Burnout RevengeIf Burnout 3: Takedown was the best adrenaline-based crash and burn racer ever, how is it possible for Criterion to surpass its masterpiece? Simple. Add a simple new feature called …Traffic Checking’ into the mix and we have a whole new ballgame.

Burnout Revenge is the sequel to the milestone-setting Burnout 3: Takedown and Criterion manages to raise the mark on their flagship title without altering the formula that makes Burnout work too much. The three main changes to this iteration of the game revolves around the new feature dubbed …Traffic Checking’, more complex track designs and a fairer rubberband AI that now works both ways in favour of both AI and the Human drivers.

The game play of Burnout Revenge stays true to the Burnout formula. All the usual race types are there, namely the Race, Eliminator, Burning Lap, Preview Lap and the ever popular Road Rage events but they get supplemented in the later levels of the game by becoming Crashbreaker events, basically allowing you to detonate your car on crashing – and thus standing the chance of taking out some of your rivals in the process. The new event that gets added to the mix is Traffic Attack, an event made possible thanks to the inclusion of Traffic Checking in the game.

Traffic checking is Criterion’s way of saying, even if you are a really, really bad racer, you can’t possibly arrive last in a race any more. Traffic checking is the ability to use traffic travelling in the same direction as you as a projectile weapon. Basically, you are now able to slam and shunt small and medium weight cars travelling the same direction as you out of your way, literally littering the path in front and behind you with car wrecks. Obviously slam into the back of a Bus or a Big Rig and you’re toast, but Johnny’s family station wagon is more than fair game. Obviously if you hit the traffic just right you can take down your opposition, either through a direct hit or by creating wreckage in front of them for them to crash into.

As always, Burnout’s focus is aggressive driving and the idea is to bash, shunt, slam and generally take out your rivals in order to earn boost and take the chequered flag. The sense of speed in this game is unparalleled and once your boost kicks in, you are literally holding onto your controller for dear life. Burnout’s awesome sound effects, effective use of speed blurring and even a little camera shake is enough to really instil a sense of true breakneck speed in you as your car tears around the track well over 300 kilometres per hour. The Aftertouch time-slow feature is still there, and as always, mastering this skill is essential to improving your crash takedowns.

The tracks have all had a major overhaul for this iteration of Burnout, becoming a lot more technical in nature, but more importantly, becoming a lot more complex in terms of little side-roads and shortcuts. These little byways and shortcuts become essential during the latter stages of the game as the AI gets faster and faster and you need to use every trick in the book just to stay out in front. On that front though, Burnout Revenge finally addresses the problem with the unfair rubberband AI from Burnout 3 which used to make it almost impossible to catch up with your foes should they get far in front of you following a crash. This time around both you and the AI drivers get the advantage, meaning all races are guaranteed to end in an all out smash-and-bash brawl for the finishing line. That said, the rubberband is also slightly looser than what it was, meaning you are at last able to build up and maintain small leads over your opponents, just enough to give some meaning to your overtaking of them in the first place.

The Crash Junctions also make their return in Burnout Revenge, but disappointingly though, Criterion has gone ahead and simplified them a bit, removing the fun multipliers, heartbreakers and crashbreaker symbols from the junctions and instead introducing the concept of multiple crashbreakers based on the number of cars you damage. The introduction of wind strength is a nice addition though, meaning you now also have to give a little thought to car selection in figuring the junctions out.

Burnout Revenge’s single player mode is split up into 11 ranks, each one increasingly harder than the last. These ranks range from beginner to intermediate to advanced. Each rank is then split up into a number of different tracks, each track featuring a number of events from both the race and crash junction subgenres. Further events are unlocked as you grab medals in these events, and when you accumulate enough points, you rank up, thereby unlocking the next set of events. It’s a little more complex perhaps than what it needs to be, but it does give you something to aim for in the single player mode.

On the graphical side of things, Burnout Revenge is as impressive as always. Still not using real car licences, Criterion instead presents us with a huge amount of custom designed wheels, all of which have been meticulously designed and are as gorgeous, if not more so, than the real thing found on our roads today. The cars are smooth, reflective and very detailed – the same of which can be said of the racing backdrops. The well designed tracks are enhanced with stunning visuals, from buildings to vegetation and Burnout Revenge is an absolute feast for the eyes – not that you’ll be taking much of the view in anyway amongst all the heart-stopping race action.

As I mentioned earlier, Revenge sets the benchmark when it comes to instilling a sense of speed in the racing – and this is pretty much thanks to the use of just about every trick in the book to try and fool your senses. From sparks to motion blur, Revenge features them all. Special mention must also be made of the spectacular and impressive crash damage that all the car models display. You can’t help but gawk in amazement at the damage that you are able to inflict (and receive) upon other cars.

On the audio front, Revenge retains the Burnout’s legendary sound effects, which are as complete as always. Everything from the rustling wind to the jet engine sound of your boost kicking in is there. The sound track for Revenge moves slightly away from the upbeat, punk-rock tracks used in Takedown, going for slightly darker, edgier rock tunes, something that goes hand in hand with the games new …darker’ feel. It also disposes of the much hated DJ Crash and Crash FM from the last game, instead opting for the more sultry voice provided by a female commentator – but she remains strictly for menu conversations and that’s it.

Overall, Burnout Revenge is more than a worthy successor to the awe-inspiring Burnout 3: Takedown. It is darker in tone, which should make hardcore gamers happy, the difficulty level is slightly easier thanks to traffic checking and a looser rubberband AI, and the game is as aggressive and adrenaline pumping as all its predecessors combined. Again, this is the racing game for people who don’t like racing games and you’ll be a fool if you missed it! Highly, highly recommended, even for your girlfriend (or boyfriend I guess).

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Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnout_Revenge