Reviews: Finally, your chance to take revenge on the 5 PM rush hour.
After a pair of installments that languished under the Acclaim name, Burnout had a breakout year in 2004 under the Electronic Arts banner. The original games were good, if not great titles that demonstrated potential for Criterion's arcade racer, but Burnout 3: Takedown was the ultimate culmination of the ideas brought to the table. Mixing in a high level of terror, racing around tracks at high speeds with traffic all around with the ability to 'take out' opposing cars, or causing as much mayhem as possible in Crash mode, Burnout 3 was the runaway racing game of the year (some even thought it had a crack at overall game of the year, it was that well received), even if it was a dull year for the genre, and possibly the new benchmark to boot. A year later, Burnout returns with the new Revenge subtitle, emphasizing the battle racing the game personifies. Unwilling to rehash the 3rd game, Criterion has again revamped the formula, making for a game that plays very differently from its predecessors in most aspects, though at the same time it's the Burnout you know and love. It's not the revolution that Takedown was, and arguably is the first step backwards for the franchise in relative terms, but no matter, Revenge is an amazing driving game with so much new and fixed up it feels almost like a whole new game in places.
Much of Burnout Revenge is an evolved or reworked version of Burnout 3, most evident in Burnout's most vital aspect ? how you deal with traffic. In previous games, the traffic was an enemy, and the fear of rounding a corner and slamming into them was one of the things that made the game stand out from the pack ? and in many ways, was a more dangerous opponent than the cars you race against. With Revenge, Criterion has made a sweeping change ? letting you use the traffic as a weapon. As long as the car is reasonably sized and going the same direction as you, you can freely hit them, whether its to push them out of the way, or knock them into opponents as a method of taking them out, called 'checking' ? think of a hockey check. In exchange, there's far more traffic this time around to deal with, making some courses overloaded with danger if you wind up slamming into a bus or a truck, or even oncoming traffic ? which is still a no-no in Burnout's world. Right off the bat when you start the single player mode, World Tour, you're introduced to this reworked element with new game mode Traffic Attack, where the goal is to check as many cars as possible, before running out of time ? seconds are added to the clock as you make contact, and more time is added if you use the smaller car to wipe out the larger vehicles.
Traffic checking also comes into play with the revamped Crash mode, which arguably has become the trademark of the franchise. Criterion took out the various pickups from Burnout 3, instead making the junctions far bigger and more complicated. There's even a Madden-esque launching system that is like kicking a field goal ? a 3-click system sets your takeoff speed, and you actually have to take wind into effect, as cars will move around in the air if you hit a ramp, and cars have different weights so lighter cars will swerve a lot while heavy ones won't. Many of the junctions are quite tricky, and you'll probably have to retry them a few times to discover the right way to get a gold medal. Usually it involves the aforementioned checking. Because you can smash traffic going your way, it's easy to ram a car into cross traffic, causing a wreck there, while driving along to the next intersection to cause chaos on your own, in short creating multiple areas of destruction. There's even the ability to have multiple Crashbreakers this time around ? if you can fill the damage meter to 100%. Different cars have different Crashbreaker force ? little cars don't have much, but they can fly farther to other areas of the map, but heavier cars have catastrophic Crashbreakers, but don't travel as far during impact time. It's a lot more challenging than in previous games, requiring more strategy than ever before. If you have a Madden NFL 06 save, you can unlock the Madden Challenge van, which is usually a great option for tackling most of the junctions.
In general, the actual race formats haven't changed too much aside from the revenge factor. If an opponent takes you out, his icon turns red, signifying an enemy, and if you can return the favor, you get a special revenge takedown. It's not a big deal, but it adds some life to the opponents. All the takedowns from the past game return, and the courses are still designed for maximum violence against your opponents. However, the courses themselves have undergone a major overhaul, adding another wrinkle to the Burnout formula. In past games, while the track designs were great, they were always straightforward and linear. With Revenge, that's all changed ? every course now features tons of shortcuts and alternate routes, though as you'd expect, these alternatives are usually very dangerous and risky for one reason or another, be it narrow pathways or crash-causing obstacles. They're not always shortcuts either; some might put you in worse position than you were before. Because you're usually traveling at very high speeds, Criterion marked them with shining blue lights ? but even then, it's hard to spot them and immediately swerve their direction until you remember their locations the next lap. These make the biggest difference in the Burning Lap time trials, where you absolutely must use all the alternate routes and shortcuts if you want to get a gold.
Takedowns haven't changed much, aside from the new traffic check takedowns, and the new holy grail, vertical takedowns, which you get by landing on top of a car for instant destruction. It can be difficult to pull off but vertical takedowns are really impressive. Keeping with the theme of change, Road Rage, used in Burnout 3 as a demonstration of the takedown concept, has been altered slightly, with the addition of a time limit, that you can recharge by getting the required amount of takedowns. Road Rage is still as addictive as ever, though it can sometimes be very challenging because the AI is far more fierce this time around. In later Road Rage events (as well as Race and Eliminator modes), the Crashbreaker concept from Crash mode is brought into play, and it does what you'd expect ? if you time it correctly while opponents are close, you can take out the entire pile of them with one press of the R2 button, for truly explosive payback, as well as instant revenge. Speaking of Eliminator mode; once done in a lap by lap format, where the car in last place after each lap would be knocked out, it's now done in a timer format, where every 30 seconds the last place car is eliminated. It adds a lot more tension to the event, since getting taken out right before the time expires could put you in last, and thus removed from the race.