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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Burnout Revenge (PS2)


By Michael Palisano

After the success of Burnout 3: Takedown, it's no surprise that EA's Burnout Revenge is one of the year's most-anticipated games. Upping the ante significantly with improved physics modeling, more intense course design, plus added gameplay modes makes this the best yet. Players can now check traffic moving in the same direction and use Crashbreakers during races to create spectacular crashes. Add in cool Revenge Takedowns and these improvements affect the gameplay dramatically, giving things an even greater sense of chaos and intensity. Constantly unlocking courses, tracks, and mini-games again make for an addictive experience that keeps getting better as you progress. Players' expectations are high so read our review and find out how the developers at Criterion were able to make Burnout Revenge leave Takedown in the dust.

Taking the best elements of last year's game and intensifying them with more features, exaggerated physics models and additional modes, Burnout Revenge represents the best arcade-style battle racer to date on the Xbox. While many other racing titles on the market emphasize realism, Revenge is all about creating chaos and destruction in your wake. This doesn't mean that the game isn't realistic, in fact the new courses this year feel even more authentic and feature more jumps and branches than the last game in the series. However, the developers' have once again taken the concept to another level with more elaborate takedowns and crashes that seemingly push the limits of their physics engine. As you scream down the road, your objective is to cross the finish line before anyone else, crashing and smashing any other vehicle that gets in your way. Unlike other racers where you're penalized for going in the wrong direction or driving recklessly, Revenge rewards players by adding to their flaming boost bar for dangerous moves. This is quite important; because you'll need to keep you finger on the boost constantly in order to succeed. Driving against traffic slowly builds up your boost, but the real way to turbo charge your level is to crash into rival vehicles and take them out of the race. There are a variety of techniques that allow you to do this including running them against a wall, shunting them off the course, landing on them and knocking them off a cliff. Each time you do this, the action enters a slow-motion mode where you can revel in your opponent's dramatic end. This is similar to the approach seen in Burnout 3, but the developers have now added the ability for players to check or crash into traffic traveling in the same direction, meaning you can plow through other vehicles. However, your vehicle isn't strong enough to withstand an impact with a larger vehicle such as a bus, even if its going in the same direction.

While crashing into other vehicles and taking them down is enjoyable and satisfying, there are many points in the game where you'll find yourself taken out. At this point, you can slow the action down and control the direction of your wreck using the Aftertouch mode. This also lets you get instant revenge, since your vehicle's wreckage can Take down a rival if they are close by. This works like last year's slow-motion mode, though it seems slightly easier to control your direction. Another change in this year's installment is the new Revenge Takedown system, where a car that knocks you out of the race is subsequently indicated in red as a Takedown Target, which you can then knock of the road, gain revenge and give your racer an instant shot of boost. Revenge Takedowns are a great improvement on the gameplay that adds a new element of aggression and tension to each race. After you've beaten a few levels, you can also use the Crashbreakers when you crash. Using these allows you to explode and take out nearby vehicles. However, if you don't take out a rival car, you'll lose all the energy in your boost bar. While the cars seemingly take unlimited damage in some modes, since they immediately rejoin the race at full strength with no apparent damage, you'll also need to keep an eye out on the damage meter, since you can total your vehicle if you crash too many times. As you race through each course, the game keeps track of your driving moves and ranks your skills and performance. At the end of each event, you'll earn a number of medals depending on how you finished. However, you can earn an extra medal if you finish the race with a high skill ranking, but can lose a medal or two if your driving skills were poor. This makes it important drive skillfully and consistently during each round. After each round, players can also earn trophies if they complete a certain special move or takedown during the race. It sounds more complicated than it is. Burnout Revenge intergrates the rankings seamlessly into each round to create a cohesive system that makes sense.

Burnout Revenge features many of the familiar modes from the first game plus a couple of new ones, which add to the already deep gameplay. The game's structure is excellent, consisting of a variety of smaller mini-games that let players to progress at their own pace. While a large number of events are usually open at any given time, players can unlock additional events and vehicles as they complete earlier races. You'll find several standard racing modes including Burning Lap, where you have to beat the best time, an Eliminator race, where the driver in last place is eliminated at the end of each lap plus standard lap races where you compete against rival vehicles. As you progress to later levels, you'll also be able to unlock the new Crashbreaker races which were detailed earlier. There are also a number of cool mini-games that diverge from standard racing structures. The first of these are the Crash mode, where the object is to set up a spectacular crash by driving into a group of vehicles and causing massive chain reactions. Some of the earlier Crash modes are simple, but the latter levels require some strategy, as you need to plan your route and figure out where your vehicle can land to cause the most damage. Once your vehicle has landed and time has elapsed, you can then detonate your vehicle using the Crashbreaker, to cause even more damage. In addition, players can choose to play through the Traffic Attack mode, where the object is to check a number of vehicles to reach a damage target amount. Your time is limited, but you earn extra time for each vehicle you crash. Similarly, you can play the Road Rage mode, where you have to complete a number of Takedowns in order to win a medal.

The most important element that truly separates Burnout Revenge from other racing titles on the market is its sheer intensity, which surpasses anything else on the market. While other street racing games have nitro features, none come close to achieving the sense of speed that Burnout Revenge offers effortlessly. Taking the crash dynamics to a completely new level, the added Revenge modes add another layer onto what was already an intense game. With such an astonishing sense of speed, its even more impressive that the developers at Criterion have implemented such an accessible, responsive set of controls that allow you to steer your vehicle, perform massive jumps and even do some drifting. These controls are quite responsive and fluid, making this installment an absolute joy to play, giving you a sense of speed and control that other racers seem to lack. The most important feature of the game's fluid controls are their accessibility, you can jump right into the game with little instruction. However, you'll definitely need good reflexes, but you won't have to waste hours of your time learning the basics. It's a simplified arcade racer at heart, but there are nuances to the gameplay as well. Using the Aftertouch system has also been simplified, with the directional crashes easier to manipulate, allowing you to cause even more damage than before. On top of all of these elements, the game now allows you to crash into traffic ahead of you to create massive skill shots that let you use them as weapons to take out other vehicles. It isn't easy to accomplish at first, but once you get the hang of it, this new ability just adds more fun to the proceedings.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Burnout Revenge has evolved significantly with a deeper, richer and more subtle color palette used to create even more realistic environments. There's a greater variety of locations this time as well, with urban and city areas mixed with mountains and rustic areas to give the game a greater variety. The cars remain fantasy vehicles, but the rendering engine shows definite signs of improvement with increasingly detailed bodies giving each one a more realistic feel. Burnout's exaggerated physics engine allows players to perform stunts and survive crashes that they'd never see in reality, giving the game an almost surreal feel at certain points. This portion of the game has also undergone an overhaul, with the cars taking damage more realistically then before with fenders and tires blowing off the vehicles when they crash. The already impressive crash physics are also enhanced, with even wilder crashes that cause the vehicles to explode off the road into the air. Checked cars bounce around the track like ping-pong balls and you can now cause massive chain reactions where dozens of vehicles can be seen twisting and turning into the air. This is incredibly cool and shows the sheer power and creativity that makes the game explode off the screen. As you'd expect, the game offers a phenomenal sense of speed that creates quite a dizzying sensation at certain points, where you feel you're moving almost impossibly fast. To go along with the supercharged gameplay and hyper-realistic visuals, Burnout Revenge features a selection of pop-punk and techno tracks from a variety of artists, sadly the quality of these tracks is hit or miss, with some complimenting the action perfectly, while others seem out of place in this context. With its impressive damage system already in place, the upgraded environmental graphics and sense of speed makes Burnout Revenge the best-looking title in the series to date, surpassing the original in terms of realism and sheer magnitude.

There can be little doubt that Burnout 3: Takedown revolutionized racing games last year. What's most impressive about Burnout Revenge is experiencing how much the series has evolved in a relatively short period of time. Some of the changes, such as the ability to check traffic, might seem minor on the surface but end having a major impact on how the game plays. Taking the game's crash dynamics to a new level, the increased vehicular carnage doesn't feel overplayed, and instead seems like a natural extension of what was already one of the most unhinged arcade racing titles on the current consoles. More importantly, the nearly non-linear structure keeps you challenged throughout and you rarely feel confined in one area of the game. A constant stream of unlockable content further adds to your motivation, making Burnout Revenge consistently enjoyable throughout. These enhancements and changes are smartly implemented and don't feel like needless additions to the series, making this manic racer the most enjoyable, addictive and challenging racing titles released for the current generation. The developers deserve praise for adding to their already-successful formula without trampling on the elements that made the first title so enjoyable in the first place. Burnout Revenge is one of the best action-racing titles on the market, and far exceeds the lofty expectations set for it.

Grade: A

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Burnout 3: Takedown
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