|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Criterion||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (8 online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Burnout: Paradise plays like a mix between Burnouts of old, Grand Theft Auto, and Tony Hawk. That's right! The classic arcade racer of the previous console generation has gotten a facelift that is sure to please fans of the series as well as win over newcomers. The decision to open up the gorgeous world of Paradise City keeps the game fun and under the player's control. The steady stream of stunts, races, secrets, and mini-games that come so naturally makes one feel as if their ride could grind into a sack-tap at any moment. The incorporation of elements from familiar and wildly successful franchises into the Burnout series was pulled off flawlessly by developer Criterion. This is not your average racing title. Simply put this game rocks!
The shift to an open world was the right move for this series. Paradise City is overflowing with nooks and crannies for the gamer to explore, much like the world of GTA: San Andreas. The ability to move around throughout the entirety of the city from the moment you pop in the disk brings the gamer into the experience like never before. I raced my vehicles, pulled off Stunt Runs, and had a little Showtime wherever and whenever I wanted. I literally cruised around the various locales in the city and its surroundings for hours without ever worrying about some cruel developer's timetable of fun. That is an amazing sense of freedom that makes Burnout: Paradise feel more like a virtual world and less like a racing game. Some racing aficionados that are sticklers for realism may want to wait for the next Grand Turismo. I, on the other hand, was enthralled by the scope of content and amazing arcade gameplay.
That scope of content and arcade feel are accentuated by Tony Hawk-like checkpoints and goals. Other than the great racing opportunities, there are billboards to bash, shortcuts to be found, and stunt combos to be linked. All of these objectives are fun side missions that keep the gameplay fresh and varied. Again, if racing's your thing, you don't have to bash a single gate or billboard, just pull up to any intersection and take your mark! The choices are many, and they're all up to you.
Paradise City is vibrant. The winding hills in the west, the downhill straight-aways in the northeast that lead to the coastal areas, the urban bustle of the Downtown section of Paradise City, as well as multiple other backdrops all combine to make for serious fun. In addition to the complexity and variety of these environments, the layout of the streets and the multiple layers and routes help the metropolis come to life. While racing, there are no set paths. You do not need to follow the crowd to find the fastest lines. The sheer amount of side-ways, byways, and shortcuts mean no two races are ever the same. In fact, the road less traveled is often the best bet.
There are tons of unlockables and secrets throughout the game. Unlocking 100% of the game will take a yeoman effort and a spatula to scrape your eyeballs off the set. There are strategically placed auto body shops to be found, gas stations, paint shops, junk yards, hidden secrets, 400 gates to crash through, 120 Burnout billboards to bash, and over 75 automobiles to open up. As a result, there's more content then you can shake a manual transmission at. The cars you'll accumulate are divided into three basic categories: Stunt, Aggression, and Speed. You'll start the game with a Stunt car and will love the ease with which you can do doughnuts and slide into 90 degree turns with the E-brake. You'll soon open up the Aggression and Speed types by upgrading your license (winning races) and then making a take-down on the car as it passes you in open play. If you successfully wreck the opponent's vehicle, it will be taken back to one of the five unlockable junk yards as a relic of your exploits.
Aggression cars are strong and sturdy. If you take down opponents with them during a race, you will be rewarded with a load of turbo boost. Aggression cars are fun to say the least. Speed cars are a bit dainty for my liking, but they do let it rip in the straight-aways. Speed cars are the only ones that can perform Burnouts which are basically a perpetual boost. The only caveats being that you have to use the entire boost in one shot to perform the Burnout, and you can't use any of your accumulated boost juice until your meter is completely full. This makes them utterly useless for Stunt Runs but great for standard races.