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Burnout: Revenge
Score: 96%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Criterion
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (2 - 6 Online)
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Action/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
Burnout games have always featured great visuals, from the car models to the environment to, most notably, the explosions and damage. Burnout: Revenge continues this legacy, bringing visuals that are even better than the previous Burnout games, with three times the deformation damage to vehicles, all new cars in three different classes (Race, Muscle and Crash), and beautiful areas inspired by real-world locations from three continents.

The sound effects are good in Burnout: Revenge, as well, much as they have been in the previous games. I didn't notice any new sounds, but the engine sounds and explosions are nicely done. There is a cool sound effect when shifting into and out of the collision camera - sort of a swooshing sound that helps you to gauge when you do and don't have control. The music is typical of the latest EA games, with their jukebox feature, EA Trax. You can choose which songs you want to hear from a reasonably sizable list of songs, including "Lights and Sounds" by Yellowcard, "Break on Through" by the Doors (BT vs. The Doors Remix), "Shotgun" by The Outline, "Life Burns!" by Apocalyptica, "Top of the World" by The All-American Rejects, "The Big Jump" by The Chemical Brothers, "Stand Up" by Pennywise, "Tuned To A Different Station" by Dogs, "The World" by The Starting Line, "Daft Punk is Playing at My House(Soulwax Shibaya Mix)" by LCD Soundsystem, "Do What You Want" by OK Go, "Band-Girls-Money" by Tear, "Come On" by Andy Hunter and others.

While there aren't really any songs in this list that are what I would call "laid back", there should be something for most people. For each song, you can choose whether you want it to be played in the menus only, in the races only, or in both. (Note: You cannot choose to not play a certain song at all.)

The back cover of Burnout: Revenge reads, "Forgiveness is for Losers". I'm not here to give any commentary on this particular ideology, but I will say that Revenge is the name of the game. And, Revenge is sweet. In the normal racing mode, when you are taken out by a rival, you'll get a new "Takedown Rival" -- that is, you'll get bonus points for getting revenge on that rival if you do it within a certain amount of time. But you don't have to simply shunt them into the wall, you can take them out in a variety of creative ways. You could knock them into oncoming traffic, knock a passerby into them or catch some air time for the ever-satisfying "Vertical Takedown". Ah, sweet revenge...

Even outside of these Takedown Rivals, you'll need to slam into as many cars as you can while you're racing your way to the finish line. It's never a bad thing - unless, of course, it's oncoming traffic. Or really large vehicles. Everything else is fair game. You can bump into other racers directly to take them out, or use other vehicular fodder as billiard balls to indirectly take out other vehicles.

You have modes where the focus is on racing, the Traffic Attack mode where you have to keep up a steady barrage of damage to continue, and a newly revolutionized Crash Mode that presents you with 'puzzle' - like gameplay; how can you cause the greatest amount of collateral damage with one well - placed wreck. You can also take on your friends with the Revenge Online mode - up to six players.

Burnout: Revenge offers an interesting progression system - it's basically based on accruing points, which in turn are earned by doing well in the different tracks. You're rated on a 4 star system, and then your medal awarded can alter that rating. A gold medal will add a star to your score, a silver medal will leave it the same as it was and a bronze medal will actually subtract a star! This makes for an interesting (and sometimes frustrating) dynamic in the rating system, but it is not unpredictable, so it is easy to get used to.

If you just sort of scrape by the different races, you will end up in a position where you'll have to go back and revisit some of the previous races and do better to get enough points to proceed. This requires you to actually get good at the different types of races, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

If anyone tells you that Burnout: Revenge is a simple game, their hoping you'll let them play against you. It is easy to get into, mind you, but there are some races/levels that will make you pull your hair out. Some of the races require an almost perfect run to get a gold medal. But, you don't have to get all of the stars (points) to progress, just enough to open the next tracks. And, once you've progressed a bit and your skills are a bit more polished, you can return to the tracks that you didn't do as well on and play them again to squeeze a few more stars out of them.

Burnout: Revenge is a challenging game, but not too challenging to be fun. I brought this game with me and some friends (reviewers, actually) on a trip and found that on a couple of occasions, we played this into the wee hours of the morning. It's that addictive.

Game Mechanics:
There are some new twists that Burnout: Revenge brings to the Burnout line. Now, instead of stopping you dead when you tap into a car going the same direction as you are, you'll knock other traffic off wildly into the distance, even using them as projectiles to hit other traffic and takedown opponents. You still want to avoid oncoming traffic and over-sized vehicles, however.

Another interesting aspect is the new 4 (5) star rating system. You get a one to four star rating based on your overall performance in a race, then can gain or lose a star, depending on your medal received. This is an interesting dynamic, but is a bit confusing if you think about it. If you get four stars and a gold medal, you'll get a five star rating. That's fine. If you get four stars and a silver medal, then you'll just have the four stars. However, if you get a bronze medal, you'll lose a star. That means that if you were awarded four stars and got a bronze medal, you'd end up with three stars -- BUT, if you got four stars and didn't even get a medal, you'd still have four stars. The caveat is that I'm not entirely sure that you could earn four stars and not get a medal. I am sure that you can get four stars and get a bronze medal and yes, you will end up with three stars. I've tested that out.

All things taken into consideration, Burnout: Revenge is an excellent and addictive game. I actually would disagree with the Everyone 10+ rating, however. Although there are no body parts that go flying during the wrecks, the crashes are simulated very well and could be disturbing to 10 year-olds, not to mention the distorted view of reality offered by watching a vehicle get into a wreck that totals several cars and then, in the next few seconds drive off again in the same car to do it all over again. I am sure that there are 10 year-olds that are mature enough to discern the reality from the fantasy, but I would generally suggest that this is better for Teens.

If you're a fan of the Burnout series, this is the game you've been waiting for. If you're not familiar with the series, but you're curious, Burnout: Revenge is a great game in the series to start with. If you're looking for a more portable version, you can get some of these new elements (but not all) in the PSP game, Burnout: Legends.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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