Burnout: Paradise, but where did all the Burnout go?
Let me preface this first by saying that I like my structure in racing games. I don’t get a kick out of sand-box style driving because it’s stressful and time-consuming. I like to have that linear feel that allows me to more or less memorize the tracks. I can name a long list of titles that I enjoy, that restrict you in what you can actually do.
Paradise really sums up the reasons for loving that open world freedom, and also for hating it. It sets up all events at each of the intersections. It works pretty well. My problem isn’t that, but everything built around those events. Criterion knows exactly what they’re doing.
-They made a conscious decision to remove the option to restart events.
-They made a conscious decision to let the player find their own path to the finish line.
-They made a conscious decision to prioritize exploration.
When I fail a race, I have no desire to drive all the way back to try again. It’s extremely frustrating to be forced into driving four miles to a race that I failed knowing that if I fail it one more time I’ll turn it off. I think it’s extremely unnecessary for this. Yes, it drives the player to explore different areas, roads, and try out new things. But I’m going to explore Paradise because it’s a good game, not because I need to nail everything. Isn’t that what the smashes….billboards….super jumps….isn’t that what all those are for Criterion? Hell, I spent like 20 hours getting all those and learned that way.
My other issue goes hand in hand with no restarts. The navigation is poor. Not only is the player responsible for reading a tiny map and a crappy compass during a race event, but they also have to worry about driving 180 MPH in heavy traffic. How hard could it have been to stick yellow barriers up a couple of blocks apart? If you want multiple paths to the same goal, do it. But don’t leave the whole city open because it’s annoying. Especially online, where an opponent can take a left turn by accident, and win. You get these blinkers on the top of your screen saying "Go here, it’s quicker" but usually that’s too general, too vague, and too late. Failing the long race across the map is a game killer as far as I’m concerned. I have no desire to drive back. Criterions defense is that you can just do another event where you failed. Well, I don’t want to settle for another event. I want to do the one I chose the first time. That’s why I chose it!
It’s such a great looking game too. The way they managed to incorporate Burnout into a sand box style racing game is impressive. 60 FPS, hi-res, no loads? Sign me up! The cars are cool, and the crashes are brutal.
A few other nit-pick things were traffic threading, and no crash mode. You can’t get your car between two lanes like previous versions. If I didn’t know any better I would guess the lanes were narrowed for some reason. And this show-time mode doesn’t do it for me. Crash mode felt like a really cool puzzle game. Show-time at first is quite fun. But do it on every road like I did. It quickly becomes a tedious novelty.
To play online is frustrating and confusing much of the time. It never felt like it worked the way it should as a racer. The menus and drop in drop out stuff is great but I just got lost in the races.
To me, this game is ultimately accomplishing what a menu would have done. Exploration is fine but to ignore restarting a race seems like a great idea that was executed poorly. I think if this is the new Burnout style they should follow the path laid by Test Drive Unlimited. But, I hope they go back to a Revenge style racer. It was an interesting experiment, and they proved they could do it. I just didn’t have fun with it the same way I have in the past.