EA, the industry's biggest publisher, isn't exactly thought of favourably by the so called 'hardcore' gamers. Destined to hate them forever, these people hang around internet forums determined to dismiss each and every EA release as a rehash, cash-in, movie license, yearly update or worse. A release of Burnout Revenge on the Xbox 360 is playing right into their hands, but even with "cheap port" being shouted more often than EA games top the sales chart, you can't deny that Revenge on the 360 is the best version of the game to date. The haters will probably stick to their guns, wanting to play no part in the continued success of a company they hate, but that's their loss. The rest of us don't need their endorsement to have a cracking good time.
As with every game in the series, Burnout Revenge builds on the previous game and brings something entirely new to the series. New this year is traffic checking; quite simply, you can now bulldoze your way through any traffic that isn't oncoming, stationary, crossing you or too large (bus size). While Burnout 3 was near bursting with action, Revenge has spilled its load all over the road, causing more damage and devastation than you could ever imagine.
The takedowns from Burnout 3 are still here, but now benefit from the traffic checking. There's nothing quite as satisfying as sending a non-racing car flying across numerous lanes into the side of an opponent. Plus, thanks to the new emphasis on shortcuts and jumps, you can perform vertical take downs, making that grin on your face stretch round to your ears. There's obviously still a race to be won most of the time, but Revenge makes getting to the finish line so much more fun.
If you've played Burnout 3 you'll be familiar with most the race types that make up Revenge's World Tour. The way it's presented has been changed a little, and the menus are a little sleeker, but it's still pretty familiar stuff. You've got your burning laps (a single lap driven to a time limit), Road Rage events (take down as many opponents as possible), Eliminator races (the last placed car after each 30-second interval is eliminated) single races and grand prix events (multiple races per event). Then there's the new and improved Crash mode and Traffic Attack mode, which I'll get to later.
The World Tour is presented to you via eleven ranks. Each of these ranks corresponds to a rank you can achieve in the game, which is determined by the number of stars you have earned for completing races. The goal is to complete each race with an Awesome rating, giving you four stars, and then adding a bonus star for completing the race with a gold medal. However, completing a race with a bronze medal will take away a star. This makes it worthwhile replaying a number of races in order to get maximum stars, and the game's user interface makes it perfectly clear about which races have stars available to be won.
Crash mode has been a fan favourite ever since it was introduced in Burnout 2, and while it was great in Burnout 3, Revenge takes it one stage further - with the Xbox 360 version including a number of crash junctions exclusive to the port. What you have now is a totally unique game mode that has been tailored perfectly for party play (while still fitting into the main World Tour). A flyover of the course is shown to begin with, and spotting the ideal crash zone is vital to racking up lots of damage. The golf-swing meter to start has been dropped in the 360 version, in favour of a guaranteed good start, and on balance this turns out to be a good thing. You'll usually need to propel your car from a conveniently placed ramp, and here the game gives you control over the car's direction (in mid air) and makes you fight against wind direction, before sending you crashing - hopefully - into a congested crossroad or something similar.
There's more to it than that though. The wind will affect cars differently depending on their weight, and some cars aren't fast enough to get over the chasms that must be crossed. If only the game would indicate wind strength prior to choosing a vehicle, this would be far less about trial and error. Then there's the new target car that gives you a nice bonus if it's taken out in the crash, and the new multiple crash breakers that allow you to detonate your car on more than one occasion, depending on the amount of damage that is ensuing. Gone are the multiplier icons from Burnout 3, making the crash mode more about careful planning and good timing, and less about homing in on the biggest multipliers. It's still not perfect, with the camera often changing to give you a less than ideal view on the action, and traffic still ploughs into a huge pile-up even though the drivers have had plenty of time to break and avoid the disaster. Still, Crash mode has improved once again, and is becoming the series' trademark game mode.
Traffic Attack isn't quite the innovation that Crash mode was back in Burnout 2, but it's still an entertaining addition to the World Tour. A timer ticks down while you plough through as many vehicles as possible, taking them down yourself, or by sending them flying into other lanes of traffic and doing the dirty work for you. Once the timer hits 20 seconds you're up against it, with every take down adding vital seconds to the timer. It's a constant struggle, moving from one car to the next, like some crazed bull in Santo Domingo during July. It's fast, intense, action-packed stuff, that's for sure.
There's support for two-player split screen that runs surprisingly smoothly, but online play is the big focus of this Xbox 360 version. There are some great online race and crash modes for up to six players, but the real star is the new online rivals system. The game tracks all your online races and lets you know if you've created a rival in the online arena. Before each race you'll be told who you need to focus on and also which driver is the current event leader. The talk of online rivals seemed like a minor thing before the game was released, but it gives online games much more of an edge than they did on the Xbox and PlayStation 2. The achievements tied to the game also focus quite heavily on online play, hammering home how much time Criterion spent on this aspect of the port.
The other major addition is the ability to view, save and share replays. 30-second clips can be recorded and then made available for friends and other players to see. The top twenty most downloaded replays are showcased, so it's up to you to make sure your classic video is given to as many players as possible. The whole interface is designed pretty well, and the sharing process doesn't take all that long, making it ideal for capturing incredible Burnout moments - of which there are bound to be plenty.
Burnout Revenge looked phenomenal on the Xbox and PlayStation 2, and it looks surprisingly brilliant on the Xbox 360 too. The game moves at a blisteringly fast pace and the colours are so vivid they literally smack you in the face. The crashes look more spectacular than ever here, with much improved explosion effects and high-poly car models that show every bump and scrape, but the difference between this and the previous-gen versions isn't exactly night and day. If you're running a hi-def display then the 720p support makes a huge difference - in image quality and in spotting distant traffic - and the draw distance seems slightly improved, but the frame rate drops a little from time to time. It's such a small problem that it could well have been left out of the review, but seeing as this is a port of a game from a previous-gen system, it's worth noting.
The game's soundtrack is a huge improvement over Burnout 3, with a collection of tunes that fit the game far better. The sound effects have actually been totally reworked for this 360 port, and somehow the game manages to sound even better than the already incredible sounding Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions. Everything just sounds that bit meatier, making the intense nature of the game even more dramatic. If you haven't already played Revenge on an older system, you'll be glad to hear that the awful DJ from Burnout 3 no longer offers his words of wisdom during races, rounding off a great audio package.
Something that must be mentioned is the rubber-band AI. This means that your opposition rarely stretch that far ahead or fall too far behind. In most games this would be a huge problem, as no matter your skill, you could be punished on the final corner. In Burnout the best part of the game comes from taking down the opposition, so, had you been able to pull large distances ahead this element of the game would have been lost. Sure, a last second crash can be costly, but keeping things close makes races thrilling from start to finish.
Whether or not you should buy Burnout Revenge on the Xbox 360 is a tricky question. If you don't already own a version of the game, then there's no question - pick this up today. Even with its previous-gen roots, Burnout Revenge is a brilliant Xbox 360 title that deserves a place in your collection. If you own or have played a lot of the Xbox or PlayStation 2 version, it's a much harder decision to make. With the main additions being made to the online game, this should be your deciding factor, along with some nicely sharpened visuals for anyone with a hi-def display.