Giant Bomb Review

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Burnout Paradise Review

5
  • PS3
  • X360

Burnout Paradise takes some risks with some of the series' most basic concepts, and the end result pays off surprisingly well.

Burnout Paradise is an amazing open-world racing game that stays true to the Burnout legacy, but you might not feel that way when you first pop in the disc. For the first several hours, the game comes off as overwhelming, with so many different things being thrown at you that you're not sure what to do first, or what even matters and what's just a bonus extra. Then there's the city. Paradise City, too, feels a little daunting at first blush. But as you play more of it, everything starts falling into place. Once you've got the hang of it and learned the best ways to get into and out of the downtown area, the ways to progress through the game become clear. And there's a lot of progression to be found between the 120 single-player events, the 350 online challenges (though due to repetition, there aren't 350 unique challenges), and the "Road Rules" that give you a time and score to beat on every single road in the game.

Take me down to the Paradise City.
The offline events give you the same sort of racing and raging events that you'd expect to see from the series, though the open world of Paradise makes things feel quite a bit different. Now, you have to focus on the world, which turns you should take, and if there are any shortcuts along the way to cut your drive time. In events with a set finish line, the game uses a basic navigation system to tell you where to turn. As you complete the events, you'll raise in rank and earn new cars.

The online mode feels like a weird social experiment in video game form. That's because the game's online challenges aren't really like anything you've seen before, especially in a driving game. Many of them are basic, like "use boost for 10 seconds" or "catch air for a total of 20 seconds." But some of them have you using your head, trying to figure out which ramp and which approach will let you do a barrel roll through a hoop, or which car park's rooftop ramp will let you jump onto a specific building. This is where the game becomes cooperative, and where communication becomes absolutely key, since some players still don't even know what a challenge is, let alone how to whip a 360-degree flat spin off of a ramp.

Other challenges put all of the players (up to eight) in cramped quarters, like an expressway with thin ramps in the middle of it. You're all trying to jump off these tiny ramps, and everyone is colliding all over the place--at the base of the ramp, upon landing, and if you're lucky, in mid-air. The chaos these events add may make your task take a bit longer, but they're also at least half of the fun. Only the extremely impatient among us won't enjoy that aspect of the game.

All this communication and word-of-mouth information dispensing can get in the way, though. Joining random games rarely nets you a full group of focused, challenge-hungry individuals. And when any player quits the game mid-challenge, the task is failed. Having seven players do something tricky, only to realize that the eighth player is off on the other side of the city, totally oblivious to the action and unwilling to listen to the other players, gets old fast. You may never find enough people to finish all of the eight-player challenges, but with a focused group of friends, busting out the two-, three-, and four-player sets won't be too tricky.

Where the grass is green.
While the manual does briefly describe every aspect of Burnout Paradise, you get the sense that the game is deliberately vague on some topics. Power Parking, for example, scores you based on how well you can fling your car into a parallel parking space at high speed. The game doesn't seem to prompt you to do it beyond a loose hint or two from the DJ. And unless you were to get online and encounter a challenge that required it, you might play through the entire game without ever doing it once or hearing anything about it.

The other Road Rule is the Showtime score. Showtime mode replaces the linear, puzzle-like Crash mode from previous Burnout games, and in keeping with the rest of the game's motif, it's more open-ended than its predecessor. Tapping LB and RB (or L1 and R1 on the PS3) slides your car out sideways and makes it start flipping. At this point, everything slows down and you have air control of your car. Your goal is to keep crashing your flaming husk into as many other cars as possible. The boost button lets you pop up off the ground and keep moving, and you'll need to keep hitting cars to keep the boost meter filled. Once you run out of boost and come to a standstill, the game tallies up your Showtime score for that road and play resumes. Leaderboards are also kept for this mode. While it doesn't require you to think hard and dissect each situation like the crash junctions of the past, it's still a wild, great-looking ride that's a great tension reliever.

If you've played the demo on PS3 or 360, you already know that the game looks great, but the full game gives you a lot more to look at, from more great-looking fictional cars to a variety of locations. All of it comes to you at a smooth frame rate that conveys the same sense of speed that you're used to seeing in a Burnout game. In direct comparison, the textures in the PS3 version appear to be a bit cleaner-looking, and the higher quality of the PlayStation Eye camera means that the photos you send to other players during online events are better on the PS3. The differences between the two feel minor.

And the girls are non-existent. Well, really, there are no boys, either. Just cars and faceless radio DJs.
The soundtrack and DJ Atomika, who pops in during songs to give you hints and provide some general flavor, aren't nearly as good as the rest of the audio. The DJ, while better than Stryker from Burnout 3, can get awfully grating over time. The music starts on a great note by playing Guns 'n' Roses' "Paradise City" every time you fire up the game. Perfect. The rest of the soundtrack sounds a little limp and, as with most EA Trax productions, it feels like it was put together by a marketing team, not by someone with the game's interests at the front of their mind. At least there's an LCD Soundsystem track in there before it assaults you with the same Avril Lavigne song that "premiered" in Burnout Dominator.

There's more opacity here than there probably should be, but once you penetrate its dark shell and figure out what, exactly, is going on, Burnout Paradise is nothing short of amazing. The team at Criterion took a big chance and it's paid off very well. The game revamps the stock formula in major ways without losing most of the high-speed racing flavor that you hope to see from something with Burnout in the title.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
20 Comments
Posted by nailerr

Worth noting then that the PS3 now supports custom sound tracks, a plus the 360 had from the get-go.  So now everyone can smash away to their own tunes.

Posted by hyperslug

I'm 4 wins from my elite lsisense :D

Posted by hyperslug

I'm 4 wins from my elite liscense :D

Posted by RVonE

I never could get into this game. I don't know, a racing game that doesn't show me where to go is too much for me to handle.

Posted by DaFT_PLAyeRr

I loved this game. It's just too bad I suck at it

Posted by futhamucka

I'm loving this game. almost 60 hours in so far, and still going! I've got all smashes, jumps, billboards and road rules times. I just need to get all the showtime scores and win a few more races for my 101%!

Posted by Psynapse

I have played the game for about 2 hours or so at the moment. So I can only comment on what i've noticed so far.

From what i've seen it looks like a very well put together game.

The only thing i hate about driving games such as this is that because you are going so fast you generally can't see oncoming cars/obstacles and you end up crashing every minute or so. Its been like this for all of the Burnout series, it looks like they have tried to make it a little easier to navigate but the flashing street signs for me sucks.

All in all though, a really good game, something that i'll have a bit of fun with.

Posted by neils_den

Once you're in the zone it's awesome - unblinking concentration - it's like a twitch gaming shooter but with cars. Awesome!

Halfway to Elite licence...

Posted by AndrewGaspar

This is the best racing game I've ever played.

Posted by big

I tested the demo a while ago on both 360 and PS3 and the demo wasnt actually bad but i think that this game would be better if it was a straight up racing game like the previous Burnout games meaning that u dont have to drive around in a big city and find races etc. But this game is still not bad it has nice physics/graphics and i give it a 5-6/10

Posted by SlimDogg

The most amazing racing / open world / crash  game ever. The time that Criterion puts into there game.Is second to none. And the quality of there games is top notch.

Burnout Team Rocks !!

Posted by baller

So much destruction!  Absolutely mind-blowing!

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Posted by krashhead10
great but burnout revenge 360 is way better
Posted by neomattrixx

Great game, but just doesn't feel like Burnout. Perhaps its because I'm still addicted to Revenge and Takedown or maybe because it feels that it doesn't quite use its free roaming potential to the max. A must have for any platform nonetheless.

Posted by reversethedevil

I really wish you could assign way points in races. or hell I wish there were big glowing way point races.  I appreciate finding my own route and the blinking signs giving me the a default route but I want something more. Also I want to be able to restart a race when i miss a turn. don't get me wrong i like it, but sometimes i get the same rage i got from the midnight club 2 find your own route races. huh. maybe i'll right a review.

also, i'm sick of watching my own slow mo crash. just let me crash normal speed and move along please. is there anyway to change that in the options?

Posted by pairunoyd

Jeff seems to love Burnout no matter what. Let someone else review it! The slo-mo cutscene crashes are so pathetic. The map couldnt rotate??? You can ease up to a car, give it a little gas and the other cars windows start shattering. LAME!

How this headache of a game gets a 100 and MCLA gets a 60 is beyond me. Maybe Burnout couldve been just as good or better than MCLA, but I'll never know since the decision to have no waypoints, real-time crashes or even a rotating map is more than I'm willing to stomach.

Jeff, your fixation w/ Burnout is ridiculously transparent. Grow up!

Posted by JCGamer

I am a little late to the Burnout Paradise party.  I tried the demo a year ago when it was released and didn't like it.  Once I head that there wasn't a "restart event" option, I decided that this game would be a "no buy".  But a year later, 2 free content pack later, $40 cheaper, and now with a "restart event" option available, I took the plunge.  The game is fantastic.  The open world aspect lets you do events when you want, and running around the city looking for fences to break through or billboards to break is a whole bunch of fun.  For $20, you can't loose

Posted by drummerboykhari

I love Burnout Paradise. but yea the soundtrack could use improving

Posted by Kraznor

And, three years later, there's still nothing else quite like it. Amazing game.

Posted by redlitez76

just bought the game and it's awesome! psn has it for sale at 7.99! that's one heck of a good deal. Everything about screams fun, it's like they took the driving from vice city gta and made a game out of that and in my opinion thats what I want. Screw gran turismo.