The Burnout series has had its fair share of nips and tucks over the years. It has appeared on many platforms and it is the beginnings of 2008 that we see the series appear on the PlayStation 3 console. Aside from a few changes here and there, it seems this recent release of the franchise has taken a bold step in alternative direction. Rather than a step back or forward, I am talking more of a side shuffle, but enough talk of dance steps; I am here to review Burnout Paradise for the PlayStation 3.
It is quite easy to say that past Burnouts have taken an Arcade approach to the racing genre, with its restricted and quite linear events; through to its cornered off roads that briskly usher you around the city’s circuit. In Burnout Paradise, you still have the fast cars, slow motion crashes and nitrous induced carnage found in the previous series, but this bold step I talk of is the developer’s decision to lose the tried and tested and drop you into an expanded, free-roaming environment, which can have you driving around for hours on end racing a vast selection of vehicles and gorging at countless slow-motion crash scenes. But fuel junkies need not worry as there is more to just driving aimlessly around Paradise City…
*Queue Guns & Roses “Paradise City” sound track*
Welcome to Paradise City, a vast and open ended city, full of local landmarks, bustling down-town areas and twisting country back roads. All glued together to the backbone of a super highway which stretches around the bustling metropolis.
From the get-go the city is entirely open to you, everything is set up ready for you to burn rubber through the streets of Paradise City, crashing in to pristine billboards or just break through dozens of carefully laid out fences. Nearly every intersection of road in Paradise City holds a challenge event. Although there are plenty of open ended things you can do in Paradise City there is one linear part of the game and this is through these events. You will not beat the single player game until you have won a set number of challenges in each set of licence classes, from Learner to Burnout Elite. You begin the game with a basic learner’s permit and a single car from one of the available Wrecking Yards in the city. Taking this car and entering a number of races will progress you onto your full licence, and then by completing further challenge events you progress to your first Burnout D class licence and beyond.
When travelling through the city at breakneck speed it is not surprising to notice new routes and jumps you haven’t come across before. Knowing these routes will aid you in later classes where your competition is fierce, where you need all the help you can get! Throughout the beginning of the game there are a number of tutorials and tips introduced to you from DJ Atomika, from Paradise City’s local radio, Crash FM. Although cheesy, DJ Atomika does give you some valuable information and hints on the game, its hotspots and resources that are located around Paradise City.
Fans of the previous series will take some time getting used to the open routes on offer in Paradise City, as this time your event’s route isn’t handed to you on a plate. To help with this problem, you have a small map located at the bottom right of your display, but reading this while racing at ludicrous speeds can prove to be a challenge most of the time. This forces you to press the Select button and pull up the full map overview screen. Unless you are playing online, this pauses the game to let you plan your route more clearly, but after a few hours of exploration you will soon have the fastest routes and landmarks burnt (sorry) into your memory.
Failure to follow the correct or fastest route to the finish line will result in you loosing that event, and there is no second place in Burnout Paradise. If you don’t finish first, you fail, and have to start again. This would be one of my main concerns about Burnout Paradise, frustratingly there is no ability to retry an event. This can be disappointing if you have exhausted all the local events in your current licence class, but if you have only just started out in a new class, where all the events have been reset, then there will be plenty of other challenges ready for you only a wheel spin away.
There are a handful of event types located all around Paradise City, these are – Race, Road Rage, Stunt Run, Marked Man and Burning Route. Race events are the standard A to B events that have you racing across the city competing against seven other opponents. Stunt Run puts you up against the clock in order to achieve a set goal of points, obtain enough points within the set time and you are a winner! Burning Route is a special time trial event for a specified vehicle. By winning a Burning Route event in that vehicle you are be given an upgraded version, featuring upgrades such as an upgraded paint job or extra boost, through to better handling or overall body strength.
The two remaining events would have to be my favourites. In a Marked Man event you face a few, almost lethal, opponents. Their goal is very simple, to take you down before you reach a designated finish line. If you can remember back to the police in Driver or the FBI vehicles in GTA3 – you will be close to knowing the amount of aggression you will face in the Marked Man events. Road Rage events have a similar close-contact appeal and are just as adrenaline pumping. Here you face countless opponents around you, with your job being to simply take a designated number of them down before the given time runs out. Both events are great fun but sadly there aren’t enough of them available on the map, thanks to the Race events taking up the majority of the challenges located around Paradise City.
Fans of the previous series will be asking where the Crash mode is, well sadly there is no Crash mode in Burnout Paradise. As a replacement the developers have created a mode called Showtime. To activate Showtime you just have to press the L1 or R1 buttons to start a Showtime event anywhere in Paradise City. The difference to Crash mode is where in previous Burnout’s you where given a pre-arranged set of vehicles to demolish for points, in Paradise City you can pick your spot, anywhere, and then crash into cars, buses and trucks that are located nearby for cash points. This can prove to be a challenge at times when you have to guess what amount of oncoming traffic will be coming in your general direction. Select the wrong location or a poor flow of traffic and you are left with a lukewarm result and a low total score, which is important if you wish to “Rule the Road”. Overall, Showtime feels a little tacked on, to fill the void of the missing, and much needed, Crash mode. In a similar fashion to Aftertouch found in previous titles, Showtime has you pressing the Boost button to make your vehicle literally bounce into further oncoming traffic, thus creating more wrecking potential, but sadly this feels far too arcade like, in what overall feels like a more mature adaptation of the Burnout franchise.
Obtaining new vehicles, 75 in total, is done through winning a few events located around the city. Once you have won an event you will be informed of an unlocked car that currently cruises the streets around you, if you wish to own it, simply take it down. When there are a few of these driving around you can sometimes get nudged by them as they recklessly drive past you, this soon gives you enough enticement to partake in a little cat-and-mouse as you attempt to take them down. When done so they are delivered to your local Wrecking Yard along with all the other cars that can be unlocked in the game this way.
If you fancy taking a break from all these events you can build up your collection of broken gates through to smashing the number of Burnout billboards located around the city – in a variety of easy and not to easy to reach areas. Most petrol headed gamers will breeze through Burnout’s lower licence challenges with ease, with the opponents AI having only a little improvement over the previous series. With each class, the same events around the city are reset, so you soon get to know the location of your favourite events. With that said though, the lack of variety in the events can grind over time as you can exhaust all your favourites around the city pretty early, but there is no reason why you cannot play them again if you wish, sure it will not count to the progression of your licence but you’re having fun nonetheless, right?
As expected from most of EA’s titles, Burnout Paradise comes in much the same slick package. Graphically we are not talking Gran Turismo standards, but amongst the crisp visuals, both the unlicensed cars and environments are well modelled and feature rich and detailed textures, bloom effects and some of the best jaw dropping crash sequences ever seen in a racing game. Seeing as you will be crashing a lot in this game the developers have spent a lot of time in creating a highly detailed crash model, which takes vehicular destruction in games to the next level. Let’s hope we see this same attention to detail applied to licensed cars in future racing titles from the same publisher – permission willing that is.
Audibly, from entering the menu your ears are filled with a variety of recognised bands that feature in the game. Thankfully you can opt out of the titles that you don’t wish to listen to, as seen in titles like in Need for Speed. Sadly, until custom soundtracks becoming available in the PlayStation’s XMB you are forced to listen to the bands of today mixed with a few nostalgic bands such as Depeche Mode and of course Guns and Roses.
As for online play, Burnout Paradise continues to push the pedigree that the franchise seems to provide in its multiplayer features. Getting online is a simple press of the D-Pad to bring up your in-game menu and selecting Freeburn, or you can easily select a friend to send an invite if you wish to setup a more personal game with your PSN buddies. This simple interface approach makes it easy to create or join an online game and is something I would like to see carry through into more games, rather than using the main menu interface or through the XMB. Up to 350 online challenges are available for you and your online companions to complete; these are broken down into 2 or more player challenges depending on how many of you are connected at the time. If challenges are not your thing then the host can create a race that can contain a number of rounds, should you wish to do a best of 3 or just a single race. In race mode you can either settle for a random route or if you wish to select the start and finish positions you can do that too. Experience online through PSN is a breeze with an online session waiting for you to connect to most of the time. If you wish to complete the number of online challenges in Burnout Paradise it is recommended that you team up with some people you know on PSN, else you will be frustrated at the number of players that come online just to mess around, constantly ramming into you in order to take you down for giggles. Add the use of a webcam or a PlayStation Eye camera and you’ll be snapped after every takedown or event win, so that you can curse or gloat at your offending online buddies. To sum up the online experience in Burnout Paradise, there are plenty of trophies to be won, many challenges to complete and an infinite amount of races you can create, enough to keep you online for hours on end.
If you own both a PlayStation 3 and an Xbox 360 console and you are deciding on which version to buy, thankfully I have had the pleasure to play both, and I find myself drawn towards the Xbox 360 version. Sure the PlayStation 3 version has slightly better visuals, but both have similar, if not identical framerates, and at the speed you travel at in the game it make these extra graphical touches become obsolete. Having the guarantee of playing someone with a headset over LIVE is critical if you wish to get together and tackle some of the more challenging multiplayer events. The PlayStation 3 version has the PS3 equivalent of the Xbox 360’s Achievements – Trophies, but we currently don’t know where this is heading until HOME launches sometime later this year. So this brings us back to the Xbox 360 version, with its rewarding achievements, a more comfortable pad, WITH rumble, and an overall richer online experience.
Overall, Burnout Paradise is smashing title (sorry, again). With a lengthy game life and its near on perfect gameplay, it will take you days or even weeks to find all of the hidden routes, billboards and fences located around the city, as well as building up your licence, collecting cars and winning all the events. Then there are the online modes, with its variety of challenges and race types. The lack of a decent Crash mode, no instant event restarts and a lack of variety in the available events for me to drop the score down. But all this doesn’t bring down what feels to be a solid game for the franchise. The creators have made a few bold decisions in its development, some have worked and some not so much, and if Paradise and Revenge ever have a love child, Burnout fans would be in for a treat should the next instalment if the franchise took on this direction.