April 08, 2006

Review: Burnout Revenge (Xbox 360)

Ah, road rage. Even if you haven’t been convicted of it by a court of law, chances are you’ve felt the urge. If some jerk cuts you off going well over the speed limit, what do you do? If you’re playing Burnout Revenge, you sideswipe his car into a semi and keep going. And your boost meter goes up in the process! Burnout Revenge for the Xbox 360 ditches the rules of “realistic” driving, instead focusing on the things we’d love to do with our cars: drive fast, bust some bumpers, and generally raise hell on the highway.

Initially released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 last fall, Burnout Revenge for the Xbox 360 is somewhat of an enhanced director’s cut, improving aspects of the original game and adding new material in the process. Revenge is the fourth game in the series, and the second published by Electronic Arts. Since the rights were sold by Acclaim, the series has gotten better with each subsequent game, with Revenge being the best version yet.

What makes Revenge superior to Burnout 3: Takedown is the elimination of more obstacles, as well as an increased emphasis on the takedown, especially Revenge Takedowns. In Burnout Revenge, you can now ram random traffic from behind without crashing, and their vehicles can be shot towards your rivals to take them down. Hitting a car head-on will still cause a non-beneficial accident, but you’ll want to stay in the oncoming lane to fill up your boost meter.

When a rival takes you down during a race, their car will be marked with a red arrow, giving you a target to aim for. By taking them down in retaliation, you’ll be awarded a Revenge Takedown, which boosts your meter more than a standard one. Of course, this is a game that refers to its cars as weapons, so the violent nature of this shouldn’t shock anyone. Taking down a rival won’t mean much to you offline, but playing online is an entirely different subject.

The online mode has been overhauled in the Xbox 360 version, and it is simply spectacular. EA’s servers will track who you’ve wronged (or been wronged by), and attempt to match you up in future sessions. Getting someone back weeks later is an incredible feeling, propelling Burnout Revenge to the top of the heap of online racers. In addition, the enhanced online mode allows you to upload highlight reels that you can edit in-game.

While racing is a huge part of Burnout Revenge, the fan-favorite Crash mode has made a return. Slightly modified from the original release, the new Crash mode shoots your car like a rocket into a crowded intersection, and it’s your job to cause as much damage as possible. There are few things in gaming more impressive than causing a multi-level highway crash involving 60+ cars and over $11 million dollars in damage. Ten addition crash junctions have been added to this version, making it a must-play for crash addicts.

By far, my favorite aspect of Burnout Revenge is the Road Rage mode, where your only goal is to take down as many cars as possible before your own vehicle is completely destroyed. It’s a blast; literally: the Crashbreaker option introduced later in the game allows you to detonate your car after a crash to take down your opponents. Most impressive about Burnout Revenge is the sheer amount of things to do. With over one-hundred events, you’ll log twenty hours in the World Tour and still have more to do.

With the enhanced processing power of the Xbox 360, one would expect a striking visual leap. Certainly, the game looks amazing, but so did the original version. The biggest enhancement comes in the form of stunning high-definition support. On a widescreen HDTV, the game is incredibly sharp, colorful, and detailed. Even on a standard television, you’ll notice some difference, though not as much. On any television, the crashes are much more spectacular, with hundreds of tiny pieces flooding the streets upon impact. In addition, the cars show more physical damage over the span of the race, with chipped paint exposing raw metal.

As with any Xbox 360 game, a surround sound system will significantly liven up your experience. Crashes will make your subwoofer boom with delight, and the soundtrack isn’t half-bad either. Pop-punk acts like Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard return from the original release, though newer tracks from Ok Go and We Are Scientists fill in the gaps. As expected, every track is upbeat and intense, just like the racing. I ended up switching to a custom soundtrack after several hours, courtesy of the system’s iPod support.

Surprisingly, everything isn’t up to par in this port. Loading times have doubled since the original release, giving you a good twenty-second wait before your race. More annoying is slow-down, which pops up more frequently than you might expect. Luckily, it should not affect your driving. The game ran perfectly on the Xbox and PlayStation 2, and despite the upgrades, it should not run any worse on the Xbox 360. The game would have benefited from an extra week or two of optimization.

I initially struggled with the scoring of this title. On one hand, Burnout Revenge is one of the best racing games released, a spiritual successor to the popular San Francisco Rush series of the late 90’s. On the other hand, it can be tough to consider this the definitive version of the game, as it features slow-down and longer loading times. Still, the enhanced online play, extra Crash junctions, and high-definition support make this the version to own.

If you have an Xbox 360 and an HDTV, this should be in your library. However, if you still have an original Xbox or PlayStation 2 and a standard television, consider the original version, which now retails for only $30 (as opposed to $60 for the Xbox 360 release). Burnout Revenge is one of the rare racing games that appeals to non-racing fans; its no-nonsense approach makes fun a priority, leading to an unparalleled gaming experience.

Grade: A-

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