Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 7, 2006
The only kink in the fairly successful Xbox 360 launch was in its games; all of the major and most anticipated releases were mediocre rehashes of last year's titles, except with heavily updated graphics engines. A few months later, one would expect to see more of the same, but in a most impressive fashion, developers are showing consumers and critics that they can learn quickly and work out the creases. One-month delays needed to "polish" games have been really paying off, as evidenced by Fight Night Round 3 and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. Both games were delayed a short time before release for cleaning up, and both games have displayed themselves to be two of the strongest and most compelling games yet on the X360. Criterion's Burnout Revenge is another such game that was slightly delayed, and I am glad that Criterion made that call.
If you recall, Burnout Revenge was released across the various consoles last year to great acclaim and strong sales. When I took my X360 home after launch, I threw my Xbox copy of BR into the X360's tray after trying out my "new" games and feeling rather disappointed. Much to my chagrin, BR wouldn't load up even after the backwards compatibility patches were updated. I later found out that BR was due out for X360, and I felt rather cheated. So EA wants me to buy the same game twice, huh?
Criterion certainly didn't want me to buy the same game twice, and thanks to their integrity, I didn't. Microsoft was late in coming up with the code to update the older version of BR to make it run on X360, so Criterion got sick of waiting and looked at how they could turn a current-gen BR into a next-gen one.
If you're not familiar with the Burnout franchise, it's a deceptively simple racing game that revolutionized the genre by making spectacular car crashes a part of the gameplay. While the racing and drifting were compelling, the crash mode was what drew most fans. Crash mode puts you and your ride at the start of an intersection or stretch of road with a predetermined traffic pattern, and your task is to cause the biggest pile-up imaginable. BR takes the classic crash mode gameplay and evolves it with complex intersections and setups, all of which offer an increasing level of challenge. Needless to say, the replay-ability of all these sections is endless and makes for a great party game.
BR evolves racing into a more compelling package by refining the physics and mechanics to keep the gameplay frantic and fun, which still requiring some technical skill. More than ever, however, the gameplay is fast. I'm talking F-Zero fast. Wipeout fast. There are countless unlockable cars (all fictional) and dozens of tracks to race in America, Europe, and Asia, and each track can be raced forwards or backwards. Each track has a good deal of two-way traffic to contend with, as well as shortcuts that can get you caught up in a race or leave the pack behind. The single-player World Tour mode has several types of racing. There is the straight-up race against five other racers; a single-player Burning Lap, where your sole concern is time; Traffic Attack, another single-car race where your aim is to "check" as many cars as possible to rack up points; Grand Prix, a series of three to five races; Eliminator, which starts off with six racers, and each lap sees the last-place car blown up until there is only one; and my favorite is Takedown, where you score by getting your opponents to crash using either your bumper or the environment. On its own merits, BR's single-player racing could constitute a very good game, but combined with the crash mode, it transcends the normal conventions of good and becomes great.
I haven't even mentioned graphics. Holy Linus and Lucy, this game looks sick! Burnout Revenge blows away just everything else I've seen so far on the X360. I was duly impressed with PGR 3's visuals and its use of motion blur, speed, and anti-aliasing, but BR does all of the same with intensely modeled tracks, great lighting and flair. In comparison, PGR 3 looks drab, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted looks washed out and blurry. BR recreates the sensation of speed so effectively that your eyes will burn from not blinking, and the buffeting effect will make your knuckles tighten until they're white.
BR may not technically be the most visually superior game from a coder's perspective, but from the gamer's eye, it looks flawless in 720p and even in 1080i. I never caught any instances of texture tearing or clipping, which often occurs with porting a game from one platform to another. The lines are clean, the lighting is strong, and the explosions erupt across the screen, making you wonder if you're driving through a racetrack or a minefield. You will easily recognize America and distinguish its look in terms of architecture from the ancient cobblestone roads of Europe and the tight and windy streets of what could easily be Hong Kong or Tokyo. The oncoming traffic might be just a few cars modeled the same and colored differently, but you're moving so fast that it doesn't matter, and all you need to know is whether or not it's headlights or taillights you're looking at.
Sound-wise, BR is just as explosive and raucous as its visuals. With 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, the game's sound effects will envelop you as things whiz by or cars go boom. The sound mixing is perfect with its combination of bellowing explosions and crunching glass and metal. The soundtrack is thorough and merges techno with indy rock, and while you may not know most of the artists, there are a few famous names sprinkled here and there. A nice feature is the ability to fast forward through your track list with the right shoulder button. With a proper setup and a decent sub-woofer, you can make the paint peel off your walls, and your neighbors will call the fire department because they'll think a propane tank just blew up in your living room.
All of this sounds good, right? Well I haven't even touched the best part, which makes BR for the X360 worth buying again: Criterion rocked the online component of this game. While every X360 game has to have some sort of online functionality, Criterion took this step very seriously. The race modes are limited to Race, Road Rage, and Crash and Crash Party, but there is more than enough here to satisfy. Most importantly, BR runs just as fast online as it does offline. There was only one instance of lag that I encountered, and BR deals with lag well as you progress through the track, but you can't crash or use turbo until the server catches up with everyone. Visually, I didn't notice any missing features either, and you still have all of the same sound effects and music as you did in single-player mode. A lot of titles tone down the visuals for online gaming in order to keep things moving smoothly, but BR doesn't sacrifice enough to make the game noticeably different between online and offline play. That, in it of itself, is incredible, considering this whole new batch of code was worked on in less than a year. Criterion also installed a suite of software that keeps a running track of scores between you and everyone you've ever raced, so if someone smacked you around today, chances are you can meet up with that person a week later to settle the score. There is also a dynamically updated world ranking system, but you can run unranked games if you like.
A lot of critics, me included, have knocked the likes of EA for foisting rushed and unready titles onto the market that simply slapped a new coat of paint on an old game. I was concerned that EA was cashing in yet again with Burnout Revenge for the X360, but I am glad to say that I was wrong. The visuals don't merely look like an overhaul, the sound is as amazing as ever, and it definitely makes good use of high definition and Xbox Live. While it is technically a port, BR is also a significant improvement on an already amazing game. If you like racing games – even if you're a PGR 3 realism junkie – you need to play this title, especially online. For those of you wondering if the X360 is worth the purchase, BR is one more reason to make the move.
More articles about Burnout Revenge