30 Reviews in 30 Days, Day 22 – Burnout Paradise
So three weeks down on this 30 Reviews in 30 Days. We are winding down to the final reviews, and I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t get me wrong; I am enjoying this feature, but doing a review a day when you have a full time job and churchÂ ministries can be a little rough. Â Still, it has been worth it, and the last few reveiws will be a lot of fun.
So, before we get to my 22nd review, let’s take a look at the last week:
Monday: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia definitely brings the difficulty back to the series, but in the end, it starts to feel a little too much like most other Castlevania games.
Tuesday: Poker and puzzle gamplay make a Poker Smash and Xbox Arcade game worth considering.
Wednesday: What more can be said about The Orange Box? If you have not already purchased this collection, what are you waiting for?
Thursday: To many gamers, Crackdown was a welcome surprise. It was good to see the game was so much more than filler for the Halo 3 beta.
Friday: Another Retroview, this time focusing on the Dreamcast game Jet Grind Radio. If you have a Dreamcast or can get one, this game is worth playing. Heck, even the Gameboy Advance version of it is decent.
Saturday: CarneyVale Showtime is yet another Xbox Indie game worth playing. The level editor is a nice added bonus as well.
So that brings me to today’s game, a game for which I have had a change of heart from my first time playing it: Burnout Paradise.
Sometimes first impressions are wrong
I have to admit I was not very impressed with Burnout Paradise the first time I played it. Well, maybe that is a bit harsh. It may be more accurate to say I just did not think it was as good as it’s predecessors.
You see, of all the games on the original Xbox, I spent more time playing Burnout 3: Takedown than any other game, with the exception of Fable. I loved the races, the takedowns, the crash mode…. It may have been as close to a perfect driving game as I have ever played. Some would argue it may be too arcadey to say that, but that is part of what I like about it. I do not get into racing sims.
So when I got the 360, it was only natural that I tried out Burnout Revenge. The game left me severely disappointed. It didn’t even hardly feel like a 360 game; there was not much if any improvement upon its predecessor. This was part of the reason I was so excited about Burnout Paradise; everything about it just screamed innovation, from the open world to the stunning graphics.
You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I was not getting lost in the game like I did when playing Burnout 3. Sure, the open world touch was nice, but not being able to restart races was really frustrating. Being able to kick into Showtime at any time was fun, but it was not the almost puzzle solving elegance of Crash Mode. In the end, I marked it as an enjoyable game and an improvement on the first Burnout installment on the 360 but not a game really worth owning.
A good friend of mine kept telling me I needed to give Burnout Paradise another try. Criterion, the game designer, had tweaked the gameplay, allowing you to restart your current challenge, adding day/night cycles to the city and adding motorcycles, all for free. So, bolstered by his urging, I picked up the game for $20.00 at Play N Trade.
May bave been the best $20.00 I have spent for a game in a long time.
Coming back for another try
When it comes to adding features to games, one often thinks of Epic or Valve. They are both known for releasing additions to games for free or for minimal purchase on the 360. You do not often think of Criterion, or at least I did not before Burnout Paradise. After seeing the amount of free content they have released for the game, I am really impressed.
There no denying the fact that Burnout Paradise is a gorgeous looking game.
Burnout Paradise now only slightly resembles the game I first played. The game modes are all there still, with races, Road Rage, Stunt Runs, Marked Man and Burning Laps all available. Instead of choosing the mode to play from a menu, however, you pull up to an intersection and hold down on both gas and brake to initiate the challenge. Though that part has not changed, Criterion did give you the ability to restart the event you were currently on, taking away the frustration of trying to find the intersection you were just at to try again. That may seem like a minor tweak, but it makes a major difference in the game, especially when you are trying to improve your license.
Then there is Showtime. Hit both bumpers at once, and you car starts to flip, initiating a crash sequence. The more vehicles you wreck in this mode, the longer you keep your boost active, which allows you to relaunch your car into the air and continue the wreckage. Hitting road signs gives you nice bonuses, and hitting buses improves your multiplier. As much fun as Showtime can be, it is not Crash Mode, and it kind of makes a poor substitute.
AÂ mode Criterion added to the game was the Stunt Run. You are given a target score you need to achieve, and you do this by hitting jumps, drifting, and doing barrel rolls. You get bonuses if you can hit billboards or super jumps in the middle of these runs, and you can chain stunts together via boost.
Burnout Paradise makes yet one Â more major departure from the earlier games, and that is how you obtain your cars. You start off with a decent but relatively plain car you pick up in one of the junkyards in Paradise City. From there, you need to find a repair shop to bring the car up to top condition. As you start to win races, DJ Atomica, the Paradise City radio DJ who acts as your guide throughout the game, will let you know that a new car is now roaming the streets of the city. If you can takedown that car, it will be added to your junkyard, allowing you to drive it.
All of this adds up to a game that is a lot of fun, but not quite as good as Burnout 3. Even the motorcycles Criterion added, while a nice touch, do not really push it over the top. One thing does, however: the online element.
Online play is the key
Criterion has really upped the ante for online play with this game. The first bright move they made was giving you the chance to play in online mode even for the single player experience. This allows you to know how friends or players in general are doing in regards to the challenges. It’s a nice touch that helps add to the competitive nature of the game.
Then comes the online play itself. You can play with up to 8 friends in several modes in the game. There is the free burn, which just allows you to drive around and goof off. Then there are the races, which are pretty self explanatory.
Motorcyles and stunt runs are nice, but the online challenges are where this game shines.
Then comes what is truly the best part: the challenges. These are a set of requirements all players must meat in order to succeed. It may be racing to a particular position on the map, drifting a certain distance, or completing a series of stunts. For lack of a better way to put it, trying to complete these challenges is the most fun you will have playing this game. What makes it even more interesting is the challenges vary based on the number of people playing online at once. In other words, you face a different set of challenges if three people are online in your world than if you only have two.
The second verdict
If I had given Burnout Paradise a score before the changes Criterion made and before I got to play it online, I probably would have givne it a 4 at best. After really experiencing everything it has to offer, I need to revise that score. While Burnout 3 may be the better single player game, this one is the better overall game. Burnout Paradise gets a 5 out of 5.
Sometimes it does pay to give a game another try.