LAS VEGAS--Navigating the cramped halls of the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show can be tough. With teeming crowds of tech heads crowding the corridors of the Las Vegas Convention Center, all looking at the latest in high-tech gadgetry, moving from booth to booth is an exercise in patience and choosing your spots. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Dolby booth, thanks to the presence of the first-ever playable version of Burnout Revenge for the Xbox 360. We stood in line like every other geek on hand to take a spin with the next-gen crash fest, and even if our time was all too brief with the demo, we definitely liked what we saw.
The playable demo featured only two tracks and a handful of cars to choose from, but thanks to a top-of-the-line widescreen HDTV running the game at 720p, and some high-end Dolby equipment pumping out the game's audio in impressive Dolby 5.1, it was an impressive display nonetheless.
First, the game is enjoying a substantial upgrade in the graphics department. Where Burnout Revenge for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 had relatively grainy textures and dull-looking car models by comparison, everything has been given a new coat of paint in the 360 version of Revenge. The car models look slick with sexy paint jobs and sheen effects that are evocative of those found in Project Gotham Racing 3. According to Revenge producers, the car models have been rebuilt to take advantage of the 360's power. Part of this rebuilding process was to add better damage modeling, including location-specific damage effects. Rub the right side of your ride against a cement wall, for example, and that side will be ripped up accordingly.
What really floored us about Revenge's visuals, however, were the environments and the explosions. Sure, tracks looked fine in Revenge on the Xbox and PS2, but here they look amazing. Rich clarity and depth in the mountain track we played, coupled with some impressive draw distances, really lent a sense of space and breadth to the environments, even if it was basically the same track we'd played many times in the older version of the game. And speaking of tracks, producers told us that 10 new crash junctions will be added to the 360 version of Revenge, along with some new cars, including a Dolby-themed whip that might just give the Madden truck a run for its money.
While it's fun to stare at the pretty environments in Revenge, what you really want to do is barrel you car into them at speeds well exceeding 100mph. In Revenge for the 360, doing so will result in explosions that are far more effective than anything found in the PS2 or Xbox version of the game. Instead of the vaguely translucent flames in the old version of the game, incendiary explosions in Revenge for the 360 leave little to the imagination--with rolling flames and thick swabs of black smoke emanating from the smoking husk of your car. And the sound. Perhaps it was because of all the sweet Dolby audio equipment we played through, but Revenge's bass-heavy explosions had all the thud and boom you could want…and perhaps a little more.
Amid all these surface upgrades, Revenge still feels very much like the current-gen game you've been playing for a while now. Speed is still the central component of gameplay--a blinding, blistering pace that sees hairpin corners come up faster than you might like, coupled with controls that let you deftly slide around that tight corner without missing a beat. Traffic checking--which lets you blast through traffic and smack any sucker who gets in your way into the wall--is still in place here, though surprisingly there isn't much more traffic on the roads than what we've seen in the previous versions of the game.
Even if Revenge's gameplay feels similar offline, the online game probably won't, thanks to a couple of new online modes that are being added to the 360 version of the game, both of which have been designed to take advantage of the upgraded Xbox Live capabilities found on the 360. The first of these, known as Live Revenge, effectively builds online rivalries with opponents you race online via Xbox Live. By tracking how you rate against your opponents in every race you play over the Internet, you might enter a race to find yourself going up against a friend who has taken you out on numerous occasions. He'll be noted as a rival in your race, whereas from his point of view, he'll see that you're intent on taking him down and will do his best to either stay away from you or return the favor.
The second new online feature is known as "save and share," and it lets you record brief chunks of a particular race--a brutal crashbreaker explosion, for example--save it to your hard drive, and even upload it to an EA server so you can share it with friends (or indeed, anyone who chooses to download it). Though we obviously didn't get a chance to try out either of the new online features in our brief time with the demo, both sound like intriguing new additions to the game.
There's still some time before the release of Burnout Revenge for the Xbox 360, and we're eager to get our hands on a more complete build of the game to check out not only the new online features, but the new crash junctions that are promised for this version of the game. We're sure to have much more on the game in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.