a standard race, you’ll find plenty to do with friends at home or online over X-Box Live.

To top things off, X-Box Live even has grouping functionality, so you can stick with a party of friends and move together through each mode. There is also a complete ranking system that allows you to move up or down based on your performance against other players. Beating higher or equal level players will move you up the ranks faster than beating lower levels players, so fair competition is encouraged.

In the end, there is plenty of reason to keep coming back to the game, whether you prefer to play solo or with friends. Sure, you might get tired of it after a while, and there’s nothing here that exactly revolutionizes multiplayer, but there are enough options here to keep you entertained for quite a long time.

Replayability Score: 8/10


6. BALANCE

This is one of the few areas where the game somewhat fails to perform up to expectations, mainly because the new Traffic Checking addition to the game is something of a double edged sword. Sure, you can check traffic into your opponents all day long and pull of some sick takedowns, but your opponents don’t really do the same to you. I’m not sure if this is a flaw in the AI or a deliberate feature, but the computer controlled cars are never as aggressive as you can be. They also never use Crashbreakers, so essentially you have an incredible advantage over your opponents in later races.

That being said, they are still tough to beat. They tend not to make many mistakes, especially in later stages, so you’ll have to work hard to get around them, using every other car and your Crashbreakers as weapons. However, once you’ve got the lead, you’re not likely to lose it unless you run head first into a wall or something.

Overall, the game is decently balanced, with a bit of an edge given to the player. Of course, that edge completely disappears in multiplayer, but it still makes the single player experience just a little bit less difficult than in previous games.

Balance Score: 6/10


7. ORIGINALITY

Racing games are certainly nothing new, and this is the fourth entry into the Burnout series. However, even then this game manages to earn a few points with its innovative gameplay and fantastic Traffic Checking system. Everything from the previous Burnout games is here, and then some. Improvements have definitely been made, and it shows.

Sure, racing games are a dime a dozen, but how many of them let you go hog wild on the race course and slam into everything that moves? And how many of them actively reward you for doing so?

It’s a racer. It’s a sequel. And yet it still manages to bring enough new elements to the table and be different enough from its contemporaries to do pretty well here.

Originality Score: 7/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

Ye gods, this game is like chocolate coated crack. The first time I put Burnout Revenge into my X-Box and fired it up I sat around and played it until the wee hours of the morning. And then I did it again the next day. My fiancee, who rarely enjoys video games, even stopped what she was doing long enough to race for a bit. And she enjoyed it! That right there is a sign of quality in my opinion.

Everything in this game just clicks together so well. The controls, the gameplay, the different modes, the graphics, and the sound all come together to create a wonderfully addictive racing experience. No other racing game has ever held my attention like the Burnout series, and Burnout Revenge has easily done a better job than its forerunners.

And I think deep down every one of us who has to deal with rush hour traffic five days out of the week wishes that we could plow through it like we can in this game. That makes this game worth playing right there.

Addictiveness: 10/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Like racing? Like making things go boom? Wish you could drive as aggressively as you want to in real life? Then this game is for you!

I honestly can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t get something out of this game. There are enough racing elements here to appeal to the Gran Turismo crowd while also containing enough fast paced excitement to appeal to the action game crowd. Probably the only people who wouldn’t enjoy this game are the die hard RPG or FPS fans, and even then I think they should give it a shot.

Ok, parents might not want to buy this for their 15 year old kid who is getting ready to take their first Driver’s Education course, but other than that…

Appeal Factor Score: 8/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

There is so much to enjoy about this game that you just need to go out and experience it for yourself. Everything about it works, and works well. Sure, it’s not the most original game on the planet, and the balance definitely tends to favor the player a bit much, but otherwise, this is a near perfect gaming experience.

If you all ready own Burnout 3, you might want to rent it first just to see if you enjoy the changes that have been made, but if you’ve never played a Burnout game before, you have to give this one a try. By all means, rent it. Hell, I’ll even recommend buying it. And don’t worry if you can’t plop down $50 today. I’m sure that it’ll show up as a greatest hit down the road, at which point you definitely should add it to your collection.

Not only are there plenty of vehicles and tracks to unlock as you play, but there are also a few videos, trailers, and other goodies on the disc that are either viewable from the get go, or unlockable down the road. This isn’t the most ground breaking or interesting material, but a lot of it is quite good and worth watching at least once.

And by the way… If you happen to own Madden ’06, or at least have a save file somewhere on your hard drive, then you will automatically unlock the Madden Van for use during multiplayer. It’s not the best vehicle you can unlock, but it’s damn fun to drive around.

Miscellaneous Score: 10/10


THE SCORES

Story/Modes: 9
Graphics: 10
Sound: 9
Gameplay/Control: 10
Replayability: 8
Balance: 6
Originality: 7
Addictiveness: 10
Appeal Factor: 8
Miscellaneous: 10
Overall: 87
Final Score: 8.5 (Great)