Burnout Paradise from Criterion was released in 2008, and was well received. However, as it is a few years old now it can probably be found for fairly little in bargain boxes, but is it worth picking up if you haven’t tried it before?
The basic premise of the game is you have moved to the fictitious Paradise City, which is the drivingest city around. It does not have any specific location, but I would personally place it on the West Coast, since it has a very distinctive Californian feel, with mountains and beaches. You start out with your basic permit and try to work your way up to a Burnout License by winning events.
Events are split up into four basic types: Races, where you simply are trying to get from point A to B first; Stunt Runs, where the name of the game is to rack up enough points to meat the goal by drifting, jumping, and spinning your way through the city; Road Rage events, where you attempt to cause enough opposing cars to crash to meet a set goal; and Marked Man events, where you attempt to get from point A to B without having your vehicle completely destroyed by pursuing vehicles. The twist with all these events is that you are operating in a completely open world, so there are numerous ways to get from one place to another. Sometimes it isn’t so much about how fast your vehicle is, but how well you know the city, and the best routes, though a fast car does help. There are also challenges such as trying to get the fastest time or biggest crash on a specific street or road, as well as Super Jumps to attempt and yellow gates closing off areas that you can crash through.
The vehicles are divided up into three categories. Stunt Class vehicles are lighter, usually nimble, and able to drift and spin well. They also have a boost that can be activated at any time, however they are not the strongest cars out there.
Racers are your pure speed machines, not great if you want to barrel roll or spin, but when you need to put the hammer down these are your machines of choice. Their boost however, can only be activated when full, but if you use all your boost in one continuous burst and prebuild enough boost while doing it, you can perform a Burnout, where your boost will completely refill and be read to go again, and they can be linked multiple times.
Aggression class vehicles are you enforcers, they are big, tough, slower, and handles like an elephant when trying to take corners, but when you need to take out another car or survive a beating this is the class you want. Like Stunt class vehicles, their boost can be activated at any time you want.
Handling is a big deal for me when playing a racing game, if it is to hard to drive, I tend to get frustrated and stop playing after a while. The handling in Burnout is superb. I’ve played a few racers where I definitely need a gamepad or steering wheel setup, but Burnout controls surprisingly well with just the keyboard. And each car feels unique in its handling, you have drifters that just want to be sideways though the corners and are really loose, to track cars that stick like glue through the corners, to your big lumbering vans that have major understeer and require some persuasion to turn. And there are a lot of cars to unlock, so there is almost always a car to suit your tastes. The only thing that I dislike, and it is a minor thing, about the cars is that they are all generic. They are based on real life cars, and I can often tell which ones, but they are not licensed. While having licensed cars wouldn’t do anything other than change cosmetics, I do miss having real life cars that I have dreamed of to drive.
Graphically, while the game is over four years old, it has held up decently well. If you stop and drive up close to some items, like chain fences, they do look very pixelated, but you likely would never notice when flying by. That is another thing that the game does extremely well, giving you an incredible sense of speed. When your foot is to the floor and you are hitting high gear it really feels like you are doing mach 10. This has revealed to me that my reaction times are not as great as I would like them to be, many times, buy the time I realize there is a car, or wall, or bridge support directly in front of me, I’m usually pilling into it. The game does have some spectacular crashes, going into a slow motion cinematic when you shunt your car into a wall. There have been a couple of cases though where I felt that I was steering enough that I would have cleared the obstacle in question if the game had not gone into the crash sequence, but this has only happened a few times.
As far as multiplayer, I never had a chance to try it out with friends, but from what I’ve heard from other people it is a blast, and I can see why, as any of the events I enjoy playing in single player I would love to do with actual human opponents our teammates.
The only other thing that I was disapointed with was that it isn’t truly an “Ultimate Box”. When I purchased it I expected it to come with all the DLC, and was extremely disappointed to find out that it simply came with the free DLC. I personally though this was a bit deceptive, as an “Ultimate” edition of a game usually has everything, like a GOTY edition of a game. And to make matters worse, EA shut down the Burnout Network and Store, so you can no longer buy the DLC on the PC.
These negatives aside, the main game itself is still fantastic, and definitely worth picking up if you find it in a bargain bin and haven’t played before, especially if you have friends to play it with. I find it worthy of a very good, 8 out of 10