|The Burnout series has been endowed with a prosperous life thus far. Burnout 2: Point of Impact proved to be an immensely popular, and satisfying, racing game which set new standards for how an arcade racer should be done. While many thought the jump from troubled publisher Acclaim to entertainment monolith EA would be a bad thing for the seriesí soul, Burnout 3: Takedown solidified itself as the best racing game of this console generation. Now Criterion Games is back for another stab at it, and while Burnout: Revenge is mostly more of the same, being cloned from this seriesí pedigree is nothing to scoff at. |
Calling the game a clone might be a bit harsh, thereís enough new material here to warrant a sequel, with new tracks, cars, modes, and capabilities stored under the hood of this magnificent racer, but after you settle in to the groove of things again you canít help the feeling of dťjŗ vu.
Burnout: Revenge adds new race modes (like Traffic Attack) and improves upon long established ones (like Crash) while still keeping the same core gameplay weíve come to expect. You start out with two races to choose from in Miami look-a-like Sunshine Keys and Motor City, a stand-in for Detroit. Whereas Burnout 3: Takedown was mainly held in three different locals, Revengeís environments vary from the dark and gritty, to the sweet sunshine.
From an overall graphics standpoint the game has never looked better. The PS2 version of the game boasts a smooth framerate, even with multiple cars on screen. Sparks fly, reflections map off of the windshields and the shiny paint jobs, and the imaginary cars are detailed with a more than adequate amount of polygons. While the game is no leaps and bounds above Burnout 3, with that game already looking stellar, Revenge has nothing to worry about.
The designers at Criterion have improved upon Takedownís already stellar track design by adding new shortcuts, indicated by blue lights on either side of an entrance. While blatantly pointing them out may take out some of the challenge of finding them, barreling along at 180 MPH doesnít afford you with anything but split second decisions. These shortcuts are not always a good idea as most of them are littered with new ways to crash and lose precious ground. When youíre not crashing youíre most likely gaining some big air as the jumps mainly experienced in Crash mode have made their way into normal racing. The short-cuts and the big jumps combine together to give a San Francisco Rush-like quality, and with Midway intent of making Rush the next Midnight Club, this is a welcomed comparison. As if the series didnít already get the adrenaline pumping, the jumps and linking short-cuts certainly do the job.
Control is a tight as ever with the most simplistic schema possible in a racing game available to you. Mastering the gas and brake to drift coupled with boost acceleration delivers a fun-filled experience with the environment passing you buy at super-sonic speeds. With traffic flying around like leaves on a windy day, youíre going to need some quick reflexes to keep your nose clean. On the reviewed PlayStation2 version of the game three buttons is all you need to edge out the competition.
The gameís soundtrack is slightly improved upon that of Burnout 3 although the littering of music by unknown bands (to this reviewer anyway) also allows the gamers to open up their musical tastes a little bit. In the heat of a race you either will love or loath the pop/rock/punk tunes spitting out of your speakers. Thankfully Stryker, the much-maligned DJ from Takedown has been removed from the game and replaced with, well, nothing. The first time you race a particular type of event a pleasant female voice will introduce you to the mechanics and get you started with a quick intro, but other than that, all is quiet on the gaming front as mindless puns and self-promotion have been left by the wayside.
From a sound effects standpoint the game also excels like the previous entry in the series with engines roaring, buildings whooshing by, and crumpling metal echoing through your living room. The series has always been known for its crashes and part of the beauty of them is the accompanying effects.
As you progress through the game you are awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals, just as in the previous game. The trick here is, in order to move through the games 10 levels you also need to prove your driving skills are in order. Depending on the way your drive throughout a race youíll be awarded a number of stars on a five star scale. Those stars are then modified by the accompanying medal you earned to give you a final star count to be used towards your total. This makes grabbing that gold a key priority.
Whereas Burnout 3: Takedown introduced us to the takedown and road rage events (basically causing your opponent to crash in any way possible), Revenge gives us the ability to check traffic. Now, traffic traveling in the same direction as you can be run into without any hit on your speed, or a crash. These flying pieces of metal and plastic become obstacles that your opponents will have to dodge to stay alive and as an incentive to check you are awarded boost each time you do so. Takedowns can occur when another racer slams into that air born Pinto, but the computer opponents can turn the tables on you as well. While the addition is welcome into the game, you canít help but feel as though the overall experience has been dulled a tiny bit as you no longer have to worry about most of the traffic going the same way as you (cross traffic will cause you to crash each time it is hit).
Another new change is to Crash mode where all the modifiers have been extinguished and your high score no longer depends on finding and hitting the x4 multiplier. Introduced is a target car, one that you want to crash in order to boost your score, but getting to it has changed as well. Whereas the previous game in the series allowed for you to simply start your crash run and pick up a boost along the way, now you are forced to contend with a Mario Golf-like meter that you must start and stop precisely in order to get the best boost off the line. If you miss, youíre still able to continue, but youíll start really slow. In a few instances, if you really mess up, your engine will explode, along with your car, and your run is over. For the most part it isnít hard to hit your boost most of the time, but you canít help but wonder why this meter was even included in the first place.
Burnout Revenge is a great game, thereís no denying that, and the series has always been top notch in both fun factor and innovation in an increasingly stale genre. Kudos goes to Criterion for not turning the series into some illegal street racer and ruining a good name (read: L.A. Rush). Still while all the new tracks, short-cuts, bonuses, and tunes go a long way in polishing the experience, you still canít help but feel as though maybe Revenge would have been better off released next year when some new innovations might be included in the package as well.
With that said, Revenge is still my racing game pick of the year as its sense of speed and fun factor are unrivaled in the game world at this moment. Who knows what next year will bring, but until then my PS2 and a copy of Revenge is all I need.