C riterion’s next game in the Burnout series continues to surprise and innovate, while at the same time harkens back to the series roots while distancing itself slightly from some aspects of Burnout 3: Takedown. With Revenge not only the name of the game but the name of the game , if you catch my drift, players will still be expected to takedown as many opponents as possible, but there are some drastic changes to the franchise that might throw a few players off their game initially.
The first of these differences is quite a fundamental shift from how you have played the Burnout series up til now. In previous games one ill-timed crash could mean the difference between winning and losing. Naturally players would be on the edge of their seat as they flew through city streets, between cement pillars, and around corners while weaving in and out of traffic in an attempt to fill their boost tanks. Revenge takes the sting out of crashing because now, same way traffic is no longer an obstacle; it’s a tactical strategy. The ability to “check” traffic into your opponents (think hockey) is a basic requirement now and one that you need to wrap your mind around. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be avoiding them for fear of losing and then realize that there is nothing to fear from them at all. Checking traffic into your opponents is a neat idea in theory, but I’m not so sure I’m crazy about it simply because it changes the game of Burnout too much. Once I became used to the concept of smashing NPC’s into my opponents, the edge of my seat, white-knuckle fear that fueled my adrenaline which sharpened my reflexes into an acute, cat-like sensation, no longer applied to the game. I could smash into anyone going my way and the game would send them flying directly into the path of my opponents. Conversely, the opponent AI rarely did the same to me and so this feature was all mine to abuse and it made me almost unstoppable.
As with previous titles you’ll play BR’s main event to unlock new tracks and with that, new modes of play. New arrivals alongside the tried and true Road Rage and Crash challenges include Traffic Attack and the Crashbreaker mode. Traffic Attack is exactly what it sounds like – pile on the hurt while Crashbreaker is something entirely new. In Takedown, you could steer your car into passing opponents after you crashed using the Aftertouch control. In Revenge, the Crashbreaker actually an explosion you can set off after you crash, as long as you have some Boost left in the caboose. Using this new technique is cheap; really cheap. You can effectively eliminate almost any who dares take your first place position. Hell, you can even take out the poor bastards in second and third if they’re close enough when the fireworks go off. This translates into you getting back your first place position once the gameplay gets underway. Aftertouch was certainly more skill based, less effective and overall much more fair. Crashbreaker is on par with using a cheat code as far as I’m concerned.
In terms of track design Criterion managed to the raise the bar over Takedown’s collection. With the foundation of the game relying heavily on battle rather than avoidance, the track design has been completely overhauled to facilitate and encourage contact. Whereas Takedown’s tracks were fairly narrow and tight, Takedown opens up the arena and allows for far more improvisational takedowns than ever before. Shortcuts also figure prominantly in this years track design but like anything in life that is too good to be true, there is a caveat. Taking a shortcut often means having to pull off some incredible maneuvers so you won’t lose time or crash.
Since its debut in Burnout 2, Crash Mode has become one of the defining elements of the Burnout series and has also underwent a significant change in direction when compared to last years installment. Absent are the confusing icons and multipliers that littered the stages and the emphasis is once again on kicking major ass, but with some chaos theory thrown in for good measure. For starters you’ll need to adjust to the new countdown mechanism which works much like a swing meter in Hot Shots Golf or Tiger Woods. Hit the button at the right time and you’ll boost. Blow it and you’ll either have to restart or improvise. The crash junctions are much further up the road than before – you might need to pass 2 junctions before you reach the action – and there is a lot of traffic between here and there. Players will have to rely on traffic checking to succeed and as mentioned you might forget this handy technique while you frustrate the living crap out of yourself.
Taking the game online is a breeze and like Takedown, extends the replay value of the title immensely. The racing is definitely fast and furious and without lag, hiccups or other graphical anomalies. Traffic Attack and Crash Tour are new online modes debuting this year. While I found Traffic Attack to be a little weak in the knees during single player, playing online is where the mode proves its worthiness as it’s just that more interesting when you’re trying to beat another person rather than a high score. Crash Tour is a 6 player mayhem filled smash em up that actually plays like a twisted game of golf. Each crash course has it’s own dollar amount. Players will compete to reach that target amount and replay the course over and over until they reach it. The player with the smallest amount of turns, wins the course.
The audio visual department at Criterion is clearly pushing all of the systems to their physical limits. Revenge is the best looking and sounding in the series and is a contender for the best looking racer ever. The game moves so fast and looks so incredible at high speeds that other development teams really need to sit up and take notice. Revenge’s car models return to Burnout 2’s roster of cool Criterion based machines rather than caricatures of realworld vehicles. It doesn’t really make a lot of difference in the scheme of things and you’ll either dig it, not dig it or not care one way or the other.
Burnout Revenge is, I’m sure of it, the last great arcade racer on the current gen systems. Certainly the boys and girls at Criterion will be focusing their attentions on bringing the Burnout experience to the next gen systems from this point forward. That’s not to say that everything will be completely hunky dory for all Burnout fans. Some may find the altered direction of the basic fundamentals of the game a drastic change which makes the game far too easy in certain places. Burnout 2 fans who found last years game too much of a shock to the system might delight in the direction Revenge takes thsi year. In any event you can’t say that Criterion was resting on it’s laurels. Any gamer who gets off on high speed hijinks will find that Revenge is a dish best served now!