Star Wars: Racer Revenge great sequel like Burnout that no one played on PS2 from Rainbow Studios, needs a Criterion podracer reboot

Star Wars: Racer Revenge Is the Racer Sequel for Burnout Lovers You Haven’t Played

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was an even bigger Star Wars cross-media phenomenon than The Phantom Menace, at least when it came to video games. George Lucas was already setting his Clone Wars plans in motion well before Episode II hit theaters, so many of the tie-in / tangential video games explored the CIS-Republic conflict from different POVs. But perhaps the wildest and most overlooked of the Episode II tie-ins was Star Wars: Racer Revenge, which had zero to do with the main storyline or the lead-up to the Clone Wars.

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If you’ve been a big Star Wars gaming aficionado for as long as you can remember, this one has probably been either on your radar or in your collection for nearly two decades. But the (sad) reality is that Racer Revenge (2002) wasn’t nearly as popular as Star Wars Episode I: Racer, which almost everyone played at some point in their lives. If you’re learning about it for the first time with this article, buckle up for a quick but breakneck ride.

Star Wars: Racer Revenge great sequel like Burnout that no one played on PS2 from Rainbow Studios, needs a Criterion podracer reboot

Developed by Rainbow Studios (MX vs. ATV titles), Racer Revenge was shaped by its contemporary racing games as much as the original. While LucasArts looked at F-Zero and Wipeout for inspiration, prioritizing pure speed and quick reflexes over everything else, Rainbow Studios’ take on podracing was gnarlier and similar to the aggressive back-and-forths found in the Burnout series. It’s important to note that Criterion Games’ legendary saga was only getting started at this point, so the influence of older vehicular series with an emphasis on destruction, such as Carmageddon, is worth considering too.

In the same way, the “plot” of the game (Yes, every Star Wars release had opening crawls back then.) is meaner from the get-go, with the crawl explaining that eight years have passed since Sebulba’s humiliating defeat at the hands of a young Anakin Skywalker, leading to the infamous Dug racer going into seclusion and reemerging to execute a “murderous vendetta” on the slave-turned-Jedi.

Of course, this is just an excuse to move forward in time and upgrade the podracers as well as expand the roster of alien pilots, yet it allows Racer Revenge to have Hayden Christensen’s Anakin taking a break from the Jedi Order only to race and make some extra cash (I guess). This was in no way canon back in the old Legends days, but it’s the exact kind of beautiful, unhinged Star Wars zaniness often found in the supplementary content. You can’t deny it’s funny as shit to think of Anakin ghosting Obi-Wan just because he feels the need for speed, especially when considering how the Jedi Master feels about his Padawan during the entire first act of Attack of the Clones.

Star Wars: Racer Revenge great sequel like Burnout that no one played on PS2 from Rainbow Studios, needs a Criterion podracer reboot

Though the sequel mostly behaves the same as the original Racer – and offers the usual selection of single-player and local modes – the moment-to-moment gameplay is brasher, and the vehicles have a weightier feeling to them. If Racer often plays like time trials that happen to include other racers, (The biggest challenge was not to crash at sharp turns.) Racer Revenge manages to keep up the tension and comeback possibilities until the finish line. The AI doesn’t feel too slow or buffed by cheats, and it’s not waiting around to be trashed (a perfectly valid win strategy in this entry) either.

Making good use of the PlayStation 2 hardware, (Yes, it was an exclusive.) Star Wars: Racer Revenge also looks noticeably better than the original despite a gap of less than three years between them, partly because of the generational jump. The highlight, in my opinion, are the levels, which went from mostly blocky walls and sharp rocks to fully realized – and often complex – race tracks that amped each planet’s unique architecture and natural environments.

Star Wars: Racer Revenge great sequel like Burnout that no one played on PS2 from Rainbow Studios, needs a Criterion podracer reboot

Racer Revenge also comes from a time when developers loved to throw in secret characters that were much more than glorified skins, and unlocking them in this game was (and still is) hugely rewarding. Episode I Anakin and Sebulba? Normal unlocks that you’d expect. Watto, Darth Maul, and Darth Vader, each with their respective OP and cool-as-hell podracer? The stuff Star Wars dreams are made of. Nowadays, you’d be lucky to get those even as DLC, but Racer Revenge included them just because, making its “endgame” much dumber in the best possible way.

For some stupid reason, we haven’t had more podracing titles despite the racing sport’s massive popularity among Star Wars fans and the renaissance of the IP in gaming. However, the good news is that Star Wars: Racer Revenge is as digitally available as its predecessor… as long as you own a modern Sony console. Moreover, the Disney-approved re-releases for PlayStation 3 and 4 include trophies, much like the ones for two other big Attack of the Clones tie-ins, Bounty Hunter and Jedi Starfighter.

Before wrapping this one up, I’d like to briefly go back to the idea of another Racer project and the series’s similarities to Burnout. EA is still doing Star Wars games despite the end of its exclusivity contract with Lucasfilm, signed 10 years ago. EA owns Criterion, which has already worked on two different Star Wars Battlefront titles. And Criterion still excels at making fast vehicles crash and burn.

I’m pretty sure at least one person at EA or Criterion has floated the idea of doing a podracing title; it’s just a perfect fit almost impossible to ignore. Whether it’s been done formally or even reached Disney is another story. Then there’s the issue of the studio now captaining the Need for Speed franchise. But with the output of Star Wars games going big and wide again in the coming years under the watchful eye of Lucasfilm Games, maybe it’s time to get a bit silly with them outside of mobile cash grabs.

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Fran Ruiz
Fran J. Ruiz is a freelance writer for The Escapist as well as other gaming, entertainment, and science websites, including VG247, Space, and LiveScience, with a strong focus on features, listicles, and opinion pieces. His wordsmith journey started with Star Wars News Net and its sister site, writing film, TV, and gaming news as a side gig. Once his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Studies (University of Malaga, Spain) were done, he started collaborating with more and more sites until he became a full-time freelancer on top of an occasional private tutor. There’s no film genre he’s afraid of, but sci-fi and fantasy can win him over easily. Star Wars and Jurassic Park are his favorite stories ever. He also loves the entirety of Lost (yes, even the final season). When it comes to games, Spyro the Dragon and Warcraft III are his all-timers, but he’s the opposite of tied to a few genres. Don’t try to save him from his gargantuan backlog.