Burnout Paradise Review

Back at E3, Burnout Paradise was one of the games I picked as the Best of E3. It seems like a long time ago, but I still remember how much fun I had playing the game, jumping off ramps, driving fast, and even watching other people drive around. Having played the game for over a week now, I can safely say that Burnout Paradise delivers as a fantastic racing game any racing fan should own, and that even non-racing fans will likely get some enjoyment out of it.

For me, Burnout was always my racing series of choice. I can’t stand sim-based games like Forza or Gran Turismo; give me fast driving and over-the-top risks, or give me a different game. That’s why I was worried (at first) with what Criterion was doing with Paradise. A complete overhaul of how Burnout played? That just didn’t seem like a good idea, since the games haven’t really struggled. Thankfully, the retool worked, and managed to make the franchise even better than before.

Unlike past Burnout titles where you pick a race, drive the race, then move on to the next, Paradise takes place in one giant 18 square mile city known as Paradise City. You’re free to drive around as you please, enter any events you want, and do whatever you want in the confines of the game. How events work is fairly simple. You pull up to an intersection, hold the brake, and rev your engine. Each intersection has a different event on it, and clearing events allows you to upgrade your license (which replaces the medal system).

In a bold move, Criterion also fashioned Paradise under the assumption that you have Live or PSN access. Each street in the city has a leaderboard for various things (time, crash score, etc.) which updates in real time if you’re online. In addition to updating leaderboards throughout the city, Paradise also features an extremely fleshed-out online mode, which works seamlessly alongside the regular single player game. With a simple press of the D-pad, you can take your racing online with (and against) friends and foes alike.

When playing online, you can create your own custom races by selecting checkpoints on the map, and then save them for later use. The other (and much more entertaining) choice is the Freeburn challenge. For each player involved, there are 50 challenges available; 2-player play has 50 challenges, 3-player has 50 different ones, etc. Unlike traditional online racing, Freeburn challenges rely on everyone to complete some sort of task, such as two drivers colliding into one another while jumping across a broken bridge. They’re a lot of fun, and despite the absolutely huge amount of challenges available, none really feel like they’re tacked on just to fill time.

Unlike past Burnout games, Paradise also places a bigger emphasis on vehicles. There are over 75 vehicles in total to collect, and rather than beat races to unlock them, you need to take each down in Paradise City. After you complete some sort of requirement, a small cutscene will display letting you know that a new car has entered the city. Track down the car, take it down, and it’s yours. Other than some nice aesthetic differences, each car also has a type associated with it, which determines how it gains more boost. Some rides get more boost for performing tricks, while some get more boost for crashing into other cars.

Despite the fact that the driving is as furious and fun as previous Burnout titles and an online mode that is one of the best and most intuitive I’ve ever seen in a console game, Paradise isn’t without flaws.

My biggest disappointment is the lack of Crash Mode. While it had to be removed to make the new Burnout format work, it’s sad to see such a fun mode (and great time waster with friends) vanish. Instead you’re able to crash on streets for a high score, but it just involves your car rolling endlessly into traffic until you get bored and want to stop; it’s not hard at all to keep a crash going for 5 or 10 minutes on longer streets.

Another problem I had is what I like to call Capcom Syndrome. On some SDTVs, the minimap is just hard to read without sitting a foot away from the screen. It makes figuring out what each intersection is a pain, and it makes hitting those quick, sharp turns in the middle of a race difficult. It doesn’t happen on every SDTV, but two of the three I tried playing the game on suffered from that fate.

The other issues with Paradise involve the realtime nature of the game. It’s understandable what EA wanted to pull off, but the inability to quit or restart a race is just annoying. When you play a longer, cross-city race into the mountains and take a wrong turn, thereby solidifying the fact you’re going to lose, it would be nice to restart or quit. Instead, you have to finish the race, then drive back to the starting point to try again. It’s also frustrating when you can’t see the map (if you’re on an SDTV) and accidentally play an event you’ve already cleared on this license, and have to finish it rather than just quit.

It’s a testament to how fun Burnout Paradise is that the only complaints are a lack of an extra mode and the ability to end or restart races. The fact of the matter is, Burnout Paradise is the best racing game on the Xbox 360 or PS3, period. It’s also arguably the best online experience of any console game on the market. If you were worried about the changes to the Burnout formula, don’t be; it’s more fun than ever, and it’s an absolute blast to play. Burnout Paradise lived up to the hype surrounding it, and delivers as the first must-own game of 2008.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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