lemmiwinks's Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360) review

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Far from burning out.

Since Grand Theft Auto 3 made its grand entrance on the Playstation 2 in 2001, its free-roaming style of gameplay has been pasted into countless games, with varying success. What is becoming more and more obvious is that the inclusion of a sandbox is utterly pointless if there is nothing there to play with. With Burnout Paradise, Criterion is testing the Burnout wheels on the open-world tarmac. Do they handle it well, or simply spin out of control?

Initially, the open city can feel overwhelming, and you will find the initial races pretty punishing. The open structure of the world makes knowing the roads a necessity, and although the game gives you a radar and blinking street-signs show you the way, these will not stop you from missing a turn over and over again. You will perhaps spend more time mid-race checking out your route than you’d like, but as you spend some time in Paradise City, it will be more friend than foe. After each passing hour, the wonderful design of the city becomes obvious, and finding hidden alley-ways and jumps will become pure enjoyment. It's a beautiful town, and well worth exploring. The seamless integration of entering races at every intersection, driving through gas stations for boost and changing cars at junk yards all help to make the city a memorable place.

The city is also worth seeing for its visuals. There is a genuine enjoyment in racing across Paradise City in warp speed as the cars fly by you and you make a quick turn into a alley-way hoping for the best. Each car has distinctive design, and although they are not licensed, they run the gambit from Porsche-look-a-likes to Japanese tuners. It also help that they all break apart with gripping detail and wonderful physics. If you remember the first time you saw a knockout in Fight Night Round 3, prepare to experience the same awe and wonder again. Each car has been modelled from the roll cage outwards, and breaks apart with amazing detail. Windows explode, metal crumbles, the bumper breaks apart; it all looks fantastic. Good camerawork also help making it a mindblowing experience each time. It doesn’t quite make you happy you crashed, but helps soften the blow for a few seconds.

One thing that has not changed is the amazing speed and tight control of Burnout. When you drive at 200 mph it does feel as dangerous as it should, but thanks to tight arcade controls, each crash is usually the drivers fault and not the game. The cars all drive differently depending on weight and speed. The game lists 75 cars, although this number is somewhat misleading. Each car has its own time trial somewhere in the city. Finishing one of these events gives you a somewhat tweaked version of that ride. This is set as a new car, although the difference between them often minor. But the 30+ cars that are truly different there is plenty of choices to suit every type of driver. Emphasising this is the addition of classes. Aggression cars turn like tanks, but are the sturdiest of the bunch. Speed cars are fragile beings, but can make a run across the city like nobody’s business. They also use a personal boost system that can only be used once completely full, and can be stringed into continuous “burnouts”. And finally, the stunt cars have stats in the middle, but get the bonus of spinning faster and jumping higher for the stunt runs, which is one of the new events. They are arguably the most challenging of the events, since they require an intricate knowledge of your surroundings to keep the combo going. There are also point-to-point races, takedown challenges and survival, which is basically a reversed road rage, asking you to make it to a certain landmark without crashing to pieces. Considering there are 120 events, there is quite a bit of repetition. Add to that the fact that all events are reset once you get a new license, and it can get boring after a while. Should that be the case, going into Showtime should relieve some of that stress. Essentially a modified crash mode, it can be activated anywhere, and lets you frog-jump your car around to do the most damage possible on whatever road you are on. Although a fun diversion watching the carnage left in your wake, it lacks depth, and therefore also staying power. But something that have both is the game’s excellent multiplayer.

In staying with the theme of seamless integration, the multiplayer shows up as a tiny menu while driving, and after only three clicks, up to 7 other people share the city with you. From here you can start your own races, go to particular funspots, or do challenges. Challenges are broken into 50 for each set of players (50 for two players, 50 for three players…). These range from crashing into each other to jumping to a certain locations and so on. There are tons of fun to be had here, and enough variation to last you for weeks. One problem is the focus on co-op in these challenges. It can sometimes be difficult getting 8 people to work together on a certain challenge, but when it does it is tons of fun. The problems online have, although more exposed due to the heavy weight on co-operation, are the same as any other online game, and nothing to be too concerned over. If you prefer competitions, it’s also possible to set up custom races and demolish the players that didn’t complete a challenge, just for the sake of stress relief. As a bonus when you take down another player in whichever mode, and they have a Live Vision Camera, you get a snapshot in your collection. The camera takes a picture of the player and puts it into your personal lineup, and it can be tremendous fun showing your collection off.

With these features alone, the game is a absolute triple-A title. But what helps it making it something truly special is the details. They are hidden deep enough that even after hours of playtime, there are tons of fun to be had. The most obvious ones are the games 400 gates and 120 billboards that can be smashed and the 50 super jumps to be tracked down. Another great detail is how you get cars. When you win them, they spawn in the city, and you have to track them down and crash them to add them to the junkyard. They are never too far away and are exciting to hunt. One minor addition is power parking. The concept is simple; you see cars parked on the side of the road, with some open space between. Tap the e-brake and try to line yourself into their position without touching either car. It’s a fun addition and shows how much the developer love their game.
Soundwise, the game hasn't changed all that much, although that doesn't mean it's not top notch. The immense woosh when you hit the boost, the powerful roar of the engine of an agression car, and the sound of cars passing you by at breakneck speeds all help make the fast driving all that more intense. The soundtrack is a mixture of old and new. They have inluded some tracks that Criterion made themself in Burnout 2 and 3, and is arguably the best of the lot. The other tracks mostly consist of punk and more ordinary rock. It fits Burnout well, keeping the energy up at all times. Some standouts however are, ofcourse, Gun 'n' Roses with "Paradise City" and Mozart. Why Mozart? Well, if you stand still for a few seconds, the camera starts to pan around the city in black & white and starts playing classics from composers like Chopin and the like. It's great fun, and actually makes for a beautiful screensaver.

With Burnout Paradise, Criterion has made a bold move with the Burnout series, and it definitely paid off. The open world is packed, but still with tons of room for experimentation, all wrapped around the excellent core of the Burnout we all know and love. Although it does take some time to properly establish itself, if you give it a few hours to settle in, it will give you weeks of fun in return.

Other reviews for Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360)

    Welcome to Paradise City 0

    Paradise City is filled with things to do.Burnout Paradise takes a huge leap in innovation from the previous Burnout titles. As a gamer who isn't incredibly interested in racing games (besides the occasional Mario Kart), I was naturally skeptical about Burnout Paradise. But, after seeing it for $20 as a Platinum Hits title at GameStop, I decided to buy it. I do not regret that decision.Burnout Paradise is a unique racing game. After selecting a car and fixing it up, you are free to go wherever y...

    19 out of 20 found this review helpful.

    All the violence of car wrecks with none of the people 0

        The Burnout series is the only set of racing games that I've ever really been able to stomach, and that is for a few reasons.  One being the fact that the game is as much (if not more) about wrecking stuff and causing destruction as it is about racing, and the other main reason is that it doesn't do that crap about making it feel more like the "real world" by making you manage money and repair and buy your own cars.  This game not only doesn't punish you for bustin' up your own set of wheels...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

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