Burnout is such a successful series that most developers would be quite happy releasing yearly upgrades, adding few new cars and tracks and netting the financial rewards. After the fourth game, Burnout Revenge (the least innovative Burnout title), developer Criterion evidently went back to the drawing board to investigate how they could re-invent the arcade-racing franchise, and the result is the more open-ended Burnout Paradise. The game is quite different from its predecessors, but does the title do the Burnout franchise justice or are arcade racing fans better off sticking too the previous Burnout games?
One of the major changes in Burnout Paradise is the setting. This time the series is set in Paradise City, and right from the very beginning of the game the city is open for exploration. You start off with a learners permit and a beaten up car, and from there it is your choice what you do. Menus have been kept out of the game as much as possible, so events in Paradise are triggered by driving up to traffic lights. Every traffic light in the game represents a challenge and beginning the challenge is as simple as pressing L2 and R2 at the same time. In total there are five different types of event; race, stunt run, road rage, marked man and burning route.
The race events (and there are plenty) are relatively straightforward. Before a race you are shown the route and told where you must drive to, but it is up to you how you get there. The compass isn't too helpful and it isn't always easy to tell when you have to turn right or left which means races start off as a major frustration. There are very few races which take place in straight forward areas, so most players will want to explore Paradise City a bit before jumping into the races.
Paradise City could have easily been a dull environment, but every part of the city feels like it has been throughly thought through. There are plenty of jumps, broken bridges, car parks which reach lofty heights, and a large variation in the environments. In the stunt run the objective is to try and score as many points as possible by stringing together a combo. Points are awarded for using boost, jumping, smashing into signs and pulling off turns. The stunt combo mode is actually quite rewarding and there is nothing more heartwrenching than knowing you are on the final combo while still needing 5,000 and just missing out.
The road rage mode has thankfully remained relatively untouched. The objective of road rage is once again to try and ram as many cars off the road as possible, but this time there are about five vehicles on the road to ram off. The open city means that no matter which direction you travel it won't take long to see a vehicle you have to take down. Road rage is easily one of the highlights of Paradise and is just as fun as in previous games. Marked man is a bit like road rage in reverse. In marked man the objective is to try and get to a destination without being taken down several times. The burning route mode returns from previous title and is essentially a time challenge, usually with a specific vehicle.
Every time one of these events is won it will contribute to your licence, as by completing a certain number of events your licence will be upgraded - it starts off as a learner licence and then moves to D, C etc. Once you've upgraded, the event completion is reset and the same challenges can be completed to keep upgrading, which will also provide a reward, as a new car is delivered to the junk yard every time you upgrade.
In addition to these licence upgrading events there are also timed runs and the showtime mode. For every single street in the game timed runs can be executed by simply driving from the very start of the street to the end of the street. Crash mode has also been removed from Paradise and in its place is the showtime mode.
Rather than crash into predetermined scenarios Paradise allows players to crash anywhere and start the damage tally immediately by simply pressing L1 and R1 together. By pressing these buttons together your car will start to flip and the aim is once again to try and crash into as many vehicles as possible and cause the most damage. Boost is awarded for every ten cars that are physically hit by your car (accidents caused by your crash no longer count towards your damage tally) and the boost can be used to sort of 'bump' your car a little into the air. Unfortunately the major flaw with this mode is the fact that the only time your score will multiply is when you hit a bus, as the traffic is randomised there may be times where you see three or four buses in a row, which will result in a 4X multiplier if you hit all of the buses. Other times you won't see a bus at all, this means showtime mode often becomes a quick hunt for the buses. Even more frustrating is the fact that sometimes the buses appear in the distance and then disappear before they get to the scene of the accident. Boost is also awarded so freely that showtime events can go on for three to four minutes at a time and your car can travel several kilometers - Burnout has never been about realism but watching your car tumble down the road like it is in a washing machine isn't all that gratifying.
Aside from the traffic light events, the showtime mode and the timed runs there are also other things to do in Paradise City. There are 400 gates scattered throughout the city to be smashed, as well as super jumps and over 100 Burnout billboards. Paradise awards are also given out to players for specific achievements, such as netting a takedown frenzy. Most players will never see the 100% percentage complete text on the main menu, there is just so much to do in the game. Paradise is easily the most content-packed Burnout title ever.
Cars aren't just unlocked by upgrading your licence. There are seventy five cars in the game and as you progress through the game the DJ will inform you that a new car has come to Paradise City. Rather than just getting the car immediately you will have to actually take down the car to acquire it. Finding the car isn't as difficult as we thought and also helps encourage exploration. There are three different car classes, stunt, speed and aggression. The classes are self explanatory, a speed vehicle will be perfect for race events, while a vehicle which is of the aggression class will be ideal for road rage events.
The single player game is long enough, but Paradise takes Burnout to a whole new level with the online support. By simply tapping the right button on the directional pad you can bring up your friends list and with fifty online challenges (such as hitting a jump) the online play will keep most people entertained for a long time. It is also possible to tap up on the directional pad and view the best online showtime crash amounts and best online times for a particular road. The online integration is seamless, which makes it very easy to get going online.
Paradise also impresses when it comes to the visuals. Cars and environments look great, and the game runs at a consistently smooth frame rate. The cinematic style of the crashes means every crash now looks absolutely fantastic and the actual scope of Paradise City is very impressive. The music isn't too bad either, with some good (and recognisable) tracks, as well as some 'retro' tracks from the first three Burnout games.
If you've already scrolled to the bottom of the review and are a little perplexed by the score there are a few things worth mentioning which stop us from awarding the game the same score as Burnout 3. First up is the lack of a try again option. This simple addition would have meant those who wanted to retry the challenge they just failed wouldn't have to drive back to the traffic light to restart the event. Paradise was supposed to be about giving the player options, so this omission is a frustrating one. There's still no decent replay feature, or the ability to move the camera during crash sequences - the crashes look phenomenal so why we cannot save them for later viewing is puzzling. Some of the in game advertising also seems over the top. While we understand the billboards advertising Hungry Jacks and CompUSA, we were quite disappointed by the inclusion of an all orange Gillette Fusion car.
Burnout Paradise isn't a typical update, but the decision to move the game to an open world can generally be considered a good one. There are still a few annoying flaws (the lack of a try again option, the less enjoyable crash options) but the great presentation, incredible online implementation and wealth of things to do in Paradise City will please even the most cynical Burnout fan.