Burnout Revenge Review (PS2)
I probably shouldn’t tell you this story (and kids, please don’t try this at home), but when I was a lad I used to play a game that involved Matchbox Cars, modeling glue, black construction paper, and a pack of matches that I wasn’t suppose to have. Now, for legal reasons, I won’t get into the fiery details. But, let’s just say, I could make a better crash stunt then a sweep’s episode of “The Fall Guy.”
In twenty years and a few incidents that cost me parts of an eyebrow, I learned that I should probably leave that to the pros. So when the Burnout series brought arcade crashing into the arcade racing world, needless to say, I was first in line with my money and my construction paper. OK, I didn’t have the construction paper, but I watched the evolution of this series hit its pinnacle last year when, in my humble, oft-scruntinized opinion, the best game of 2004 was Burnout 3: Takedown. I literally loved everything about that game. So, you can only imagine my excitement and anticipation when Burnout: Revenge hit my console for the first time.
It’s got some huge tires to fill, but I’m buckled in and ready to take this baby for a spin.
For those of you looking to make your first foray into the world of Burnout, let me give you the nickel tour.
Concept #1: Drive Fast
Concept #2: Crash Into Stuff
Concept #3: Rinse and Repeat
Ok, so maybe I’ve oversimplified it a touch, but hey, what do you want for a nickel? If you want more than five cents' worth of education, I suggest you start by checking out Operation Sports’ review of last year’s release, Burnout 3: Takedown for a refresher course.
Instead, I’ll concetrate on what is new in Burnout: Revenge. There are really two significant changes in this year’s game.
There is a new mode called “Traffic Attack” that introduces a new concept called Traffic Checking. What the developers have done is added non-player vehicles that can basically be checked (read: slammed) into the competition. If you see a car on your side of traffic, and it’s small or medium-sized (don’t try the buses!), you can use it as a projectile without any damage to you - or any repercussions whatsoever. It actually introduces an entirely new concept into the series that may be a welcomed change of pace for some people who may find some of the other modes almost too fast and frantic to keep up with. On the flip-side, the adrenaline junkies may find it almost like an “Easy Mode”, because it does not force you to be as precise with your driving.
The other significant change is in the racing environments themselves with the addition of alternate routes. It gives the game a more dynamic feel by offering a little variety to the tracks. Even at the blazing speeds of Burnout: Revenge, you can usually pick-up the flashing lights or other indications that guide you to the new path. Very often, it requires a huge jump or some stunt to even reach the new path. Maybe this isn't a huge addition, but it does add to the replay factor, especially when you find yourself on the same track for a few attempts.
The track designs themselves are stronger this time around. In some of Takedown’s tracks, I felt like I just needed to repeat the same movements on each go-round for success - almost like learning a pattern. In Revenge, you’re going to find far fewer lulls in the action. If the traffic doesn’t get you, the environment will.
Crash Mode is back and slightly revamped in Burnout: Revenge. If there was any area where I felt Burnout 3: Takedown had taken a step back, it was in this mode. This year’s interation definitely takes it back up a notch, as it plays a little bit more of a free-form game. Last year, you pretty much had to carve a very specific path through multipliers and such to ever achieve the big scores. In Revenge, Crash Mode feels bigger. This is the area where I think I enjoy Traffic Checking the most. It almost becomes like a trick shot in billiards. Not only do you need to make your big entrance into the intersection, but you’ll usually want to send a vehichle in there to wreak havoc as well. Say what you will about the cheese factor, but if you have a pulse, you will spend more than a few hours in this mode.
You could easily find hundreds of playable hours in this title without ever plugging in to the ‘net. Burnout: Revenge will put dust on the rest of your library for quite awhile.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
There’s not much to be said about the visuals in Burnout: Revenge other than beautiful. Perfect. Right on the money. Sure, there may be other racing games that have more complex environments and textures (although not many), but no other game uses it’s look to convey a true sense of speed like this one. When you are visually locked into this game, it can actually produce a physical adreneline rush. It almost feels dangerous and out of control, because it looks dangerous and out of control. Gorgeous.
The standard EA indie-rock, punk, grunge, dirty hair, guitar riff music is back for this year’s soundtrack. While it may be slightly more diverse than last year’s version, the developers should take a page from the Tony Hawk series and broaden their scope a little bit with some hip-hop, classic punk, and some old school metal. The in-game sounds themselves are mostly the same as last year, which is not a bad thing. If anything, there’s almost a dirtier, more industrial feel to them. The crashes are a little bit more savage than we’ve seen before.
At the end of 2004, I made the proclamation that Burnout was the greatest online experience that no one was experiencing. The handful of weeks that I was able to find my way into games with last year’s release, I always found a fantastic experience; smooth, lag-free and a whole lot of fun.
With Burnout: Revenge, EA has actually expanded the online experience by going to a FPS-style ranking and grouping system for online play - very similar to the one in Halo 2. It’s a nice touch, and makes it a heck of a lot easier to keep teams together during those marathon sessions.
The play itself is for up to six players competing in, pretty much, all of the same modes that you can play in single-player. Road Rage, easily my favorite both last year and this year, basically becomes a team sport online. You got your offense, the team trying to finish the race, and you’ve got your defense, which is doing anything possible to keep that from happening. This mode alone, with a good group of people, is worth the price of admission.
So what does all of this mean? Burnout: Revenge is a great game on its own. However, If you still own Burnout 3: Takedown and you’re the single-player only type, I’m not sure that you need the upgrade. Passionate fans of Burnout 3 had it on pre-order for months, of course...
Personally, the more expansive tracks alone make the new purchase well worth it. If you’re more of a multiplayer and online freak, you'll definitely want to check out this one and start playing right now.
All in all, I love this series and I hope they continue to make it for years to come. I can’t wait to see what this team can do with next generation hardware under the hood.
In an online world where racing games are usually about respect, caution, and not causing pile-ups, Burnout: Revenge is all about what you really want to do. As a regular online gamer, the replay-factor of this bad boy is well worth the price of admission. This game will stay in my console for quite some time. Maybe I’ll “check” you on the road sometime.