Kick that old junker into gear and get ready for life on the streets of Paradise City. Now into its fifth version, Criterion’s Burnout series shows it still has what it takes to get your heart pumping as you take down and dominate opposition drivers in another destructive attempt to get from point A to point B.
Burnout Paradise promised to take the franchise into the realms of next-gen games with highly detailed models, seamless online play and an open environment. But as we all know, pre-release hype is a dangerous thing. Therefore, any apprehension should be laid to rest early; Burnout Paradise does pretty much everything it promised and even offers an unexpected gem or two.
Your starting point in Paradise City is a junkyard, where all your cars are accessed. Once you’ve set your profile, you choose your car and head around the corner to a repair shop. Drive through the garage and you are ready to race. From the moment you hit the streets there are no restriction to the game’s open world. The races are all initiated at intersections. Selecting a race is entirely up to you. Every event adds to your license points, upgrading your license, resetting events and unlocking cars.
Burnout Paradise has five standard race modes. As well as the straight races there is Burnout’s signature Road Rage where you have to take out a certain number of opposition cars before your time expires or your car is totaled. Then there is Marked Man where any number of cars try to stop you before you get where you’re going. There are also model specific time trials and, finally, stunt runs. Stunt runs are not races, but events where you accumulate points by linking burnouts, drifts, jumps and crashes.
On top of this there is plenty to keep you busy. Smashing billboards, crashing through fences to find short cuts and hitting super jumps all go towards special bonuses and awards. From time to time you’ll also spot other drivers racing on the streets; catching them and shutting them down means you can access their cars at the city junkyards.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Burnout Paradise is Showtime, the reworking of the old favourite Crash mode. Anywhere, and at any time, you can hit the R1 and L1 buttons to send your car rolling into traffic. Here it’s all about damage done. Each car you take out is counted in dollars and provided there is something left on your boost meter you can activate ground breaks to send your wreck careering into your next innocent victim. Rack up multipliers by smashing busses and add bonus cash to your tally in relation to distance covered.
Showtime is brilliant and very addictive; it is also a handy option when winning a race starts to look a bit difficult. If your opponents have disappeared into the distance then simply head full tilt into a bustling bus depot to extract some destructive revenge. Online play is also something that Burnout Paradise does very well. Once your account is activated up to eight drivers, including you, can play at one time. Then, through simple taps on the d-pad, racing friends, challenges and online records and stats all become a seamless part of the Burnout experience.
Burnout Paradise could easily have become simply a prettier version of the four last-gen versions of the franchise. But fans don’t need to worry. The open world works wonderfully. In game there are pretty much only two menus. The first is at the beginning when you set up your profile and choose your car, and the only other is as you enter online play. Everything in the game looks great. The car models are fantastic, essentially moving the graphics of the arcade racer into the realm of the driving sims.
However, the open environment does pose some challenges. Streets are no longer blocked off during events so getting lost is always a possibility. Pausing during a race to check the main map is always an option, but does tend to ruin the experience. Getting to know the roads is essential but takes time considering the size and complexity of the map. Keeping an eye on the road signs as they appear at each intersection is the best option. The signs flash white to show the best route, but this takes a bit of getting used to especially with all the frenetic on-screen action that accompanies every race.
Driving, as it should be amidst all the carnage, is pretty forgiving. You will quickly get used to picking, and avoiding, those solid obstacles that turn your car to scrap. During races you can drive through repair shops and gas stations that won’t loose you ground while repairing your ride or refilling your boost gauge. This is handy because even the earliest events can be long races taking you all the way across town.
There are no licensed models, just close approximations, and the only modification options available are changes in paint jobs. There are 75 cars to unlock in various ways, 120 race locations and hundreds of jumps and shortcuts to find. On top of all the events every single street has a best time and best crash record to try to better, whether it’s been set in single player mode or established by someone online. So don’t expect to finish this game over the weekend.
I thought I was getting over arcade racers. But Burnout Paradise really has something special. Stunt runs call for planning and exploration. Races are white knuckle, heart pounding thrill rides that have you teetering on the edge of disaster. And Showtime is one of those things that you figure you’ll spend ten minutes doing - and then its dark, and moths and sandfies are clouding around the kitchen light and everyone has gone to bed.
So, switch off the light, close the back door and let Burnout take you down to Paradise City.