A (high-speed) change of direction
Burnout Paradise is Criterion's 5th Burnout game, and the first built from the ground up for this console generation. It's apparent from the first moment you get behind the wheel, not just from the bump up in graphics, but also the complete lack of loading screens.
It's a major change, which requires an adjustment in how you attack the game. The game's much less arcade-like now, taking the fashionable sandbox approach instead. Events appear on your HUD and world map once you discover them at individual locations. Drive up to the traffic lights, pull a doughnut to activate that junction's event and away you go. These range from the standard races and classic Road Rages to the new Marked Man, a point-to-point chase where the rest of the field are out to shut you down before the finish line.
No event has a set course, you're given an end point and it's up to you to get there first anyway you can. This can be a problem in the early stages as you slowly learn the layout of Paradise City. A wrong turn can lose you a race, and there's no quick restart option, other than to drive back to the start line. Once you've know your way around this becomes less of a problem, as there are also plenty of handy shortcuts. This has its own downside though, as it further breaks up the pack. One of Burnout's hallmarks is paint-scrapingly close races and frequent takedowns, which are much prevalent here.
The other noteable feature has always been the Crash Junction, a welcome change of pace which still kept the carnage levels up. This was almost a puzzle mini-game in previous games, with a set junction, vehicle and target score. In Paradise this has become Showtime mode, where you can flip your car out at any time to rack up a score. These wrecks can be extended almost indefintely, but with no set target score it feels a little pointless.
None of this is enough to spoil what is still one of the best racing franchises around, though. If you fail one event there are always plenty of other events (or cars) to try, and no other game gives the same feeling of sheer speed. Online races are smooth and easy to access in-real time fron the d-pad. As ever Burnout is deeper than it appears and rewards even after weeks of play.