Welcome to Paradise City
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 you want in the vast Paradise City (which spans over 200 in-game miles). DJ Atomica, who is the radio host for Crash FM is very helpful for beginning drivers, offering gameplay tips, advice, secret areas, and more. What astonished me (and continues to astonish) is the wide range of activities that one can do in Paradise City. Not only are the 120 events (which can be either a race, a road rage, a marked man, a stunt run, or a burning route; but I'll get into that in a second), but there are 400 yellow fences to smash, 120 Burnout billboards to break, and 50 Super Jumps scattered around Paradise City. That's only the surface, though. The purpose of events is to upgrade your license--and to get the coveted Elite License. Not to mention the 75 cars you can unlock on the way.
The events, mostly due to the size of Paradise City, rarely are a bore. At each stop light, there is an event that can be triggered. Races are self-explanatory; a linear race from one point to another. However, the incredible amount of races, and the locales they take place in, make it more interesting than any track could ever be. Because the races don't take place in a closed track, there is traffic, the possibility of wrong turns, and shortcuts everywhere. A road rage event is a challenge to see how many cars you can take down. Road rages, again, are not in a set track; there isn't even a point to go to, so this event could span all of Paradise City. Marked man events have you frantically driving towards a goal, all the while being chased by powerful cars determined to take you down. Stunt runs have you attempting to gain a set amount of points before the time runs out. Depending on where you are in the city, the easier the stunt run is (although I really never got a good stunt run, because I just suck at them). Burning routes are your key to unlock new cars. By getting to a certain point in under the time limit, you can unlock a better version of the car you are using. All of this is great fun, even though some of it may get old. However, that's where the sheer amount of things to do comes in; with so much variety, you can always go do something else if you begin to find one event boring or too difficult. Frankly, there's a lot to do.
With so much to do, the game does a good job of presenting it. DJ Atomica always does a good, entertaining job of explaining the concepts (they are introduced as they are encountered). However, after you've grown used to the game, DJ Atomica can become a droning, annoying voice in the background. Thankfully, the voice acting isn't too shabby, and he doesn't talk during online games, so it's only a minor flaw of the game. The music of the game includes the works of various artists (from Avril Lavigne to tracks from previous Burnout games). I ended up switching the music off, as it drowned out some sounds (such as the sound signaling an upcoming turn in a race).
Really, the game becomes more and more fun as the it progresses. As you explore more of Paradise City, you will discover new, unique, and interesting places to race around (from the quarry to the airport). As a beginner to the game, it can feel overwhelming, with so much to do, and so many places to visit. And that is one of the game's biggest flaws; while it may seem approachable at first glance, the game is in reality, massive and relatively complex (not the concepts themselves, but the enormity of things to do). However, if you play for a few hours, you'll start to get the hang of things. Playing more also unlocks new cars to drive around in, providing motivation to continue playing. With an enormous city like Paradise City, there are a lot of sections (and even sub-sections). So you'll end up spending hours on hours just driving to your destination. It would have been incredibly useful to have some sort of "warping" system so that you don't have to spend so much time pointlessly driving around.
One of Burnout Paradise's best features is its online mode. By accessing a handy menu using the d-pad, you can hop online into a free burn. Eight players can drive around Paradise City, either doing their own thing, or (if the host decides) completing challenges and competing in events. There are several hundred challenges, ranging from the easy (drift 20 yards!) to the difficult (ramp over 7 players). One of the main problems I found with this is the general lack of cooperation with other players; people without microphones or new to the game did not even try at many challenges. When you do manage to find a game with cooperative players, it is a lot of fun. The only thing that irks me about the online mode is the fact that you cannot complete offline events while in a game. So if I'm just hanging out with a friend of mine, we can only do challenges, and cannot complete events.
This game has been out for a while, as of now. Criterion has released a lot of free and paid DLC since the game's release. If you have access to the internet, you can get Burnout bikes and several other updates for free, but if you're willing to drop down some cash, you can get other cars. Now is this worth it? It really depends. If you've just recently purchased the game, or are planning on purchasing it, then by all means, buy the extra cars (they are especially helpful to beginning Burnout drivers). However, if you've grown tired of Paradise City, save that money for something else. I really can't say anything about the party downloadable content, as I've yet to download it.
Burnout Paradise is a really unique game. If you are a "hardcore" racing game fan who likes customization and accurate cars, or a fan of more traditional racing games, then this game isn't for you. However, if you're looking for a new, fun experience that will last you around 50 or more hours (I've spent well over 70 hours in the game), then this is the game for you. At a new discounted price of $20, now is the best time to buy it. Burnout Paradise has shaped up to be not only one of my favorite games of 2008, but one of my favorite racing games of all time.