Review: Burnout Paradise
Even EA’s momma thinks their mind is gone.
Before we get into the review proper I would like a moment to address any games developers who might be reading. I know like many people you become enamoured with new fads and trends much like those obsessive internet dwelling geeks who discover the hot new thing be it a film or TV show and work themselves into a frenzy for a year or so then turn against it as soon as another new thing comes along, in fact I’d wager good money on there being a big crossover between the two demographics.
Why am I mentioning this? â€œFreeroamingâ€œ, â€œsandboxâ€œ, â€œopen-ended gameplayâ€ all these phrases and more are becoming increasingly common when people talk about games in general. Thanks to Grand Theft Auto and its BP scale profits every developer and his accountant west of Japan has been regarding them with envious eyes and slowly but surely drawing their plans against them. So now genres that don’t want or even need freeroaming are getting them and here we have a prime example: Burnout a game series that many would argue was perfected three sequels BEFORE this edition.
Did it need freeroaming? No, but Criterion and EA (listen carefully and you can hear the Imperial Match playing) thought they’d do it anyway regardless of how it might dilute would has always worked best as a pure speed racer. Right, now that’s off my chest lets warm up the nitro, strap in your seat belts and take some ACME invisibility pills and get into Burnout 5 well Burnout 6 if you count last years Burnout: Dominator.
As with every Burnout game the first hour of playtime will have you convinced that this game is a pure solid gold 10/10 instant classic but the more you play the more you’ll start to spot the little niggles and flaws that conspire to chip away your enthusiasm and leave you as bitter and twisted as your car after a cheap AI inflicted takedown. The first one came once is loaded the game and because I was logged into Xbox Live I had to agree to a EA terms and conditions. Assuming it was for a Skate-alike post your times feature I didn’t read it, eager as I was to start playing only to discover it was for in-game advertising and sure enough vans covered with company branding soon became common place around Paradise city.
The city itself is a mix of the various global locations from previous Burnout games. There’s a big downtown area filled with side streets, L-train tracks and dozens of parking garages to jump off. A stereotypical American mid-western rural area with dirt tracks, high cliffs and rivers all to be jumped and mountain runs with long twisting roads perfect for drifting around. It’s all presented as one huge freeroaming map with not a loading screen in sight.
When you pull up to an intersection an event is added to your map and can be started by revving your car up. The events range from straight races from A-B, road rage events where you have to force AI cars to crash in a time limit, marked man where you race to a destination as more AI cars try to stop you, stunt runs where jumps, flips, and barrel rolls are used to achieve a score target and burning routes with a strict time limit to beat but a new car for your junk yard when you do.
Every road in Paradise can also host a ‘showtime’ event, once activated you instantly crash and then gain money for ricocheting into other vehicles with use of a boost bar fuelled jump with multipliers gained by hitting rare targets like billboards or buses. It can be fun crashing your way halfway across the city but compared to the previous games ‘crash time’ mode its rather slight and nowhere near as satisfying when played.
Across Paradise there are five junk yards and from there you can change your car for any won in races or ‘shutdown’ but taking down rivals across the city. Once selected you can pimp it out with a custom paint job and take to the roads to find new events or race ones already discovered. Road side paint shops can be driven through for a random paint selection along with gas stations that automatically refill your boost bar or body shops that repair any damage to your car. Both of which are very handy during events where extra boost or removed damage can be the difference between failure or a completed event and another mark on your licence.
You start out with a basic licence and starter car and by doing events you gain marks with each stage of your licence requiring a certain number to upgrade on a sliding scale. With achieving each grade of licence the events are reset and you can do them again but each event can only be completed once per grade requiring you to seek out new events at higher licence grades. It’s balanced very well balanced with plenty of option if you need more marks or having trouble nailing a certain event.
An important part of completing events is making sure you have the right tool (car) for the right job (event) The vehicles come on three flavours with ‘speed’ ‘stunt’ and ‘aggression’ each excelling in a certain area to help. Speed cars go fast but can only use boost all in once go, stunt cars are good at stunts but flimsy and aggression cars can take and dish out damage in equal measure making them ideal for road rage events but has trouble generating boost by driving alone.
Each car has different attributes and varies according to type, making sure you have the right class of car along with judicious use of the different drive-thrus will have you racing *sic* though the licence grades in no time. Well that’s enough about how Criterion have meshed pure speed racing with the whole freeroaming concept lets get under the hood and see if its all chrome and polish or greasy pipes and horsepower grunt.
I’m not going to waste to much space writing about the infamous EA Trax here, yes there are some good tracks and some real stinkers with the ratio of good to bad being about 1/10 All the previous Burnout original tracks are here which is nice but far to much American emo rock for my tastes. Still if its not your bag just rip some of your CDs to the hard drive and listen to them.
I just love it when people complain about change don’t you? I mean when a company tries something new with their franchise to try and freshen it up so it does not turn in to another Street Fighter 2 saga there are always a percentage of people who are going to complain.
Notice that these people are normally the same morons who and without fail, will go out every year to buy the latest P.E.S or FIFA game then go on to the web and give it a 8 or 9 out of 10.
I am all up for change of course but as long as they do it properly and what the design team have done here is turn Burnout from a great arcade racer to the must have winddown game that’s not an Xbox LIVE! Arcade game.
Before this crown belonged to another EA published game called SKATE (which is a fantastic game I highly recommend it!) and it proved very popular with our community online mainly because it was so relaxed and fun to play.
Burnout is also relaxed and fun to play (especially with a LIVE! Camera so make sure you go out and buy one! (although pay eBay prices rather than full retail! – Ed) but the one thing that puts Burnout Paradise over Skate is accessibility.
Get any random Joe of the street and give him a controller while playing Burnout Paradise and within a minute he or she will have worked out how to play the game and will be having immense fun smashing in to a whole manner of things.
Skate on the other hand requires a lot of practice and even hardened gamers could have trouble controlling their skater thus the new Burnout takes the crown.
Secondary Score: 8/10
Now having played Burnout: Takedown to total 100% completion on the Xbox (a rarity for me) the first thing that struck me was all the little things that where missing from the driving model in this edition. Aftertouch and muti-takedowns are no more as is the crash breaker, save for a watered down version in the showtime mode. You can’t restart an event if you fuck it up halfway though, you have to backtrack to the event starting point and start again which in longer races can mean a five minute drive.
The game’s AI drivers are still rubber banding pricks who inexplicability slow down when you crash only to boost for a minute straight when you fishtail them into crashing. The crashes themselves fell a bit weak, maybe five years of watching them in previous Burnout games has lessened their impact or maybe the lack of a human presence inside ANY the cars in the game is having some sort of psychological effect. Things are improved when playing on XBL with anyone with a Livecam being able to send you a pic of themselves after you/they crash with appropriate finger gestures.
Playing Paradise online does improve things a lot as the game rewards cooperation between players with loads of challenges with each player contributing to a pre set target be in drift distances, air time or big jumps hit. All the events in the game have leader boards online and offline for personal bests and it can be a real thrill besting your friends time only to see them break one of yours on a different event.
In summery it does gain some good new tricks thanks to the freeroaming system introduced but loses far to many of the older features to considered for a higher score. When I first played this game I was convinced it was the best driver out now but just like every other Burnout game before it my enthusiasm ablated away the more I played it and I started to notice the cracks in the foundations of the game.
It’s not a better straight racer than PGR or a better smash ’em up than Flatout but as a mix of both with the stunt runs and online component is worthy of your £40 I just wish they kept more of the older stuff before discarding it so quickly. No doubt it’ll be reinstated for the next sequel in a years time from EA.