Burnout has been one of my most loved series of games on the original Xbox and now the Xbox 360. Delving into our desires for ridiculous speeds and crashing into other cars, Burnout Paradise possibly takes the most drastic advancement yet to take us all into something quite incredible, but does it actually deliver on the goods and remain faithful to the true hardcore fans of the ride so far?

Burnout has always been exceptional. Burnout has also slowly evolved, but imagine now a whole city to explore, shortcuts to uncover among varied surroundings. Have you managed to conjure that thought yet? Bring into the fold Paradise City, which is immense in scale and staggering in detail. This kind of open world environment has cropped up in many titles quite recently and it seems we can’t escape it here either.

There are no loading pauses, which for a City of this scope is quite ingenious. The graphics are incredibly lush and the frame rate remains constant and high. The cars look fine, but it is the surroundings you will notice and the lavish setting you are travelling around in. You certainly can’t fault this title here as in every department visually, Burnout Paradise looks like a super model you respect and desire all in one.

Driving around this vast map, you can initiate races, stunt scoring, road rage among others by simply stopping at designated traffic lights and hold down the triggers. Some are reminiscent of older Burnout titles and others take on a slightly new twist. Oddly though, one of the time sapping activities where you entail different junctions with your main goal to crash into vehicles and cause a chain reaction for money has disappeared, although not entirely. This is replaced with a weaker kind of hop and skip car bounce that can be activated at virtually any point while exploring. Essentially this works in the same way and can cause a few smiles, but it pales in comparison to what has now vanished and quite frankly looks ridiculous as well.

First order of the day is to of course explore, find all the little nooks and crannies, leap off some of the scary jumps and unlock the extra vehicles. You will also be able to locate junkyards to change your mode of transportation, garages to repair and damage sustained (even within events) and paint shops.

The crashes when you wreck your car are just as spectacular and momentous and offer so much eye candy and camera movement that your senses could actually explode with lust for your television screen.

Racing, which remember is really what it’s all about, has been damaged by this new landscape. Burnout is all about speed, not negotiating your way through all of the roads, which can be a bloody nightmare when you are in the more built up areas. There are indicators on the screen that will attempt to direct you, but the lack of clarity and the confused timing (because you have no perception of how far the turn is) completely boggles the mind. I don’t want to be looking at several areas of the screen at once just to know where to turn, I just want to race and cause carnage on my unsuspecting foes. Burnout Paradise would have you staring at the directional compass at the top of the screen, the left or right indicator, the mini map and of course all of the happenings on the road and trust me the amount of traffic and intentional ‘catch you out’ annoying sticking out points or walls that are designed to entangle your suspension are still present.

There is simply too much going off at once to really appreciate the racing mode and when you consider the importance of this mode, you can’t help but wonder what the developers were thinking. How about a louder audible alert that isn’t drowned out by all the other sound effects? An alarm that beeps faster when you are near to the turn off? Maybe all we need and dare I say it… is a stupid flashing arrow filled wall to prevent wrong turns! Yes I know, it makes no sense in this new open world scenario to limit the player’s choices, but at this frustrated point of my sanity, something pretty drastic does need to be accomplished if the race mode is really going to satisfy my faith again.

Just like most games, online is where the action really takes a mind bending tear into your gaming soul. Even utilizing the Live Vision Camera, Burnout Paradise has actually made good use of it! Shock horror I know, but honestly it is true. If someone takes you down (be it smashing you into a wall or moving vehicle) a few seconds window of time will pass allowing you to pose and capture automatically an image showing your painful disgust as the recipient of this foul act, which will then of course be sent to the instigator. Simple really, but it seems such an obvious addition you wonder why other games don’t use something similar?

The audio and music is a mixed bag dependent on your taste. With a large selection of various well known artists, hopefully you will find something in there you will like. The pounding of crashing car crunches still awaken your sometimes dormant subwoofer as well as allowing Burnout Paradise to tap your auditory and visual senses at the same time with ease. There is a DJ that offers advice in between tracks, but thankfully it doesn’t get annoying too soon.

The real joys are when you can explore together with seven other friends and share stories, show off stunts and attempt wacky challenges. The host of the room can select a challenge from the menu, which might include jumping through a large hoop where everyone is required to complete the same feat resulting in a successful completion. There are missing elements though to this open arena that are just begging for new modes. Again my mind wanders back to Midtown Madness 3 on the original Xbox, where such large spaces allowed for tagging, police chases and other assorted multiplayer mayhem. Alas Burnout Paradise hasn’t catered for this. Online is a marvellous romp as you would expect, but it could have reached even farther in greatness if only it had a few more tantalising options.

In both single player and online there is plenty to do. Advancing through both are extremely enjoyable and remains true to the legacy of the Burnout series, but there is a problem. In a bizarre twist, in attempting to create a ‘next generational’ gameplay experience, the developers may have actually alienated the one true feature that Burnout always enjoyed and that of course is superb adrenaline filled racing. Burnout Paradise is a bold attempt to take the series far further than ever before and although the new additions have added a richer interest for the gamer, it has also taken away some of the core components crucial to a true fan of the games.

Nevertheless, this title will still reward your efforts for the most part and if it weren’t for all the previous Burnouts, we would no doubt be stampeding down to the shops for our copy. Just a shame that a few little mistakes have spoilt the otherwise gripping overall experience.

James Woodcock

James is a Freelance Journalist specialising in gaming and technology. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, while also interviewing well known industry figures for popular online publications. James has experience in classic game music MIDI enhancement. DVD and HD Video capture, editing, scripting and creation. Podcasting, Internet Radio DJ and Musician.

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