Burnout Revenge REVIEW

Burnout Revenge Review (Xbox 360)

When in doubt, turn to Yogi Berra. It's a lesson we all can learn, as a little of Yogi's wisdom can go a long way. I've been sitting, looking at this blank computer monitor for some time now, trying to think of what to say about the Xbox 360 version of Burnout: Revenge. I reviewed the series's quantum leap to greatness in 2004's Burnout 3: Takedown, and Clay Shaver wrote an excellent review of the series' 2005 edition. I'm not sure what there is to say anymore, and it is then that the words of the Yogi came to me: "This is like deja vu all over again."

The most noticeable improvement in the next generation of Burnout is the graphics. In fact, it's hard to forget the graphics, as you'll be shown a short trailer reminding you that the series is now in HD. In case you have a bad memory, this short trailer will come up each and every time you load the game. It can be skipped, but there's still that helpful reminder that this Burnout comes with extra pixels, shaders, and textures. If you're playing on a standard TV, you won't notice much improvement in the graphics. The Xbox/PS2 versions were already pushing that generation of machines to the limit, and they were pushing that generation of televisions, too. The lighting is impressive, though there are times where the bloom lighting effects are a bit too much, resulting in a blurry feel that seems at odds with the speed and precision of the game. On an HDTV, the game really shines: damage is impressively modeled, and everything is packed with minute detail from the cars to the surfaces to the buildings that blur by at 210 MPH.

The core racing gameplay remains the finest adrenaline rush you can get on a console, and I really enjoyed the simply wanton destruction offered by the game's new "Checking" system. Same-way traffic now presents the same boost-building opportunities as oncoming lanes do, as you can smack vehicles out of your way with abandon, flinging them around the course like projectile weapons. The physics are improbable, but the visceral thrill is undeniable: it's as fun and destructive as the series gets.

As Burnout has progressed from its first installment back in 2002, "Crash Mode" has gone through change after change. The first game asked nothing more than for you to fling your car at high speeds and watch the carnage ensue. Each iteration of the game has added new wrinkles, and I think that wonderful feeling of simple sadistic glee is starting to disappear from the mode. You'll spend a lot of time watching your vehicle as wrecks pile up around it, waiting for your "Crashbreaker" to fill and allow you to set off a new explosion. It's become more of a puzzle game, and the setups in this edition require lots of forethought, strategy and patience. As I read other reviews from around the 'net, I think I'm in a minority here, but I don't really want "patience" to be part of "Crash Mode". I have plenty of games that offer me quiet strategy: I come to Burnout's "Crash Mode" looking for mindless violence and pyrotechnics.

There is one new wrinkle in the 360 version that is not so next-gen: load times. Levels load much slower than on current-gen systems, and it starts suck some of the fun out of the game when a minute-long crash is surrounded by load times (and award presentations that mask the load times) that are nearly as long. There's entirely too much menu-watching at times, especially if you are playing rounds of crash mode online or off. If you're playing crash events on Xbox Live, hope for a lobby full of fun gamers: you be spending lots of time chatting with them as you look at menus in between crashes.

The online portion of the game gets some new features on the 360, the most important being some cool new tracking features that help to build a sense of community. At the start of a race, you’ll be shown rankings leaders, or the points leader in the series you’re racing. That provides a nice focus and target, but the real keeper here is the tracking of rivalries. As you take down racers (or are taken down yourself) you’ll establish rivalries that will show who’s gotten more takedowns between the two of you. It’s a small thing that visually represents what most of us track in our heads: “I’m gonna get back at him for that.” It makes racing in random lobbies fun, as you start to develop relationships with racers and invest in getting payback.

One new 360 feature that shows promise is being able to save and share clips from your races and crashes on Xbox Live. It’s in interesting experiment at this point, but a crippling interface means it’s not much more than that. As an example, here’s my experience browsing through the online listing of the top 20 clips:
  • Log into the EA Servers
  • Look at “Downloading” screen as I download the list of the top 20 Clips
  • Select “View Clip”, and begin downloading that clip.
  • Once the clip downloads, watch the loading screen as the clip loads.
  • Watch the 30 second clip
  • At the end of the clip, look at another loading screen
  • Log into the EA Servers. Again.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat.
Plain and simple, the clip-sharing feature on Burnout feels a lot more like a chore than a joy. There’s a feature that allows you to browse through your Friends List for their clips, but there’s no indication if there are any clips available until you actually try to pull up the list. Though it could really develop into something in the future, at this point the clip-sharing experience is about as exciting as a thrilling session with an Excel spreadsheet.

Your overall reaction to Burnout: Revenge on the Xbox 360 (and its attendant next-gen price tag) is going to depend on your experience with the series. While Takedown felt like a fresh start for the series and for arcade racing in general, there's no such sense of newness here. This 360 game is only slightly more than a port of the PS2/Xbox version of the game, which was itself only a small upgrade over Takedown. The 360 version has some impressive graphics (if you have the equipment), some nice tweaks to online gameplay, and some interesting experiments in the future of online gaming communities. Is that enough to justify a $60 purchase? If you have never played the Burnout series, it's a no-brainer: this is the best arcade racing series on the market, bar none. If your last Burnout game was 2004's Takedown, this is a good extension of that title which will contain just enough wrinkles to keep your entertained. If you've played Revenge on the PS2 or Xbox, there's not much new of import here except for some killer graphics which will only really come to light on an HDTV.

Frankly, this pattern of diminishing returns from a once-innovative series is nothing that we haven't seen before from EA. This is their general pattern: incremental upgrades from year to year, with just enough flash (or new rosters) to justify a new purchase. It's been their routine on the major sports titles like Madden and NBA Live, and it's also become the case with their line of extreme titles like SSX and the Street games. It might be time for EA to let the Burnout field lie fallow for a year or two, before one of the most exciting titles of the current generation becomes a tired has-been in the next generation. “Deja vu all over again” simply isn’t going to be enough for me to keep buying this series.

Burnout Revenge Score
out of 10