Name: Burnout Paradise
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
The Burnout series has always been a favorite of mine and, aside from Mario Kart, the only racing game I anxiously await hearing news about. For most gamers, the biggest question about Burnout Paradise is whether or not the design of an free-roaming racing game works. The concept of an open-world racer is an ambitious one, and just as Rapture was the main character of BioShock, Paradise City is the main character of Burnout Paradise. While it doesn’t have specifically crafted routes like other games in its genre, the concept of being able to “go anywhere” is one that was taken to a perfect level for the game. In other words, it does work, and it works damn well.
Some aspects of the open-world that are benefits may, at first, be seen as faults. Having no walls to hold you in during racing events can leave players wondering where to go, as they cannot rely on large, flashing borders to tell them which direction will put them on the fast track to nowhere. Inexperienced players will take every shortcut and assume the game is pushing them towards their goal without thinking that the shortcut may be to another path for a different race. This is where Burnout Paradise shines its brightest: by reinventing the idea of a racing game. The open-world still has all of the events of the previous games (with the exception of a reinvented Crash Mode) that can be activated by revving the car's engine at any stoplight in the city.
Before the race or event begins, the map of Paradise City is shown. This is your guide to getting where you need to go. Sure, your turn signals will flash when the game wants you to turn, but it isn’t taking you the fastest way – that is up to you. This doesn’t just apply to knowing when to turn and when not to, but where to turn and which shortcuts lead to the end. Knowing the city becomes a game of its own and while there are growing pains at first, the payoff is great.
Graphically, Burnout Paradise doesn’t have a match in its genre. The cars are beautiful and it is funny to see how much detail was put into vehicles that remain in prime condition for an average of thirty seconds. Crashes are all done in slow motion and show the wheels, doors, and everything else being ripped from the car's frame. Pieces of debris fall in the street and the smoldering wreckage of the cars is everything anyone could hope from a next-generation racing title. One of the largest demerits against the title is the lack of a replay feature. Being able to save a replay and post it onto an online section like skate and Halo 3 allow should have been a mandatory feature for Burnout Paradise and its absence is saddening and the weakest point of the game’s design.
Also a new addition to the series that would have been next to impossible without the free-roaming set up is a game of cat and mouse, where a new car is made available and the player needs to hunt it down and crash it. Driving slowly through the streets of Paradise City looking for a new set of wheels is rewarding, and seeing your target take off and run like hell from you leads to some of the most exciting chases in gaming history.
The soundtrack is as inconsistent as any game I have ever played, with the in game radio switching from Twisted Sister to Avril Lavigne without warning. Granted, every time I hear the song "Girlfriend" I want to smash a car into the wall, so being given the proper tools to do so isn’t really a bad thing. Luckily the game supports custom soundtracks, so I can pipe "ABC" by the Jackson 5 through my car's speakers in lieu of having Avril come on again.
Multiplayer is simple, allowing for players to jump into each others games with up to eight racers occupying one city. With a touch of the d-pad you can open your city to visitors. Other then running into your friends and sending them pictures with the Xbox Live Vision Camera, there are plenty of different races and challenges to occupy your multiplayer time. Again, the game delivers over its previous incarnations in a big way, with online scoreboards and a simple, but fun multiplayer experience.
Burnout Paradise is far and beyond the best Burnout in the series and quite possibly the best racing game on the Xbox 360. Purists may argue that Forza Motorsport 2 and Dirt are more realistic and offer better customization, but when it comes to being the most complete package with the most polished gameplay; Paradise is a true revolution.