Games We Play: Burnout Paradise

Before I get ahead of myself, I think it’s generally important to indicate that I’ve been an avid Burnout player since Burnout 2. Going into this game I felt like there was a lot to live up to. It’s not just matter of living up to its forefathers but moreso the ability to add something new to an already complex and branched formula. Luckily Burnout Paradise clears the bar with some room to spare.

Burnout Paradise is a racing, stunt-driving, free-for-all sort of game that banks on a player’s ability to deal with high-speed maneuvering coupled with traffic and obstacles. The game is made up of several different event-types that challenge the player to reach certain stunt scores or win a race in first place. Winning events advances the game into harder modes, just like any other racing game. But what is non-standard in the Burnout is the idea of boosting/taking down opponents. By taking risks in the game (such as driving down the wrong side of the road or weaving through traffic) you accumulate boost, which is a trigger-happy way to hurl yourself even faster down the road. The whole experience is exhilarating and over-the-top fun.

The game takes place in a giant city and country landscape called “Paradise City”, which has a very pleasant sandbox feel; the whole city is at your fingertips. Instead of waiting for a race to load in some random location, you drive to that location. All the events take place in the very world that you drove to, so everything becomes familiar over time. A huge plus to the game is that there is rarely a loading bar and the cityscape loads as you go. While this was a major pain for previous Burnout games, this game excels in keeping the game going at all times.

Multiplayer mode is also a great addition to the game. There are over 300 events to play with your friends, most of which are exciting and not offered in the single-player version. For example, one event-type requires you to simultaneously jump from different sides of a broken bridge and crash mid-air to win the event. I can’t imagine anything more awesome to include in a racing game.

Not to say that this Burnout experience was flawless, however. The game stripped a few mechanics from the previous games that made it somewhat frustrating to play. For example, one of my favorite now missing event-types was causing as much damage as possible to rack up dollars worth of damage.  Also, the game’s general forced viewing of the slow-motion crashing without any sort of control over the crash was annoying, especially since the previous Burnout titles had the ability to score extra Takedowns while you were crashing in “bullet time.”  Since crashing occurs a lot in Burnout and controlled crashes were nixed, I felt like I was wasting time.

The learning curve on this game was the toughest challenge of all. The game throws you on the street and expects you to have a grasp on mechanics and gameplay from the get-go. While I did have previous Burnout experience I was still caught up in trying to deal with speed and timing. I almost put down the game for good once because it was so hard to get used to the game. While racing the game gives you little time to react to the driving direction it gives you. I equate it to your GPS system screaming at you to turn right at the last minute while barreling down a city street in the far left lane.  But after you get the hang of things (which is a good 10-15 events) things start to become clear.

Overall this a great game to get, especially if you like alternative racing games such as Mario Kart but don’t like to get dragged into “true” racing games such as Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. It’s a tough ride at the beginning, but what you get the hang of it you’ll definitely be yearning for more. The game’s endless sandbox of jumps, billboard crashes, and fence smashing will keep you going even beyond the game events offered, dishing the game perfectionists a good challenge. Overall, Burnout Paradise is a tight package that definitely delivers.