Worth Your While
The racing game genre in recent years has split between varieties of themes. Most racing games can be categorized under street, simulation, or arcade racing. The Burnout series squeezes a little bit from each of those categories and makes the thesis of the game quite clear: wreck havoc. Burnout Paradise takes a turn into new territory this time around, giving the opportunity to freely cruise throughout an open-ended city. The city's name is pretty obvious given the title of the game, but many rock fans catch the Guns 'N Roses reference. According to Guns 'N Roses, the grass is green and the girls are pretty in Paradise City, I think it is safe to say there is a good reason why they are biased in their lyrics.
What sets the Burnout series apart from the mainstream is the realism in crashes and the techniques the game play uses to take advantage of it. Crashing in Paradise City can either be beneficial or a complete waste of time (just extending the lead for the opposing players in races). Crashing, in a close head to head race or whilst trying to rack up combo points in a stunt run, generally always sets you back. Either because of the time lost on the clock or due to everyone else in the race just zipping on by as you barrel roll down the intersection. Yet on the other hand, smashing into traffic is exactly what you want to do in a little mode called Showtime. No matter where the car is, whenever the player sees fit he or she can tap two buttons at the same time and enter Showtime. When Showtime is activated, the car shoots up into the air and the ability to steer the car in any direction is given. With the tap of a button the car can be bounced up into the air again to keep the mayhem going just to rack up more cold hard cash.
When I first revved my engine in Paradise City I was clueless as to where I should've begun. Don't let that cross your mind when you pick up this game for the first time; one of the stronger points of this game is the freedom to do whatever you feel. It's not confined to race after race after race, unless of course the player wants it to be. The layout is pretty simple; at most intersections there's an event that can be entered and there are different locations that are evenly distributed throughout Paradise City. While the layout is simple, having the ability to "teleport" to pin-pointed locations would be a huge plus but alas, we are restricted to emitting more CO2 into the precious air of Paradise City.
Driving around the city shortcuts, billboards, jumps, events, and drive-thrus will be found. But the most important of all them is without a doubt the events themselves. As events are beaten the license, given at the beginning of the game, upgrades. Simultaneously cars are unlocked and put out on the street just waiting to be taken down, sent to the Junkyard, and added to the collection (there's a total of 75 cars that can be unlocked). Burnout Paradise does a good job of maintaining a diverse array of cars that just wait to be totaled. The cars are divided among three categories: Stunt, Aggressive, and Racing. They are different due to the way boosts are attained. With Stunt cars a boost is given whenever the driver performs a drift, near miss, etc. and can be used whenever the driver sees fit. Aggressive cars are similar, only the boost bar extends whenever the driver takes down the competition. Then there is Racing cars, they cannot use the boost anytime. The gauge in a Racing car has to be capped in order to start a boost and if the driver goes through an entire boost without being interrupted a burnout occurs. A burnout is simply a freebie boost that seems to feel a whole lot faster than a regular one.
It took me a while to fully understand that some cars should be used for specific events just to make them a whole lot easier. For example, for a Race event one should undoubtedly use a Racing car for its insane boost. For the Road Rage events an Aggressive car would be the ideal choice considering the point of the event is to take down x-amount of cars before the clock runs out. Every car has its own unique perks, which is good; that way, every player will flow through the collection of cars rather than stick with just one.
Once anyone unlocks a sweet ride they are going to feel the need to showcase it online. Thankfully, the transition from burning rubber offline to online is seamless. No matter where I am in the city, if I get the itch to go head-to-head with some friends or random buffoons all I have to do is hit one button to activate the online menu. The online menu (dubbed Easy Drive) pops up on the side of the screen while still racing, the game does not pause. Choosing Freeburn Online will toss in seven other players into the city without any load times. During Freeburn Online a ton of challenges can be activated by players such as races and whatnot, but throughout the session there is a scoreboard that displays the best air times, barrel rolls, burnouts, drifts, flat spins, jump distances and so on. Freeburn Online just continues to justify why the non-linear aspect of this game is so great. Everything online can be accessed with so much ease. Having an online component to this degree adds to the immense replay value Burnout Paradise holds.
While the games laid-back style of game play and engaging online mode are huge contributors to Burnout Paradise's arsenal, nothing would be the same without its eye-candy visuals. The racing genre of this generation has a tendency to generate amazing graphics. Burnout Paradise continues that streak without fail. When a crash occurs it's visually immaculate. With the exception of a few screen tearing happening once in a blue moon, it is hard to believe it can get better than this.
One of the few gripes I have with Burnout Paradise is the use of its infamous EA Trax. I am sure you have read it elsewhere, but I am still asking myself what was running through the developers minds when they decided to toss a few odd tracks on there. My personal favorite is Avril Lavinge's "Girlfriend". Oh yes, that is exactly what I want to hear when I am roaring down I-88 into oncoming traffic. With the exception of that, DJ Atomika of Crash FM does a good job showing the ropes and tossing in a few tips every now and then.All in all, Burnout Paradise's new approach to the series works wonders on so many different levels. Paradise City provides an immense amount of things to do and leaves it all up to the man behind the wheel. I am going to quote a tidbit from that creepy Cadillac commercial: "The real question is: When you turn your car on… Does it return the favor?" I am going to finally answer that question in relation to my topic here with a resounding yes.