Take Me Down!
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.
Despite the open world format of Burnout: Paradise, the core gameplay remains along with some interesting new features. Road Rage has been expanded from three objects to as many as six. This makes for even more hectic take-down fun. The addition of Stunt Runs to the game is welcomed. This mode of play really incorporates the Pro Skater elements into the franchise. You’ll have to use ramps, gates, the E-brake, barrel roll jumps, and the turbo boost to your advantage in order to keep your Stunt Run alive. As you become familiar with your surroundings, you will find a multitude of lines that will produce great combo opportunities. This element of play alone will keep you playing for hours. I also really liked the Marked Man scenario that has you racing for the finish line while opponents try to wreck you before you can reach that goal. Avoiding a seemingly well-timed challenge from an opponent and watching them careen into a median is a thing of beauty.
Sadly, Crash Mode has been spurned for the somewhat mediocre Showtime mode. Gamers will be able to enter Showtime at any time by simply depressing the shoulder buttons and watching their car barrel roll into oncoming traffic. You’ll gain points and multipliers for the amount and type of vehicles you are able to hit while controlling your crash. Keep a look out with the right analog stick for larger vehicles as they have the highest values. The similarities of Showtime mode to Katamari Damacy are myriad; however, the overall quality of the experience is decidedly less than rolling around the Prince’s star-cradle. Nevertheless, ruthlessly taking out a sea of busses, limos, and hybrids is still decent fun.
The online play incorporation into the title is seamless and definitely next-gen. Instead of being confined to a lobby, you can actually select online play modes on-the-fly by way of the directional pad. This is known as the EasyDrive system, and man does it work. Once activated, a little onscreen menu will appear with a list of your options. From this menu you can setup races and invite friends to join you or you can enter into the Freeburn challenges. There are over 300 challenges in all depending on the number of people with whom you are racing. Talk about near limitless content!
The visuals are stunning. The sense of speed is thrilling. All of the original cars have a glossy sheen (until you take a T-bone or two) and cruise the streets without a glitch or a shutter. Of course the game outputs at 60 fps which helps tremendously. The detailed environments, destruction physics, compounding vehicle deformation, tire tracks, weathered signs, and corner stores all come together in a way that will suck a player right into the game. My only gripe with the graphic quality is that it doesn’t output in full HD. The highest resolution I was able to achieve was 720p. This is a minor issue, however, as most gamers won’t even care because everything runs so smoothly.
The sound quality is exceptional. The music selection is excellent and very appropriate. Gamers will find an eclectic mix of bands including Guns ‘n Roses, Jane’s Addiction, and Alice in Chains just to name a few of the more popular artists. Unfortunately, an Avril Lavigne tune sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise proven musical selection. The occasional commentary is made by a tutor disguised as DJ Atomika every so often. He drops hints and tips and generally helps to familiarize the player with the world. Unfortunately, this concept seems a bit borrowed and often contrived. There are no real sonic missteps, however.
Finally, controls are perfectly forgiving. I love the arcade feel of the title that is extremely well recreated through either of the 360 or PS3 controllers. I’ll have to give the nod to the PS3 however, as the L2 and R2 triggers feel superior to the RT and LT buttons. Both systems’ analog controls are identical though and perform admirably.
To sum it all up, this is a great game that is worth your gaming time and money. This title will appeal to wide variety of gamers regardless of preferences and preconceived notions. Burnout: Paradise has gotten the series back on track by forging a new path. Look for this game to serve as a fun alternative to the lot of racers that crowd the gaming roadways.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The visuals look great at 60 fps, but I wish full HD at 1080p was supported. 4.8 Control
The controls are excellent. Hugging curves while racing and pulling off doughnuts, E-brake turns, and power-braking are all effortlessly executed. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music selection is great and appropriate! DJ Atomika is a nice touch, but at times it seems a bit contrived. 4.3 Play Value
You’re going to blow through uncounted hours cruising around Paradise City without even realizing it. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.