Twelve years ago, I gave the original Xbox 360 version of Burnout Paradise a glowing five-star review on Amazon. Having played the remastered version of this open-world racer for about a week now, I’m here to tell you that my high opinion of this game has not changed at all. It’s not a car simulator and has no intention of being one. Where’s the fun in that? It’s more akin to the Need For Speed games.
Once upon a time, I had 97% complete on the Xbox game Burnout Revenge and had been waiting for Paradise for what seemed like eons, so I was, and remain, a big fan. I wasn’t going to be put off by a few odd people moaning about the crappy demo. Criterion produced a really good game in the end after shooting themselves in the foot with the demo. The real McCoy was brilliant, and in its remastered form with all the DLCs included and a really competitive price currently on PlayStation Store, it’s a no-brainer for a quick pick-up-put-down racing game that you don’t need to take too seriously -unlike DiRT Rally for instance.
Paradise was a game changer, gone were the painfully slow loading screens and equally irritating reloads and run-throughs if you messed up a crash event that dogged the previous Burnout games. This is as close to seamless as it gets in terms of save/load functionality. The single player game has you working for license upgrades from learner, to C, B, A, Burnout and then Burnout Elite by doing races, takedown challenges and stunt challenges. The graphics are great as ever and the feeling of speed is unlike any other racing game.
The ‘side quests’ are discovery challenges like finding all the special jumps, barriers across shortcuts, car parks, drive throughs (were you can get a re-spray, swap cars, fill up your boost and fix damage) and then time challenges for each road on the map and ‘show time’. Show time basically replaces the crash events in previous versions of the game allowing you to enter into a crash at any point in the game and guide your gravity-defying wreck through the $ valued vehicles to try and beat pre-set offline records and online records.
The increase in difficulty as your license progresses is well judged and discovery of shortcuts is rewarded and integral to the game. Another integral thing, and I suppose the most fundamental change, is the need for good navigation skills. The idea of a linear route with a few shortcuts has gone out of the window. All you are told for a race event is the start and end point – how you get there is up to you.
However, there are a number of good features to help you navigate – road signs flash to tell you to hang a left or right as you approach junctions, your indicators blink and if you are really struggling you can skip over to a big map with the touch of a button, the game pauses and lets you think about where you need to go. You need to have some patience as you get used to this feature but eventually you will grow to love the challenge.
One thing which usually trips up open-world design games such as this is the time it takes and the irritation factor of having to walk (or drive in this case) around looking for events. This is definitely not the case in Burnout Paradise – there are things to do on pretty much every road junction clearly colour-coded and described on the large map. The time it takes to burn from one junction to another is nowhere near how long it used to take ‘Revenge’ to load / re-load events.
The only downsides of this game I can think of is that most of the EA Trax are not to my taste (apart from NERD, Depeche Mode, Adam and the Ants, Avril Lavigne and the title track by Guns N Roses). Originally I ended up switching them off. This time around I deselected all but the aforementioned tracks and the classical music.
Some reviewers said that the DJ Atomica voice-over was irritating – I would agree but he does every now and again give you useful advice – replacing the on-screen tips you used to get while you were waiting for levels to load. Other things that might have been nice but I can understand why they aren’t included are weather effects and pedestrians. In a driving paradise who wants people getting in the way?
A feature in the remastered version which I think was lacking in the original is time of day effects. The default night/day cycle is a little too quick in my opinion and I went into the settings and changed the cycle to match the local time. This can introduce new complications to some of the races which do have a tendency to become repetitive after a while, even if you visit the Junk Yard often to swap your wheels.
The DLCs unlock a ‘side’ island to explore with its own set of races and challenges plus a plethora of vehicle sets including motorbikes and toy cars. I’ve not explored the island very much as yet apart from a few insane stunt jumps and have yet to delve into the various additional vehicles, but they all look like fun despite there being no licensing deal with the likes of Ford, Jaguar and Ferrari. If you know your cars you know what you’re driving even if they don’t have the same badge. Like I said it’s not a car simulator, so why bother being realistic about it?
To summarise I think this game could have been subtitled ‘Freedom’ as it removes all the tedious constraints present in previous versions of Burnout. I am an out and out Burnout fan and I am in no way disappointed and despite its age it still knocks the socks off most of the Need For Speed games (including the ones Criterion developed – Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted).