Criterion pulled out all the stops and completely reinvented the fifth installment of this popular arcade racer for the next gen consoles.
Burnout is a high octane arcade racing game. There's no messing with car settings to improve your speed by 10Kph. There are no graphs showing your gear ratios. If you're looking for a simulator wait for GT5. However if you're looking for high speed racing down the oncoming lane of busy streets then Burnout is right up your alley.
Those familiar with the previous Burnout games will be surprised to hear that this is possibly the best yet. If you think this is going to be just the same Burnout as before but with better graphics you are far from the truth. Every single aspect of the game has been recreated from scratch. This is nothing like previous titles. This is better.
As soon as you start the game the entire map (below) is open to you.
Over 150 Square Miles of racing heaven. Jumps, billboards and shortcuts are plentiful and it will take a long time to find them all. You can do whatever you want straight from the start. If you want to start a race simply pull up at a traffic light and press L1 and R2 to start the race. The transition between freeroaming and doing events is seamless. There's no menu to navigate like in previous games. You're not being taken by the hand and shown exactly what to do next. Instead it's entirely up to you. Think GTA with cars.
There are 120 Events scattered around Paradise City. Every junction in the game has an Event tied to it and you start one by pressing L1 and R1 at that junction. Apart from the usual Events from the last Burnout such as Race, Road Rage and Burning Route Criterion have added 2 new Event Types called Marked Man and Stunt Run. Marked Man has you trying to survive as 6 AI cars try to take you out as you race from point A to point B. They get really aggressive in later stages and surviving is not always guaranteed. Stunt Run gives you a time limit and you goal is to chain together as many Jumps, Barrel Rolls, Drifts, Oncoming, Billboards Smashing etc etc to beat a set score. It's fun and actually pretty demanding.
My Favorite is still Road Rage. It's even more intense now as the PS3s power enables us to have 6 or more cars onscreen at once. (see below)
Unlike previous games there are no big yellow arrows and blocked roads guiding you to the finish line while doing a race. Instead the city is completely open to you and it's up to you to find your way to the finish line using your mini radar and your onscreen indicator. Before coming to a turn the game notifies you to turn left/right for the best road to reach the finish. You can ignore it if you want and sometimes you can get lucky and find a shortcut in the next street or you could completely go off course and end up driving the opposite way. This might sound tedious and initially it is as you're not familiar with the map but after a while you will appreciate the freedom of choosing your own route to the finish line.
There is more to Burnout then just doing Events though. A lot more. Every street has a name and every street as a Record Time and Record Score for Showtime (more on that in a sec) on that road. By simply pressing the up directional button you enter Rulebreaker mode. As soon as you enter a street a timer starts at the top of the screen. If you beat the time set on that road the road sign turns Silver indicating that you beat the time. Press up again to view the best Showtime Score on that road and hit L1 and R1 at anytime to enter Showtime and beat the score. If you beat the scores and times on all roads you will get a nice car as a reward. Let me explain Showtime in more detail. Showtime is replacing Crash Mode from previous games. As soon as you press L1 and R1 (anywhere/anytime) your car turns sideways and flips onto it's side. Your goal is to cause as much damage as you can before coming to a stop. If you're good enough you can make the crash last a long time and really rack up the points. You keep your wreck going by pressing X everytime you touch the ground. Everytime you hit the ground you lose some boost (which is used to keep the wreck going) and everytime you hit a car you gain boost. If you hit a Bus you get a multiplier. This is an outstanding mode and is really a feast for the eyes watching car wrecks piling up on the freeway.
One thing I feel worth mentioning are the crashes. Burnout has always been known for it's cool crashes and Paradise raises the bar entirely. Never before have you seen such realistic crash physics. Everytime you crash you will be looking in amazement at how realistic it is. Every crash is different. Every single part of the car has it's own physics and it really shows when you speed head on into a wall and bits of metal and glass fly off your wreck. The crash depends on what you hit. If you hit a wall with an alcove the sides your car will crash inward while the centre stays intact until it reaches the alcove wall. Clip a car at the tail light and only the side that gets hit will show damage. It really is quite amazing to watch as your car smashes entirely realistic. If after a crash you still have all 4 wheels you can simple drive away. If you're wrecked though the car will respawn with the damage still visible. Observe:
Anyway getting back to the basics of a review lets discuss the Graphics. With this being a next gen game the graphics are a lot better then previous Burnouts. The usual 'next gen sheen' is present on all the cars and the lighting effect is top notch. There are no frame rate issues at all even when there's so much happening on screen which is often the case in Showtime. One thing I noticed though is sometimes you see cars pop up in the distance. Not too bad when cruising the streets at a leisurely pace but when you're going 120mph on the freeway a car suddenly spawning in the distance kinda throws you off guard slightly. Luckily popup doesn't happen often. It's a minor con that really is not as bad as it sounds.
As for the Gameplay and Controls, things are different then before. The X button is no longer used to accelerate. Instead R2 is accelerate and X is boost. It does take some getting used to (and with no controller layout options you have to get used to it) but you'd be surprised how quick you adapt to the new controls. A nice addition is using the directional arrows to choose the different options available to you. If you want to play online you simply press Right a couple times and you're instantly placed into an online game with other players. This means no exiting a game to go to a menu to choose online play. If a friend sends you an invite you can accept it instantly and you will be placed into his game straight away with the car you were driving and in the exact same spot too. It's instant and it's seamless. Also if you are playing offline and somebody on your Friends list beats your best time or Showtime score a message will notify you that your friend has beaten your time/score even though you're offline.
Gameplay is different too. You start off with the lowest rank D Licence. Everytime you win an event you get a point on your licence. Reach the target number of points and you will upgrade your licence. All the events that you did on the previous licence will be reset and you can play them again to get more points for your next licence although this time the events will be slightly more difficult. For example if you do a Road Rage event with a D licence you might only need 4 Takedowns to win. Yet if you return to that exact same event when you have your C licence you might need 6 Takedowns to win. Initially you might hate this as the events you worked so hard for to get all get reset once you upgrade your licence but it works perfectly and you'll see how great that feature is once you reach a high licence like the A licence that needs 40 events to advance.
Carrying on with the Gameplay lets discuss the actual driving and racing. Unlike previous games with their mediocre amount of cars Paradise has 75 cars to unlock. Every single car drives differently then the rest. There are different car classes that suit different needs. Aggression Cars are strong and are harder to take out. Great for Marked Man and Road Rage. Stunt Cars are easier to drift with and are usually light to allow them to jump higher and further. Race Cars are obviously built for racing. Of course you can still use any car you want to do whatever event you want but if you're struggling to complete a certain Event it's probably because the car you are driving is ill equipped for the task.
On to the Replay Value. There are literally hundreds of things to find and unlock in Paradise. Unlockables come in the form of Shortcuts, Billboards and Super Jumps. If you see a yellow fence with a Private Property sign then you can smash through it to discover a shortcut. There are 400 fences to smash through in Paradise so that should take a while. Billboards are also everywhere. Usually they're in plain sight but hard to reach and require a ramp or jumping from a multi-storey car park roof to break through the Billboards. The Super Jumps are like Unique Stunts in GTA. There are ramps everywhere in Paradise but only some of them are so large that you'll be jumping across ravines or over the freeway. Those are Super Jumps and there's more then enough to keep you busy for some time. Apart from those collectibles there are also the Street Records also known as RuleBreaker. As I mentioned earlier every single street has a Best Time and Best ShowTime record. Beat them all to earn 2 new cool cars. There are also 60 individual tasks offline (and 300 online) that you can obtain by doing certain things such as completing a race without crashing or getting a 10x Boost Chain. Needless to say all those collectibles, record breakers and tasks mount up to a long time playing before getting 100% and that's before you even go online.
Last but not least is the Online Mode. I expected this to be good. Racing online with friends is always fun. However I had no idea it would be this much fun. 8 players can play online together. If you are the host you can choose what to do. You can choose to do one of the 300 challenges together or you can start a race. The challenges are great fun especially when everyone is participating and surprisingly most people do. For some strange reason Burnout Paradise makes even the most complete strangers act like best friends. Challenges are different depending on how many people are in the game. For example if there are only 2 of you playing you can pick from challenges like jumping a bridge and crashing into each other mid air or doing a barrel roll off the same ramp at the same time. However if there are 8 players in the game you can pick challenges like having one player jump a ramp over the 7 other cars. No matter how many people are in the game there is always something fun to do. It will take a long time to beat all 300 challenges that's for sure.
As host you can also setup a race. Pressing Right on the D-pad shows a small menu in the bottom left. All you need to do is scroll down to 'Create Race' and press right again to create a race. This brings you to a menu screen where you can either select a preset route to race or create your own route from scratch. You can set where the start is and where the race ends. You can also add checkpoints along the way. Choose if you want Traffic on or off and just press OK. This brings you back out to Paradise. A message appears in the top left telling everybody about the race that's about to start and you use the Right directional button again to begin the race whenever you please. All players will then be brought to the car select screen and within moments you will be racing against 7 other players.
One last neat feature about online is the PSEye integration. When you take somebody out by smashing them into a wall (or whatever crazy method you can think of), if that person has a PSEye or Eyetoy connected to their PS3 (and surprisingly a lot of people have it) a mugshot gets taken of that person showing their reaction to being taken out. The game then keeps that Mugshot so you can view it later or even export it to your XMB and post it online. When you win a race your photo gets taken so everyone can see who just beat them (pretty embarrassing when it's a girl). This is an outstanding feature and really makes everybody in the game come closer together because not only can you hear the person but now you can also see them.
Anyway time for a Summary of the game. Burnout Paradise does have some minor faults like pop up, AI cars veering towards you instead of away sometimes and no Restart option when you fail an Event but those cons pale in comparison to the overall experience of the game. It's a fast paced pick up and play outstanding racing game. Whether you're only interested in playing now and again or whether you're the type of gamer that goes for 100% this is sure to interest you. It will last you for a long long time and is well worth the money. Even if you have no interest in Racing Games this will probably be the game to convert you.
I tip my hat off to Criterion for completely reinventing a dying franchise. Great game.