With Burnout 3: Takedown, Criterion crafted such an enjoyable arcade racing experience that it was hard to imagine how they would top it. Sure there were small annoyances like the irritating announcer but the core gameplay was sound. For this fourth PS2 outing Criterion wasn’t willing to just rest on their laurels and once again the Burnout formula has been shaken up. Whether this move was for the good or bad of the series however is a matter of personal taste.
Burnout is still about taking out rival cars while navigating traffic at high speed but this time there are a few new twists. First and foremost is the new traffic checking system. Any civilian traffic standing still or travelling the same direction as you are can now be smashed into and sent careening into oncoming traffic or rivals. As you can imagine the results are pure chaos and some spectacular takedowns. It removes some of the excitement of having to dodge traffic and weaving through cars to take down rivals but checking traffic is fun too. Just don’t try it with larger vehicles or trucks as you will end up scattered across the road in many pieces. The physics for checked vehicles are a bit odd and they look like they have no weight as they go flying through the air but this doesn’t really impact the gameplay.
Another new feature is the titular “Revenge” which will highlight opponents that take you out and tag them as your “Revenge Rival.” Do a takedown on them to get a “Revenge takedown” award. Opponent AI is pretty aggressive so be prepared to have lots of revenge rivals in later races. The rubber band AI is still in place which can be pretty frustrating but for a game of this type its understandable. Especially now that tracks have shortcuts and alternate routes with no traffic the opponents are the only way to get refills for your boost meter in such cases. Every track still have signature takedowns that can be achieved and the inclusion of ramps and other elevated structures make vertical takedowns a possibility. You’ll get awards and rewards after each race and there’s so many of these it almost becomes a chore to skip through all the trophies, cars and takedown screens that are displayed. There’s also a fair amount of loading going on which is a further annoyance.
Visually the game looks meaner and grittier than its predecessors which is fine as it fits the revenge theme perfectly. Cars are very detailed and ultra shiny but explode in a shower of sparks and debris when taken out. Tracks all take place in real world locations like Tokyo and Rome and while things start off almost too easy the difficulty is ramped up a bit towards the end. The world tour is no more and has been replaced by 169 events spread out across 11 tiers. You’ll have to earn stars to move up the ranks and these are achieved through awesome driving and podium places.
There are a variety of events, some old, some new and a few familiar ones with a new twist. Eliminator rounds now knocks out the last place racer every 30 seconds instead of every round which is a lot more fun and exciting while the new traffic attack mode sees you crashing into as many civilian vehicles as possible. Unlike crash mode the aim here is to stay alive for as long as possible while racking up points and extending the clock. Speaking of crash mode, it’s also back but with a new golf-style swing meter to launch your car and the ability to blow the engine if done incorrectly. The eye straining split screen modes are also still on offer as is online multi-player.
Those who disliked the annoying announcer of Burnout 3 will be happy to hear that he has been sacked and replaced b a sultry female voice that only pops up to explain the basics of each new race type to you before shutting up. The sound effects are absolutely awesome and the sounds of engines and tearing metal sounds as vivid as you would expect them to be. The soundtrack is a mixed bag and wont suite everybody’s taste but there are some good stuff in there by bands like All American Rejects, Apocalyptica, Billy Talent, Bullet For My Valentine and Fallout Boy.
If you are a fan of the Burnout series there is a lot to like about this game. The car handling and controls are precise, the new traffic check feature is lots of fun and there’s a wealth of cars to unlock, almost one per race. There is however quite a bit of repetition and like I mentioned earlier the thrill of dodging through traffic is slightly diminished. I had a lot of fun playing Revenge though and there’s enough content here to keep players busy for a long time. If you like your racing games fast and frantic then give Burnout Revenge a spin.
*Review originally published November 2005.