As a reviewer, it is hard (and mostly unheard of) to give a sequel a higher score than its predecessor. In this case, factor in that the predecessor in question is a landmark title like Burnout 3: Takedown and that this iteration simply builds upon greatness and you'd have a good case against scoring it higher. But at the same time, Burnout Revenge tweaks and fixes and cajoles enough options to make it stand on its own as an infinitely better title. And shouldn't a title be judge on the merit of its peers, regardless of if they happen to be prequels or not? I think so. And Revenge makes a strong case that's almost impossible to ignore. It takes everything that was good about Takedown and makes it better.
Fans of the series will feel right at home upon booting up Burnout Revenge as it carries the same feel that the series has maintained through its various consoles outings and publishers. This may be an EA published game (which adds considerable weight and clout to the series) but make no mistake about it; Criterion Games has not let this series out of its grasps. From the opening Burnout screen with its audio presentation, it's impossible not to smile in anticipation knowing that a fresh Burnout game awaits to be played. And while the series has and will always feature cars on its cover and in its games, this is as much an action title as it is a racing game. Even more so; I have friends who do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, play games; but they will play Burnout 3 and they will absolutely love Burnout Revenge. This series not only transcends genres but social expectations as well. It may seem surprising and odd to have to state this, but I've never known anyone who didn't like a little Burnout in their lives. From girlfriends to in-laws, bosses to cousins, everyone who's had a taste always comes back for more.
Burnout Revenge may feel like an easier game to many. While Burnout 3 was completely playable, it did in many circumstances carry a level of frustration with it. The Rival Races in particular spring to mind as particularly "touchy" subjects for me. Well, Revenge eliminates them completely and instead gives you more races, more burning laps (the times are more generous and manageable this time around), more eliminator races, more Grand Prix and more of everyone's favorite: Road Rage. New in Revenge is also the traffic attack mode which has proven to be pure genius. In this mode, you simply hit as much traffic as you can in the hopes of causing a certain amount of damage. The time you have to do this is extended as you take traffic out. This mode alone is worth the price of Revenge, but like last year's road rage events, it feels as though there isn't enough traffic attack in the mix.
The new "mechanic" of the game is the ability to "check" traffic. This simply means that while you should still avoid oncoming traffic you can now freely plow into same-way traffic and send it hurling about. Larger vehicles, however, such as semis and buses, should be avoided. What is the price of all this shunting, slamming and grinding you ask? A small speed degradation. What are the benefits? Well, besides adding to your boost bar, you can now perform Takedowns (taking out other competitors) using traffic. And it's oh so satisfying. In Burnout 3, having a car ahead of you by a few seconds generally meant a losing place. Now, with the rubber-band A.I. not as noticeable and the ability to use traffic to Takedown competitors ahead of you, being in 5th place simply means that there's a whole lot of crashing waiting to happen.
Revenge, with its newly designed tracks that now feature short-cuts galore, ramps, multi-level mayhem and more destructible environments, also allows you to Takedown your opponents from above. That's right, you can now take out an opponent by landing on him. The game will even award you a trophy for doing so. You can still use Impact Time (Burnout's Bullet Time mode in which you can still control your car's trajectory after crashing) to hit opponents (Aftertouch) and also the new Crashbreakers let you detonate your car (a la Crash Events from Burnout 3) with the press of a button, taking out anyone in the vicinity. Talk about hectic! You now have to win the race, take out your opponents, avoid oncoming traffic, avoid flying debris keep clear of competitors using Aftertouch and avoid slamming head first into pillars, posts, houses, buildings, etc at blistering speeds. Yes, Burnout 3 may have introduced us to Takedown, but it's clearly Revenge that has perfected it.
The other mode that has returned to Revenge, although with a little revamping for better of worse, is the Crash Events. In this mode, first introduced in Burnout 2, you simply pick a car (the heavier, the better) and shoot out into traffic in the hopes of causing as much damage before you crash as possible. Picking your spot for crashing is paramount since the game then allows traffic to follow its intended course and crash into you escalating the damage. While Burnout 2 was really about making it to a busy intersection and crashing, Burnout 3 was really all about nabbing the various multipliers strewed about the level. In fact, if you always aimed to get the 4X multiplier, you were almost always assured a gold medal. That was fine, but once you played online or with friends, it seemed as if everyone knew exactly where to go each time and Crash Mode became a stalemate of sorts. To breath new life into this mode, Burnout 4 removes all multipliers and simply lets you pick your spot. During the level fly-by you'll have to carefully consider traffic placement and flow and plan accordingly. Next, you'll have to still make it to your designated target in one piece (although check traffic still applies). Revenge also adds a "launch bar" which determines your speed and boost at take-off. This is simply a meter, a la Hot Shots Golf/Madden kicking, which you press to initiate and must then press in the "sweet spot" at the top of its arc and again at the bottom. While this may seem like a novelty, missing the sweet spots can mean the difference between catching a major boost and hitting traffic at just the right time (or avoiding it) and stalling/blowing your engine. In multiplayer matches, the launch bar adds a depth that was completely absent in Burnout 2 and 3.
The other bright spot of the newly reinvented Crash Events is the camera which you can now control. This helps infinitely as you use Impact Time to steer your wreck to the appropriate location for the Crashbreaker to cause maximum damage. But all these meters and bars and lack of multipliers also contribute in making the gameplay feel a lot slower and much more deliberate then before. Whether this is an improvement or not is a question of personal opinion. Personally, I find the new Crash Events to lead to more competitive battles online and harder fought victories. It's also a nice change to have the option of using a different route once in a while instead of always the one that will net you the 4X.
The other change comes in how Revenge tracks your progression/ranking and distributes new cars. Instead of having a running total of damage caused and aggression points, you now have ratings per events and placement which contribute to a running total of medals which raise your ranking. While all of this may sound confusing, its not in the least and it's actually a very clever way of making Revenge feel varied enough to remain interesting. The stat tracking is also back, but they seem a little "light" this time, not keeping track of as much stuff as in Burnout 3 and also not displaying it online for your Friends to see. It should also be noted that offline ranking progress/unlockables are kept completely separate from your online rankings and progress. This is a clever way to keep fans playing longer, but also to keep newbies from being blown away by veterans.
It should also be noted, and this may come as a disappointment to many, that the single player events have been removed from Revenge. When playing alone, you now only have access to the World Tour which features 169 events (this includes Crash Events and Race Events). This is a little disheartening since I remember spending a lot of time playing Road Rage using various cars on all the unlocked tracks. World Tour does allow you to still play each mode with various cars, but you have to hunt these down. The good news is that navigating the various events is a lot easier and more intuitive this time around.
Everyone remembers that when Burnout 3 was first released, the online portion suffered from a few issues. The game was running on newly established EA servers and for the most part we were just happy to play EA games online. Well, take note; Revenge's online portion is spot on in every way. From finding friends to starting races, everything is handled brilliantly. The races (with up to 6 players) feature no lag and crisp voice communication. The Revenge servers are rock solid and finding a game has never been easier. Revenge also uses separate rankings for racing and crash events and finding a match with similarly skilled opponents is handled much like Halo 2's. This makes playing online a lot more fun if no one on your Friends list is around.
Burnout 3 played very fast and looked really good in the process. Burnout Revenge, playing in glorious 480p looks just as fast, but the amount of detail that have been added make the game mind-boggling. For the most part, the crashes look the same as they did in 3, but the environmental detail has been boosted. It's also quite impressive when you realize that Revenge not only has to generate the same playing field as 3 (horizontal) but also the vertical plane and the short cuts (all the while the traffic keeps getting hurled around). The good news is that Revenge never stutters, never slows down and looks better than 3 ever did. The bad news is that there are a few graphical glitches in a few instances when your car leaves the road proper. Expect to land in "white limbo" from time to time and be reset to 6th place. This happens very infrequently, but it is there. The lack of true rubber-banding and traffic checking won't keep you in 6th for long however.
In the audio department, Revenge carries a very "Burnout-y" soundtrack that doesn't step too far into foreign territory. Revenge doesn't try to inject too much "style" into its audio presentation like Midnight Club 3 or other car games, but tries to have a loud, aggressive, varied audio presentation that will get your blood pumped and keep it that way. The soundtrack fits, but whether you like it or not is really a question of personal opinion/taste. In any event, Criterion has given us the option to use custom soundtracks ending all discussion.
In the end, it is hard to show on paper what makes Revenge infinitely better than Takedown, but what is clear is that every fan of Burnout 3 will undoubtedly pick up this new iteration and enjoy it just as much. That's saying a lot for any sequel and proves that a lot of balancing and thought has been put into this version. Veterans may not feel as challenged this time around, but the fun factor is still there. Burnout 3 could easily have been dubbed "Adrenaline Rush: Reinvented". But Revenge has clearly "Perfected" it altogether.