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September 29, 2005


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by Glenn Given

Burnout Revenge


Electronic Arts 2005

*** 1/2

Racing games fall pretty neatly into three categories: ultra-realistic sims (a la Forza Motorsport) for the racing-physics fetishists, racing-related games (like the car-on-car combat of Twisted Metal or the cartoony race/bumper cars of Mario Kart) and what I’d call racing-lite. In racing-lite there are only two controls: aim and “go fast.” Somewhere along the line of racing-lite evolution a genius decided that a third button called “go faster” also known as “boost” or “nitro” would be great because — well, faster is better. In racing-lite games you’re less a car and more a bullet on wheels.

Burnout Revenge is the quintessential racing-lite game. As with its predecessors (Burnout, Burnout 2: Point of Impact, and Burnout 3: Takedown), you dive directly into the driver’s seat of a large selection of speedy automobiles that excel at weaving among oncoming traffic but pay absolutely no heed to concepts like front crumple zones, side-impact airbags or even safety glass. But that really doesn’t matter much because car-flipping, hood-skidding-on, caroming-off-your-opponents-into-a-tractor-trailer is definitely one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. So integral is the crashing that even in the straight-out racing modes of Burnout you are rewarded with more boost when you crash well and have the ability, as you wipe out, to slow time and aim your flaming wreck so that you might better cause utter chaos on the street.


For this alone the Burnout series stands head and shoulders above its competitors. They’ve taken the pain out of losing and made it part of a winning strategy. They realize that, as in NASCAR, you’re not in it for the elegance of vehicular maneuvering; you’re in it to see somebody flip their ’vette at 200 miles per hour.

And if racing through the streets of LA at breakneck speeds as your opponents get tossed across the avenue by a well-placed wheel shunting doesn’t do it for you, then you might like Crash Mode. Here you are presented with a busy intersection and one goal: create as much destruction as possible through a well-timed crash. You can ratchet up the damage by triggering your crashbreaker (read: explosives) at opportune moments to extend your destructive diameter. The more you wreck the more money you’re awarded and, in turn, the more cars and events you unlock. There are variations on the racing theme like Road Rage and Grand Prix modes, but new to the series is the Traffic Attack mode where drivers earn cash and time on the clock by ramming into civilian traffic. Ahhhh, that’s catharsis after an evening commute.

Split-screen multi-player is available for you and your little brother to enjoy but the online multiplayer with up to six racers is really a treat. All the game modes are available online although there are some noticeable differences. Crash mode online doesn’t include the aerial overview of the course, which makes it a tad difficult to plan your attack. Also civilian traffic that you ram seems to disappear faster than in the offline game, making it a bit harder than it should be to ram a minivan into a competitor. The Halo 2-style player matching (wherein drivers of equal skill are pitted against one another) rounds out a stellar online experience.

Revenge fixes many of the annoyances of the previous games (bumping into non-racer traffic is no longer a death sentence, the aggression levels of your fellow racers have been pumped up) as well as adding some much-needed features like multiple paths on the racing courses. It is a steady improvement on the series, the only downside being the nagging wonder if the next installment won’t be better still. If so, why not just wait? I’ll tell you why, because 240-mph street races are a fun that demands to be enjoyed today.