Burnout Paradise Review
The Burnout franchise has come a long way since its inception on the original PlayStation 2, back when the series was actually owned by [the now defunct] Acclaim. Electronic Arts has been with the franchise ever since Burnout 3, and because they were able to fund Criterion better than Acclaim could, the franchise was much better off with EA. We're now in another console generation, and for the longest time people had imagined just how surreal a Burnout game would be and how incredible the crashes would look. Thankfully, much of that anticipation and daydreaming has gone answered by the minds at Criterion, as we're looking at arguably the best Burnout game since Takedown.
First thing's first, perhaps the most important aspect of Burnout's is its ridiculous sense of speed - it's one of the core traits of the game that helped it gather such an enormous fanbase. The sense of speed has gotten only better with every iteration, and Paradise is no exception. The game runs at 60 frames per second, while rendering at 720p. Even though there is no 1080i or 1080p support, this is still, without a doubt, one of the best running engines the generation has seen thus far. Burnout Paradise renders so much all in one time, that it's absolutely mind boggling that I've yet to experience the least bit of slow-down in the game - the framerate never bogs below 60.
To give you an idea of just how capable this engine is, it utilizes a spectacular amount of real-time lighting touches, with sun glares, shadows, and beautiful reflections. Then, it renders a plethora of buildings and structures, none of which are repetitive. Texture detail is never sacrificed, as the world is lavished with slick textures. There's a good amount of civilian vehicles all around you, and much of what you see can be destroyed - so the environment is very interactive.
But above all of that is just how utterly incredible the crashes look. They're absolutely brilliant. That's the sort of thing you'll keep saying to yourself while playing Burnout Paradise and witnessing the horrifically-awesome crashes. I mean really, describing this game's madness can only be filled with antonymic hyphenated descriptions - and I've already used one too many in this piece already. So, perhaps the point is clear, and by now you should be realizing just how spectacular Burnout Paradise looks. And to top it all off, there is barely a lick of aliasing (jaggies) to be found, in addition to any other visual imperfections. Burnout Paradise is one of the cleanest looking games out there.
As far as gameplay, Paradise is a blast no matter what you're doing. Even when you're just wankering around, Paradise is a fantastic way to kill some time. Events and races are initiated by coming to stop lights and hitting the two trigger buttons simultaneously. Events vary from a standard point-to-point race, to Marked Man, Stunt Run, Burning Route, and Road Rage. So, as opposed to selecting from various modes, as you would in the past, all of Paradise's contents are now within its career mode.
Marked Man is my favorite event; here you'll be chased by a horde of the same black cars as they try to destroy your car for good, preventing you from reaching a specific destination. It's very much like a cop-chase (the black cars even resemble the new Dodge Chargers), except they back off once you've crossed the finish. If you take too much damage too many times, you'll lose. But you are able to blast through a repair shop and have it all fixed up.
Stunt run is pretty self-explanatory. Here, you'll want to rack up multipliers by performing barrel rolls off of ramps, taking high-flying jumps, drifting, among other rewarding tasks listed before each stunt run. Road Rage is essentially a competition to earn as many takedowns as possible within a certain amount of time. Burning Route requires you to use a specific car per event, and it is a race against the clock to the finish.
Now, an open world format is mostly good, but there are drawbacks. Veterans may be turned off by this new transition at first, meanwhile free-roamers will end up enjoying it as it always keep them within the experience. My one complaint is that if you lose a race or event, instead of being able to restart it instantly, or pop your car back to the origin point, you have to drive all the way back to the event-trigger location. For the final release of the game, the issue doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Because there are so many events in the game, if I lose one, I just drive over to the nearest traffic light, begin another one, and worry about my lost event later.
There's always something to do in Burnout Paradise, so the lack of a restart option hurts less - still it would have been nice, Criterion. When you aren't racing, you can do some hunting, and break through the 120 Burnout billboards scattered around Paradise City, smash through the 400 fences, find and complete the 50 Super Jumps, locate the 35 drive-thrus (repair shop, gas station for boost refill, paint shop), or own the 75 cars. Burnout Paradise has an extremely large scope, and completing it will take a very long time, so you're getting your money's worth here.
Then there's the maniacally incredible Showtime Mode, which is what Crash Mode used to be. Instead of barreling down an intersection to cause catastrophic damage, you instead trigger Showtime Mode by pressing L1 and R1 simultaneously, which sends the car into a crash, allowing you then to hurl it around into other cars. Buses will give you a multiplier, as will destroying 10 cars, 30 cars, 50 cars, etc. You pop the car by pressing X, and then control its momentum with the left-analog stick. Every time you hit a car, your boost gauge fills up more and more. And every time you lift your car by pressing X, you deplete the boost gauge (basically, you pressing X makes the nitrous oxide cause explosions). There's a lot of fun to be had with Showtime Mode, it is one of the most enjoyable additions to a videogame yet.
Lastly, there's the seamless online component which can take you on and offline in the blink of an eye. All you have to do is press Right on the D-pad, and you'll bring up your online options. There's a whole other game that comes alive when you go online, as a world of new challenges and events open up. All of that combined really makes Burnout Paradise feels like a limitless game. And just when I thought I was done, it must also be mentioned that wheel guys will be happy to know that Paradise does support Logitech wheels and force feedback, too.
Burnout Paradise is a game that you absolutely have to play loud. If you're playing the game with measly little speakers and no subwoofer to speak of, you're missing a chunk of the fun. Hearing the impacts and feeling that gut-wrenching bass really adds that 'wow-factor' to each crash. Furthermore, the roar of the engines and the exhausts comes to life, as deep bass notes from the game's more muscular cars resonate superbly well.
The soundtrack is rather decent, but I was rather appalled to see Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" in the track roster. But hey, you have the option of turning individual songs off, and a large collection of tunes from previous Burnout games are featured here - which is a plus. Some of the more solid acts include: Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction, Killswitch Engage, Depeche Mode, Airbourne, Faith No More, N.E.R.D, Soundgarden, Twisted Sister, Guns N' Roses, Mexicolas, Junkie XL, and Jupiter One. And before you wonder, yes, Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City" is the game's theme song. Finally, online gamers will be happy to hear that voice support is also present.
By now it's rather obvious that Burnout Paradise is the epitome of the entire franchise. It offers so much to the gamer, all without cutting corners or making any sacrifices in gameplay. It's online component can be added up to nearly half of the game's value, and the amount of things you can do in the single-player seems almost never-ending. The Showtime Mode is deliciously addictive, and the crashes are out of this world. And Criterion didn't skimp on either visuals or sound, as Paradise can be easily considered an achievement in visual detail and execution with its blistering framerate. This one is a keeper.
1/28/2008 Arnold Katayev