Burnout Revenge 360

Burnout Revenge could have been just the same on Microsoft's 'next-gen' 360 as it is on the old consoles. After all, a straightforward port with slightly shinier graphics would hardly stand out right now, as even the machine's cheerleaders would be forced to admit. And Revenge is hardly lacking excitement as it is.

Yet, despite a development push that won't exceed six months, Burnout Revenge 360 is looking shockingly more next-gen than many of the more established standard-bearers. No names. [cough] PGR3 [cough].

Are we just judging the extra prettiness? No. While Burnout looks gorgeous on the new console - improvements over the already-sexy PS2 and Xbox versions are dramatic - the real excitement lies elsewhere. Specifically on Xbox Live.

A lot has been tweaked. In online races, messages have been reworked to emphasise the fighting: the idea is to set up rivalries quickly and continually intensify them. Constant on-screen updates, such as 'Rivalry Re-ignited!' or 'Score Settled!' chart the ebb and flow of battle.

Developer Criterion felt the current-gen version relied on voicecoms to enhance what the software was doing; now, while headset support is still there, the game itself cranks up the smack-talking, rival-baiting ante.

Get a row of Takedowns on a rival and they'll know about it - stats are tracked persistently and displayed pre-race. If a racer has, say, a '10' by his name, it means they've taken you out 10 times in a row. That's great for their bragging rights but it makes them a target, and crashing them just once resets the number. So for each clash, the stakes get higher…

Also new is a world ranking. Your achievements are judged against everyone on Live, and again displayed prominently pre-race. Get number one here and you really will be the best. No pressure, eh?

Meanwhile, detail tweaks abound: everything's unlocked in multiplayer, regardless of single-player progression; car selection is limited to those of the same top speed as the host, for more balanced racing; 'grudges' are persistently tracked.