Can a follow up improve on what came before? Criterion’s Burnout Revenge attempts to do just that and it does a pretty good job in proving that a follow up doesn’t always have to be a completely new experience.
Burnout Revenge was driven with the Xbox.
Get Behind The Wheel
There’s no story behind Revenge, no dramatis personae to race against or talk trash to onscreen other than who you can find online. Just you, simulated steel, your hands on the controller, and challenging racetracks inspired by venues around the world to keep the adrenaline injected experience going until he wee hours of the night. Although it might not have ‘licensed’ cars and venues, Revenge continues the fun factor of its predecessor by focusing on the experience of speed, the thrill of dodging oncoming traffic, sharp turns, and combat. It doesn’t need a fancy nameplate to give the player what they are looking for with a Burnout title.
Wait… Combat? In a racing game? When Duvall’s character in the film “Days of Thunder” said that “rubbin’ is racin'”, I doubt that he would have agreed with Criterion’s take. You don’t ‘rub’ opponents. You rub them out. You execute two ton clotheslines and drop kicks with your vehicle that send them flying into barricades and buildings. This is a game that puts cars, trucks, busses, pick ups, and other vehicles into a mutated hybrid of demolition derbies and race car driving. Yeah, there’s racing there, but its more of an afterthought compared to everything else you can do.
That’s what Revenge is all about.
Criterion obviously spent time in making what worked in the previous title even better and it shows. Much of what is in Revenge will seem familiar to players that have come off from Takedown, so you might want to skip ahead to What’s New. For those that haven’t yet and are looking at this, I’ll try and describe what you can expect.
The gameplay of Revenge puts you behind the wheel of one of many pseudo sports cars that you can take onto the many race tracks and side roads of the game and cuts you loose to speed your way to the end. The controls are easy to manage without the clutter of too many options leaving you to concentrate on what matters. Many of the races are straightforward affairs where being number one will get you the checkered flag. But Criterion has taken it a step further by eschewing polite driving for the brutal road warrior mentality that Mad Max would have enjoyed.
You don’t just race to win. You race and smash your way to the top leaving hulks of twisted metal in your wake. Burnout Takedown did this to near perfection with its excellent crash physics and the ability to watch it all in slow motion…controlling the direction your car might be flying in with its “Aftertouch” ability so even then you can try and spread the love after watching your shiny auto avatar bite it. As you watch your car fly into the air, you can move it with your analog stick while pushing on the X button in a sort of Max Payne for racing moment as a slow mo effect lets you ease it into the next lane where a rival may just be coming through until you ruined their day.
You also build up what is called “Boost”, kind of like an afterburner for the engine, as a flaming meter fills up with every car you send to the curb, near miss, rival that you send into the side, or stunt that you can pull off like sliding around corners along with hopping ramps. Burning boost allows your car to speed like a hyperkinetic kitten through the tracks and around traffic, blurring the screen around the edges as your four wheeled rocket tears into the air ahead of it. The special effect for this is pretty impressive and does a lot to give you the impression that you’re flying at the edge of your rubber wheels.
Some races are straightforward affairs where making it to the end in first is all you need to do. Others may eliminate whoever is in the last position every thirty seconds ensuring that you try and hold onto the lead for as long as you can, smash a certain number of rivals within a certain time limit, or give you time limits that you can try to beat for the best medals. It doesn’t end there, either. Just as its predecessor celebrated automotive annihilation, Revenge continues this fine tradition of smash ’em up racing with gameplay types that carry it on. For example, “Road Rage” pits you against rival AI drivers in a contest of destruction as you try to smash them before they can smash you…or your car succumbs to one too many torque twisting crashes before crossing the finish line.
Outside of racing, “Crash Challenges” allow you to try to redefine fifty car pile ups. When you start off, your car stands still as the engine revs. As you watch a sort of speed needle go up and down on a colored meter, hitting the right ‘spots’…normally the green areas at the top and bottom portions of the meter…will launch your car with a ‘perfect’ start. In a new addition to the Burnout franchise, you have the potential to actually blow out your engine in an embarrassing explosion complete with a laugh track (I am not kidding). Or you might miss revving your engine and end up snail crawling towards the next busy stretch of road.
Depending on how successfully you can snarl the traffic ahead, your score is tallied in cash damage with appropriate bronze, silver, or gold awards available as cars pile into the mess you’ve made. Some of these take place at busy intersections, others around stretches of road with opposing traffic. It’s all there for you to play around with when it’s time to take a break from racing. In addition to the pile ups that you create, depending on how well you do you can even activate a ‘Crash Breaker’ special that turns your smashed car into a ticking gift.
There are many different venues for these challenges and the races that you can take part in. The interface and the presentation for these were redone for Revenge, getting rid of the world map and opting for a more straightforward progression of ‘stages’ with different events that unlock depending on how well you do in the previous ones. As you race, you might even get invited to special races where you can try out suped up cars like sleek sporty exotics on tracks that you don’t have access to yet. These preview races are a lot of fun just as they were in Takedown, tantalizing players with rides that may be unlocked later on.
But the biggest change in Burnout is in how the traffic is handled. In Takedown, traffic was always something to avoid like the plague with deadly vehicles scattered all over the road like mobile mines. In Revenge, it lives up to its moniker by allowing the player to not only plow into traffic and send it flying, but to potentially use it as weapons against your AI driven rivals (or online challengers) in an almost Ikaruga kind of zen. At least most of it is.
Oncoming traffic is still deadly and heavier vehicles like busses that will still turn you into a pancake. But small cars and vans can be launched from your bumper for bonus boost and if you angle it just right, obstacles for your rivals. While this has made the racing portion of the title feel a bit ‘easier’ because of the fact that there may be less traffic to dodge, plowing through a variety of smaller cars only to suddenly find yourself blasting into an eighteen wheeler around the next bend can still keep you on your toes.
You can also rain “death from above” when you leap off of ramps and land on top of your opponents and there’s quiet a bit of opportunity for this everywhere in the levels. Emphasizing this is a new race, mode, “Traffic Attack”, that has you racing against borrowed time. The more cars you smash, the more time you earn to keep you in the race to wreak even more devastation.
The race venues have also gone through a few changes. A new batch of tracks are offered up with many of the same challenges from before along with a few twists. Shortcuts are everywhere now. These handy little side detours may be more dangerous than in sticking to the main roads with stone columns, cliff sides, and other natural and man made hazards littering the way through but they can give you a much needed edge over the aggressive AI that will be right behind you. If you experienced the rubber banding AI from Takedown, you’ll be happy to know that the shortcuts can really give you an edge over it this time around lending another sense of ‘revenge’ to the gameplay. Depending on how well you do in races and in other events like the Crash contests, you also get points (in the form of how many rating stars you can earn) that go towards improving your ‘rank’. Are you good enough to be considered Dangerous? Just trying to earn every star to get to the top can be a small quest in itself helping to extend thegame.
And as the game indicates, it’s all about Revenge. Whenever you end up crashed against a barrier or a wall from another driver, that driver becomes your ‘revenge rival’ that you can take out for serious boosting or as a target to notch up on your list. You also have the ability to use crash breakers while you race your rivals, making you even more dangerous when you bite it on the track as your opponents race towards an explosive end if you time it right.
The graphics are really well done, with polished paint and chrome making each car look as valuable as they probably would be if they existed. Veterans from Takedown won’t be as impressed as newcomers, though. As mentioned before, although there aren’t any licensed cars in the game, it doesn’t really matter. The sports cars show off a kind of design aesthetic that hint at certain other cars that might have been in there but they look just as good by themselves.
The graphical improvements also extend to the presentation of each venue as well as the cool CGI clips for the trophies you can earn, each one animating a spectacular scene such as a crashing car and then freeze flashing it to create something that you might want on your mantle.The physics and the damage models are back, again making each glass shattering and panel twisting collision as brutal as they can be. These are toys that you can break over and over again and still catch something that you might not have seen before. Wheels fly off, cargo rolls off trucks, headlights break…it’s all in here and it looks great. The level design and the venues for many of the races are also well represented. Downtown runs become thrilling adventures into traffic with neon lights and signs reminiscent of nighttime Hong Kong or Tokyo lighting up the road ahead.
Every crashing blow and exploding engine block is also shown off in the great sound design for the title, revving engines and roar of the vehicles down straightaways funneled through your speakers like so much ear candy. EA Trax also makes a return with a slightly improved selection of music and far less annoying DJ, Striker’s annoying verbiage replaced with a sultry and understated femme fatale who doesn’t try to crack as much bad dialogue as her predecessor.I still opted to turn the DJ off and drove to my own tracks, but I did listen to it to see if I would have liked it had I not already set something up for myself. It’s better, but if you weren’t a fan of EA’s attempt in Takedown, you might not find yourself being drawn back in for seconds.
You can take Revenge online if you have a connection through Live!, taking on live opponents in races or in crash contests. Many of the events that you enjoyed in single player or in splitscreen mode with friends are available for you to challenge others with on the ‘net. For the most part, the experience was what I had experienced from the first one. The races and events were pretty lag free and fun to play through. Racers are divided into red and blue teams for many of the racing events and the paranoid sensation of lag spikes driving their way into the gameplay never surfaced. If you ever feel the need to hear someone scream at you or talk trash to live opponents while you race, Revenge will give you that on top of the polished gameplay it already offers.
There are a few things that mar an otherwise exciting sequel to a fun franchise. One of the first, and most obvious, is that the game’s tweaks might make this title feel more like an upgrade to Takedown than a full blown sequel. Although Criterion has fine tuned many of the gameplay nuances from Takedown, exaggerating many of its already explosive moments into chaotic displays of flying glass and exploding metal, some may feel a sense of deja vu and wonder why they paid full price for the experience. Load times can still feel like they’re dragging out, especially when you already have adrenaline pumping through your veins from the last race and just want to start the next one. These were minor gripes, though, given how fun the rest of the package felt.
One thing that I would have liked to have seen would be the occasional persistent wreck, especially if it’s one of your rivals. It’s kind of strange to be going through areas where you had initiated a massive pileup before and not see any sign of the results becoming obstacles to avoid. Maybe in the next one?
Vengeance is Yours
Burnout: Revenge continues the gameplay that had helped make Takedown an exciting arcade racer that you can pick up, race for a few minutes, and then walk away from. It’s not an entirely new experience, though, and some may feel that the additions may not demand a purchase but more of a rental. Fans will still find a lot to like here and turning the traffic into flying projectiles that you can use against everything…and everyone…else is a twist that works to make each race an exciting exercise in speed, survival, and sweet revenge. If you like racing and destroying expensive looking toys, Burnout: Revenge should serve up exactly what you need.
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