EA seems disinterested in making a new Burnout game any time soon. But some of the people who helped create the wonderful racing series intend to fill the void.
Two new games are now available for download via Xbox Live.
Those of you resisting the temptation to pick up Burnout: Revenge on Xbox 360 can push yourself closer to the brink (of buying it or, if you already have the Xbox one, of shouting purple words at Electronic Arts) by checking out a new demo on Marketplace today. We haven't had a chance to check it out ourselves yet, but it weighs in at about 550MB.
When it came out last September on the Xbox, we can't deny our initial reaction to Burnout Revenge was one of slightly muted disappointment, and looking back it's easy to see why. This beloved series has become one of our all-time favourites, so to see Criterion shamelessly pandering to the mainstream left us with a feeling of resigned disappointment. It was - in the main - way too easy to blitz through the game, the new traffic checking system felt like one idea too many, and the online implementation was still not quite there.
So, as pointless as porting the game to the 360 appeared, it at least gave Criterion a chance to tweak a few elements of the package, buff up the visuals, and deliver a much better online game where you can now exact revenge on friends and enemies. Whether it's worth paying almost double for what amount to minor improvements is a moot point, but we'll try and leave the pricing squabbles out of this discussion for the sake of argument.
If you haven't played the Xbox version, then effectively what you're in for is some of Criterion's best work to date, alongside ideas that you'll either love, hate, or warm to eventually. As ever, the game lives up to its billing as the fastest and most destructive racing game out there, offering a brilliant mixture of racing challenges, time trials, and crash junctions.
To riff rather unashamedly on something Jim wrote recently, there's something dishonest about that Friends list. "When you're on Live, there are always people who want to fxxk it up," says Burnout producer Matthew Webster. Or who beat you. Or test your patience with their anodyne smack-talk. Funnily, quite a few of them are already on my Friends list. As for the others - last week I was playing PGR3 against an American chap who spent most of the race asking me whether I'd ever driven before, whether we had the wheel over here in Scotland (I'm in London, but let's not get side-tracked), and if I could give the pad back to my son please MOOOOOM; ten minutes after I said goodbye, he sent me a Friends request. Eh?
Criterion's decision to literally sell out to Electronic Arts was a bit like seeing your favourite chart-flirting indie band shack up with a royalty-cheque-waving major label. You knew full well that stadium-filling super-stardom was just around the corner, and that the clever hooks and licks would be commodified into something more palatable and acceptable to the masses. You wearily accepted that your cool, best-kept secret was somehow never going to be the same again, although you knew deep down that they deserved the plaudits. And the cash.
And so it proved.
Last year's Burnout 3: Takedown was the pivotal release that went 'mainstream'. To see the brand finally getting the recognition it deserved was a great feeling. But at the same time, a chunk of the game's soul was sacrificed at the altar of cash. With an excitable DJ spinning a selection of ill-fitting US-centric 'punk' tunes, and a selection of made up buzzwords to describe the action, Burnout was rapidly becoming SSX on wheels. Sadly, that was the point. On top of that, a slightly rushed, bodged online implementation left many of us wondering what might have been.
EA appears to have confused a few people with its description of Burnout Revenge for Xbox 360 as "a new title in the Burnout Revenge franchise", but having spoken to Alex Ward of developer Criterion this week we're happy to repeat what he told us about the game.
For a start, it's due out in early 2006. Beyond that, it's more of an expanded port than a new title. Fundamentally the same, it'll be beefed up visually with the usual application of things like bloom effects as well as some new X360-exclusive content, although what form that'll take remains to be seen.
The regular, everyday versions of Burnout Revenge (i.e. the ones you can go out and buy right now on PS2 and Xbox) made it into the All-Formats UK chart this morning at number two, eclipsed only by EA's own FIFA 06, which has already sold a boringly stupendous amount of copies.
A new demo video for recently released PS2 and Xbox smasher Burnout Revenge is now available for your viewing pleasure in streaming video form.
It shows the latest instalment in Criterion's hit series in all its glory, with plenty of flying cars, flying sparks, screechy noises and spectacular crashes. So if that sounds like your cup of diesel and you haven't seen Burnout Revenge in action yet, go take a look.
As Epic Games proved with its Unreal Engine 3 demonstration this year, being able to pause a demo and spin round the action gives you much more credibility than a stream of video or a static screenshot. Electronic Arts isn't letting you do quite that, but it has released a couple of QuickTime 3D screenshots to help get us in the mood for Burnout Revenge.
Here's an email yours truly recently received from a friend-of-a-friend who is also a mother (altogether: aww), and sometimes asks about what she should buy for her son: