Burnout Paradise review


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Buy your copy from Amazon.com Burnout Paradise (2008) starstarstarstarno star Publisher: Electronic Arts
Category: Racing
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Buy from Amazon.com

The “Burnout” series from Criterion is back folks. Yes, after the somewhat disappointing stopgap “Burnout Dominator” that arrived last year, the series has been given the full open world treatment, much like “Test Drive Unlimited” a while back. Players now race in the expansive Paradise City that is fully opened at the start of the game. Initially, racers are given a junked-up stunt-specific car to roll around in, and they must first dash through a repair shop to get it race-worthy. After that, it’s anyone’s game, something Criterion has tried to explicitly stress this time out. While cruising around Paradise City, players will come across the challenges they’ll get to partake in to complete the game.

These challenges are placed at traffic lights within the city. Racers roll up to the lights and start spinning their wheels to initiate the challenge. Surprisingly, players may initially find that the straight-ahead races are the most difficult challenges to master. Criterion made sure that players try to find their own way to the finish line, without having their hands held by being shown the way on the map. While a map and a general compass direction are given for each race, there are always a variety of ways to get the end. Unfortunately, that also means it’s quite easy to miss a turn going in the right direction, and finding yourself going the wrong way; you have to either literally turn around and get back on course, or quickly find an alternate path that still won’t leave you in last place. While Criterion’s idea behind these races is admirable, it also amounts to quite a bit of frustration in the end.

The fun and frenzied “Traffic Check” and “Crash” modes have been replaced this time around by the “Showtime” mode. Pressing the 360’s bumper buttons simultaneously easily activates this event. Players will then get the chance to crash their car on whatever street or route they happen to be on, and try to rack up as many points as possible. The crash sequence is prolonged when a player crashes into another car and earns the ever-important boost. Only cars that the players directly crash into count towards this score, though, and specifically crashing into buses is the sole means of multiplying that score. Part of the fun of “Showtime” is trying to beat other global players’ crash scores, which are shown for the specific place being played through. Seeing how long and far you can crash your car is also amusing as well, as the crashes can sometimes go for long stretches of time if there is enough traffic to keep things going.

There is also the new “Stunt” mode, in which players must drift around curves, jump off little ramps, crash through gates and the like to rack up points in an attempt to beat a predetermined point count. But be forewarned: there are three different car types in “Burnout Paradise.” Some cars are more suited to stunts, others for racing, and the last batch for aggression in the classic “Road Rage” events. This time around, new cars are unlocked and then drive themselves around Paradise City. It’s up to the players to find these unlocked cars, and then take them down to be collected in the junkyard. It’s an interesting new twist to obtaining new cars, and keeps things fresh and fun.

Seamlessly integrated into “Paradise City” is the online mode, which players can instantly access by pressing right on the d-pad. Once online, players can gather up their friends, or cruise around on their own to play through challenges and set up their own points on the map to allow quick and easy location of favorite events. This is certainly one area where “Burnout Dominator” trumps “Test Drive Unlimited” and its open-ended play.

 “Burnout Paradise” is still as fast and furious as it ever was and runs at a smooth 60 fps without a hitch. Graphically, the game looks as good as ever, with each of the eight sections of Paradise City having its own look and feel. The annoying DJ is back from “Burnout 3,” and the music is the usual hodgepodge of classic rock, newer emo-injected crap, and some original music thrown in as well. And, as a plus, players can hook up their Live Vision cameras to take their own pictures and stick them on their virtual in-game licenses, or capture the reactions of their online rivals.

So kudos once again to Criterion for making an excellent “Burnout” game. Though some of the new tweaks hinder the overall game slightly, it’s not enough to put an old fan or newcomer off of playing this insanely fast racer. When it comes to arcade racing, this series is still on top of the heap. “Burnout Paradise” still has the same heart it’s always had, which is sure to win over a whole new set of addicts. Certainly look to it as the one arcade racer to beat for the rest of the year. Essential.

~Jason Thompson