: Criterion Games
: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
: Racing, Hit & Run
: January 22nd, 2008
Let me take you back to a time, a time when racing games were beginning to lean into the simulation side of gaming. At the turn of the millennia, the first Burnout was just a work-in-progress under the working title, “The Shiny Red Car”. Burnout, which was released in 2001, was later acclaimed for its high-speed game play and the over-the-top crashes. Flash-forward roughly a decade and we are sitting on top of the seventh Burnout game which is already almost three years old. Burnout defines the term “yearly release” up until Paradise. Taking aspects of our favourite games in the series, Criterion games gave us a racing game that is so far away from the word simulation, you’ll need a search party to locate your hidden Gran Turismo games.
Right from the very moment I put this game in my disc tray, it was pumping me up for the races. The menu and the menu music lit up my living room with white light and filled it with the sweet tune of “Paradise City” by Guns&Roses. It is an excellent opening for a game based in Paradise City, don't you think?
Earning a reputation in Paradise city isn’t easy. The residents aren’t very friendly and the rival drivers even less so. The main objective is shedding your newbie status as a driver by getting your burnout license and filling your junkyard with all your rival’s wrecks.
The game progresses by having you win races and other such events until you have won enough to upgrade to your next level of license. There isn’t much in the way of story, I mean, it is a straight-up racing game. In my opinion the game works better without one, lets you get more races in. More races, less talking, perfect.
One thing any racing game worth its salt needs is a decent soundtrack and Burnout Paradise doesn’t disappoint. Featuring music from a handful of different genres you are bound to find your type of driving music, or perhaps discover a new type. Paradise even features music from the previous games which plays as a nice little kickback through the series.
Most of all what I like about the sound portion of the game is seeing how the new vehicles sound as soon as I get them. It seems like each car sounds different, but all of them sound amazing, especially when the turbo kicks in.
Everything in Paradise looks like it has been very polished. From the different kinds of paint jobs you can get on your ride to the shattering rear windshields, your eyes are treated the whole time to an astonishing amount of detail throughout the entire game. Even at high speeds, you will notice everything whizzing past you is crystal clear. Paradise doesn’t try to go overly realistic on the graphics but everything is really sharp and defined.
Being a racing game you can expect to compete against other drivers in a race to the finish, but being a burnout game, you can expect to give and receive quite the beating on the way there. All you have to do is pull up to an intersection and do a burnout to start an event. The types of events you’ll find at intersections vary, so you don’t have to do only racing. Along with racing there is a road rage, stunt trail, marked man, and burning route.
Completing events gets you one step closer to your burnout license. The way the game progresses can feel slightly tedious and I found myself looking for the easier events just to get them out of the way and collect the easy wins.
Luckily this is not the only thing you can do in Paradise city. Pressing both bumpers on your controller at the same time will throw your car into a controllable crash called showtime mode where you rack up as many points as you can while trying to prolong the crash by tapping A when your car hits the ground. Another mini feature is the time trial on each road. Speed down any road as fast you can to achieve the record, pretty simple and straight forward. Complete both the time trial and the showtime on the same road and you’ll rule the road. Your scores are shown to your friends so they can try to beat your scores, neat little leader-board system.
To complete anything effectively in Paradise you’re going to need the right type of car. Burnout features three types of cars, the aerodynamic speedsters, the bulky aggression type vehicles, and a few slick looking stunt cars. Each type has a boost meter that fills up in a different way, driving like a maniac and traffic checking other cars will fill up a aggression boost, but alternatively, doing death defying acts like speeding on the wrong side of the road, drifting a lot, and pulling off jumps and such will fill a stunt meter. If you just feel like speeding like a maniac with a seemingly unlimited boost, go for the speed cars. There is an incredible array of cars and many to choose from, so finding the car that fits you is a piece of cake.
As I mentioned before Paradise is an open-world racing game. That means you have an entire city to explore, and believe me it is worth exploring because finding shortcuts gives you a ridiculous edge in the game. Paradise also features a ton of collectibles in the way of smash-able fences, billboards, and "super jumps" to find. With over seventy-five cars the average person won’t be finished this game for an extremely long time.
One thing to note is the support Criterion has shown for this game. Instead of releasing another sequel for you to spend another sixty bucks on, they’ve released DLC for this game. Granted, if you look at the updates it looks like they’ve stopped but that shouldn’t blind you to the massive amount of extras for this game. One of the DLC’s, Big Surf Island, adds not only a new look to the menu and a bunch more cars, but it offers another five to six hours of game play. Now only if the cost would go down, since it’s been out for a year or so now..
Following Burnout Revenge couldn’t have been easy, but Paradise crushes it in my opinion, with the only problems I see being how tedious advancing through the game can be and how infuriating accidently ending an event by trying to pull a Rockford is. Burnout Paradise is a shining example of how epic non-simulation racing games can be and I hope to see a bigger and better Burnout slide out from underneath Criterion in the future. Although racing games are not for everyone I highly recommend this game to all of you. Paradise has been out for almost three years now so it shouldn’t be too taxing to find this gem in a bargain bin somewhere. I got my copy for five bucks, and honestly it’s the best five bucks I’ve spent on any game. For those of you who are not fans of racing games because you’ve experienced a few bad apples in racing games, give this one a try, it’s only going to cost you five bucks and maybe a new pair of underwear.