Six months ago, EA and Criterion released the fourth game in the Burnout series, Burnout Revenge. The game made some interesting refinements to the Burnout formula and was, generally speaking, totally radical. Now, Burnout Revenge is making an appearance on the Xbox 360 with better graphics, a bevy of new sound effects, and a few minor tweaks and tunings that tighten up the whole game a little bit. If you're late to the Burnout party, this is a great time to get involved and bust up some cars. But if you've spent the last six months playing Burnout Revenge on the Xbox or the PlayStation 2, there probably isn't enough new content here to get you excited all over again.
Before we get into a description of what Burnout Revenge is all about, let's cover the new stuff in the Xbox 360 version. This one brings back full replays of each race. You can scan through the replays using basic, VCR-like controls and even clip and save 30-second snippets of your replays. You can then share these clips over Xbox Live, and there's a whole online clip vault, complete with rankings for the most-watched clips. Unfortunately, your camera control over the action is limited to a few preset viewpoints. A free-roaming camera option probably would have made this feature a little more entertaining.
Back on the Xbox and the PS2, crash mode started out with a golf swing-like meter that required you to hit buttons while the meter was in proper zones to get the best start. It was a neat idea, but it eventually led to you restarting right away anytime you didn't get that best start. On the Xbox 360, you get the best start every time, automatically.
The most obvious overhaul in this version of the game is in its presentation. The graphics have been given a nice bump up to bring them more in line with "next-generation" standards. The car models look nice and, most importantly, blast apart into a billion tiny pieces when they crash into stuff. For cars that are constantly crashing and getting dented up, though, they look a little too shiny. That said, the game's Xbox and PS2 roots show a bit, so the game doesn't look quite as impressive as some of the games that were developed from the ground up for Microsoft's new console. Additionally, the game looks overly dark on some display setups. The sound was one of the high points in the older versions of the game, and it's been vastly overhauled, as well. You'll hear every little scrape and bump. The engine noises are loud, and when you kick in the turbo boost, it sounds like afterburners kicking in. Even stuff like the noises that are made when you earn medals or time ticking down has been completely changed. The sound was already awesome, but the changes made to the 360 version make the action sound even more satisfying and dramatic.
The final and most significant change made to this version of Burnout Revenge affects its online play. As the game puts it, the online mode has a "long memory" for rivalries between players. As you take out other players in online events, the game starts to keep a tally of how many times you've caused a player to crash. That player then sees you as red on their player list, knowing that there's a score to be settled. But it all works in streaks, so if you bust someone up 20 times, they'll still only need to get revenge on you once to settle the score. This doesn't really make a huge change to how you play the game, since your ultimate focus is still on winning the race, but the way the game calls attention to other players makes the revenge aspect of the game much more interesting.
Like all Xbox 360 games, Burnout Revenge has a series of achievements that trigger the console's gamerpoints system. This game has a lot of separate achievements to get, some of which are as simple as uploading or recommending a replay clip. One achievement asks you to settle the score with one online opponent 100 times. So if you're hoping to get the full 1,000 points out of this one, it'll probably take you some time...or at least some online accomplices willing to let you win.
So if you're already familiar with Burnout Revenge on other systems, that's all you need to know. The changes are interesting, and if you're looking to play more of the game, this is the version to play. An additional race course or two would have been nice, but as it stands, it's probably not different enough to get you hooked on the game all over again. But if you aren't already intimately familiar with Burnout Revenge, there's more you need to know.
Burnout Revenge is the fourth game in a racing series that has put its focus on extremely high speeds and gnarly, car-disintegrating wrecks. You'll spend most of your offline time crashing your way through the world tour mode, which presents the game's different events while you work your way through multiple ranks, unlocking additional events and cars along the way.
The primary split is between crash events and races. Crash levels put you in a very specific spot, with traffic laid out ahead of you. It's your job to figure out where and when the optimal crash spot occurs and then crash your car accordingly, which usually sets off an insane chain reaction, resulting in ridiculous and glorious multivehicle pileups. Your goal varies from level to level, but it's always a dollar amount, so you'll have to cause as much damage as possible to reach those dollar amounts. Helping you to cause as much destruction as possible is the crashbreaker, a cool addition that lets you blow up your car once enough havoc has been wreaked. In some levels, you'll be able to pop off two or three crashbreakers in one attempt, if you're especially good at causing mayhem. The crash mode isn't quite as white-knuckle as the races are, but it's still pretty exciting. The Xbox 360 version has much faster load times than the previous versions of the game in crash mode, which makes retrying each event again and again to cause the most destruction possible more pleasant.
Racing is the more visceral, heart-pounding side of Burnout Revenge. You'll get into a few different types of events as you go through the world tour. Standard races pit you against five other cars. Road Rage events tie your progression to how many opposing vehicles you can take out before time expires or before you destroy your car by wrecking too many times to continue. Eliminator races cause the last-place racer to blow up every 30 seconds until only the winner remains. Traffic attack gives you cash and extra time when you bash into traffic that's moving in the same direction as you are. Burning laps and preview events are time trials that put you in some of the game's fastest, most-difficult-to-control cars. Some of the races are offered in a crashbreaker variant a little later on in the world tour. This feature lets you bring the exploding-car action of crash mode into the races, giving you the tools to take out opposing racers if you happen to crash near them. All of the race modes force you to drive in a risky manner. You earn boost faster if you're driving through oncoming traffic, whizzing past trucks, and skidding around corners. This sort of forced danger, combined with the exciting back-and-forth battles with the other racers, is what makes Burnout so thrilling, and it's never been more exciting than it is here.
The world tour front end is more complicated than it needs to be. It starts out with one section for each rank. Each rank has a list of locations, and each location has a list of races. Sounds straightforward, right? But sometimes you'll unlock races in previous ranks while working up in higher ones, especially if you're focusing on crash events over race events, or vice versa. So you won't consistently move up to the higher ranks, as you'll constantly have to dig through the other ranks in search of events that you haven't completed yet. Additionally, the game seems to run out of new tracks and crash environments about halfway through. You'll race every single type of race on every possible track, both forward and backward. After awhile, it starts to get a little repetitive, but with each new rank, you do uncover a few new twists.
Your choice of cars has also been made a little tougher. In Burnout 3, everything was spelled out for you right away. Each race fit into a class, and the most recent car you had in that class was usually the right one to use. Now, each car is rated in its top boost speed, its weight class (which tells you how likely it is to get pushed around the road by other cars, as well as how it handles around corners), and its crashbreaker force. When you unlock a new car, there's no guarantee that it'll be your new best vehicle, so selecting a vehicle takes a little more thought than it probably needs to. More often than not, though, the right-most car on your list is the one you'll want to use for races.
In all the single-player races, you'll go up against artificially intelligent racers that are governed by a very rubber-banded system that's intended to keep races close. This is usually the part that forces racing-game fans to turn away in disgust, but considering that the whole crux of Burnout Revenge is slamming into the other racers and fighting for position, the game absolutely needs this sort of AI system to work at all. As a result, you can expect to always have racers around you, creeping up on your back door when you're in the lead. In later races, the other cars get mean and really start trying to take you down. But on average, they're never too much to deal with.
The game allows for split-screen racing, including crash battle, where two racers play crash mode at the same time on the same track. But really, if you're going to play Burnout Revenge with more than one person, you want to play it online. Here, up to six players can compete in most of the single-player race types. Road rage becomes a team event online, with one team trying to finish a race while the other tries to take down the racing team. Crash battle and other variants of crash are also available online, but without the overview of the junction before you race, you'll have to go out of your way to memorize each pattern from its name alone. The racing and road rage modes are quite exciting online, and the addition of traffic checking really makes a difference.
It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: One of the most important things a racing game can do is properly convey what it feels like to be driving at ridiculously breakneck speeds. On the graphical side, it's several parts frame rate combined with a dash of great blur effects--perhaps with a little camera shaking thrown in for good measure. As simple as the formula sounds, most racing games fail to get it right. Despite a few spots where the frame rate takes a noticeable drop, Burnout Revenge is still the game to beat when it comes to delivering that feeling of flying around corners and through alleys at speeds north of 200 miles per hour. But this game isn't all speed with no substance. If you manage to stop for a second, take a look at the car models. They're not only incredibly smooth and shiny-looking, but also extremely cool car designs. Burnout might not be able to get licensed cars in the game, but with modern and occasionally flashy car designs like this, you almost wish someone would put them into actual production. Similarly, the environments look sharp, with terrific textures and great effects. Crashes and collisions have, obviously, been given special attention. Cars blast apart in even more dynamic ways this year, and explosions are truly terrifying.
While Burnout Revenge might not have enough new stuff in it to drag you back in if you've been playing it on other platforms, this is definitely the version to get if you're shopping around. It delivers solid, fast action, both online and off, and is easily the fastest, most exciting racing game available on the Xbox 360.