Criterion Games’ Burnout franchise has long been
one of the most popular racing series on consoles, allowing gamers not only to
get into intensely fast races, but take out some cathartic road rage by getting
into and causing some spectacular car crashes. The games have been huge critical
and commercial smashes, with the series making its next-gen debut with a port of
Burnout: Revenge on the Xbox 360 a couple years ago to impressive results.
Now, the series is making its official debut on
next-gen systems with Burnout Paradise. Criterion obviously wanted to make its
mark on the racing genre with this most recent Burnout, as the title is without
a doubt the biggest and most ambitious entry to the franchise yet. Allowing you
to make your way through many races throughout Paradise City and explore for
tons of unlockables, Burnout Paradise is huge and will undoubtedly keep you busy
for a long while.
The most apparent change to the Burnout formula
as presented in Burnout Paradise is the new free-roam city that you have to
explore. Paradise City is a sandbox, allowing you to take on any mission you
choose and discover hidden jumps and unlockables throughout at your own pace.
There are certain key points of interest throughout the world, including repair
and paint shops, as well as gas stations where you can fuel up your Burnout
There is quite a bit of variety to the missions
in Burnout Paradise, with many of the familiar races from previous games (like
Road Rage) appearing in some form. The Crash mode has been expanded, allowing
you to hit the shoulder buttons and toss your car into a spin, destroying all
cars and damaging all in its wake.
Unlocking cars is done in a pretty interesting
way. After completing certain races, you’ll unlock one of 75 total cars in the
game. Sometimes these cars will automatically go to the junkyard (which is
essentially your garage), and other times you’ll have to find them throughout
town and get them to wreck in order for them to show up in your collection. This
adds another unlocking element to the gameplay, as it will certainly take you a
while to get all of the cars in the game.
The game is not without some problems, however.
The mini-map in the lower right section of the screen is pretty tough to read,
and the icons in it can be pretty hard to make out in the heat of things. The
only way to really make use of it is by hitting the pause button and reading the
full-screen map to see where you need to go.
The other problem with the game is the lack of
the ability to restart a race if it goes wrong. This is a pretty big annoyance,
since you’ll basically have to stick with a race until you finish it even if
you’re not going to win. Additionally, it’s pretty difficult to restart a race
once you’ve lost as well, since it leaves you at the finish line, requiring you
to track down that specific race again in order to reinitiate it.
However, aside from those gripes, Burnout:
Paradise is still a blast, and definitely the biggest and most engrossing title
yet in the series. Graphically, the game fares extremely well, with nicely
detailed car models and a huge world to explore. However, the areas where the
game really shines aesthetically are in the blazing fast framerate that gives
you a real sensation of speed, and the spectacular crashes. The crash animations
have been given a fantastic coat of polish, with realistic metal crunches and
detailed destruction. The game looks better than ever, and wrecking your car has
never been so rewarding.
The sound is great as well, with the crunch of
metal and glass sounding crisp and detailed. The soundtrack is also pretty good,
with “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses as the titular track for the game. There
is a good mix of new and old songs throughout, with some of the typical EA Trax
from other games mixed in with classic rock thrown in for good measure.
Even with a couple annoyances, Burnout: Paradise is a great entry to the series.
It brings the franchise in new directions while keeping hold of what made
everyone fall in love with the series in the first place, making it a worthy
purchase for racing fans.
Paradise is certainly the most ambitious Burnout title yet, with a full
sandbox city to explore and the great racing mechanics and smooth controls that
has been the series’ bread and butter. While the lack of a restart option and
the rough mini-map are annoyances, the game plays great overall and is a logical
step for the series.
The graphics aren’t quite as dazzling as over next-gen titles, the game has
a phenomenal sense of speed thanks to a smooth framerate. However, the most
impressive element are the spectacular crashes, which look better than ever.
The sound effects are fantastic, with some excellent crash sounds and a nice
Burnout: Paradise is a daring entry for the series, but it pays off with
deep and exciting new elements.
Online play syncs very well into offline play, requiring a tap of the D-Pad
and several friends to play against. Online matches are fully customizable as
well, allowing you to set up the field however you see fit when you host.
Burnout: Paradise is a great entry to the series, bringing it in a whole new
direction while keeping what made the series so great to begin with. If you’re
at all a fan of racing games, then definitely give this one a look.