Burnout Paradise PS3 Review
Race you down to Paradise City
Finally a new Burnout is upon us! Bringing with it the expected wealth of adrenaline fuelled destruction that we know and love! But oh no this isn’t your regular franchise update, far from it, this is Burnout, but not as we know it. You see the petrol heads down at Criterion decided that players weren’t smashing in to enough things, so, after much blood sweat and motor oil Burnout now takes place in the fictional setting of Paradise City, a large, free roaming sun kissed city. But the improvements don’t end there; Criterion has upped the online ante with the most extensive online mode seen in any racer to date. But does too much spice spoil the sauce? Let’s find out.
Where the cars are clean
So here we are in Paradise City, a completely open environment where you choose where to go and what to do. Every traffic light represents a challenge of some kind, from traditional Burnout features such as racing and burning laps. A new addition is the excellent Marked Man game type; it’s essentially an offline version of the Cat and Mouse mode found in the online section of former Burnout titles, truly a welcome edition. Getting bored of having your car being hurtled through the air at 150mph? Go look for some billboards to smash, there are 500 hidden in Paradise, some in the most obvious of places and others in the most mind bending. Bored of billboards? Burn around Paradise and look for some shortcuts, or some super jumps, the point is that there is plenty to do in Paradise and you won’t be stuck twiddling your thumbs, it’s worth noting that if thumb twiddling does ensue you are whisked away to a tongue and cheek preview of Paradise accompanied by music from the masters like Bach and Mozart which should take your adrenaline levels down nice and slow.
However it’s not all sunshine and lollypops, Paradise is missing one crucial aspect of previous Burnout games, the truly excellent Crash mode. Instead Burners now activate crash mode any time anywhere they like and try to make the biggest crash. In theory this sounds like another great bonus of the free roaming environment, however it doesn’t work. The realistic level of traffic in Paradise means that there are never enough cars in one place, nor enough jumps to play with. There are plenty of junctions in Paradise that could have been used as crash junctions if they simply activated crash mode in specific locations as they do with the races and burning laps.
But they don’t stay pretty
So what’s it like racing in Paradise city? Well it’s a mixed bag to be honest. Sometimes it’s so smooth you don’t even realise you’re playing an open world game, it just flows, other times your sat nav will lead you into walls or if you miss a turn off you can end up on a road to nowhere, a long, winding, painful road. The sat nav itself is fairly simple, as you approach turn offs or corners it will flash the street name at the top of the screen in the direction you need to turn. This and your compass are supposed to guide you through Paradise. However simply glancing away from the road, even for half a second can cause you to crash. When this happens you can’t help but think to yourself “that wouldn’t have happened in other Burnouts”. This is made all the more annoying by the lack of a “retry race” button, if you fail a race you have to drive all the way back to it to start again, this is made even more difficult by the fact that you can’t place a marker on your map to lead you back there, you have to keep going back to the map and checking. All this builds up frustration when you keep failing an event and could have been avoided with a simple retry button!
Another change to the actual racing is that Criterion have decided to go back to the days of fragile cars, unlike in Burnout Revenge where you can shunt cars of similar weight and speed out of the way, you now have to be a lot more careful how you drive as the slightest clip can infuriatingly send you flying. It’s nowhere near the glass cars of Burnout 3 and it does seem like they’ve tried to compromise between the levels of sensitivity between 3 and Revenge, but unfortunately it seems to lean towards the more fragile side which this reviewer (at times) finds intolerable. The PS3 version has a unique feature that allows you to drive by tilting the six axis. This is executed pretty well but overall is nowhere near as precise as driving with the analogue stick. And while we’re on controls, let me take this time to remind you all that yes you do have to use the L2 and R2 buttons and yes they are still as comfortable as having a cat claw at your testicles.
Paradise does contain some truly magnificent views if you can stop to look at them. The game is very, very pretty and with an unyielding frame rate which is ever so slightly better than the 360’s it’s difficult to not quit whatever race your doing and take in the view. The soundtrack is also a great aid in the experience despite being a bit limited in genre, it really helps carry the adrenaline fuelled rush of Burnout. Kudos to Criterion in this department as not only have they given us a wealth of licensed tracks they’ve also included the vast majority of their own tracks from previous Burnout games before they had big budget artists on board. The songs weren’t to my taste and may not be to yours but it does show the love the developer has for this series and they should be commended for it. Even DJ Atomica avoids being annoying and early on in the game even acts as a transparent tutorial! Someone send the audio department at Criterion a cake, they deserve it!
Race me home
As mentioned earlier the online mode in Burnout Paradise is truly impressive, you can for from offline to online in a matter of seconds without any interruptions. While racing simply press right on the D-pad, select online (again with the D-pad so you don’t have to stop driving) and your there, burning with friends, or total strangers, either one is just as easy as the other. As with any online game the Burnout experience truly benefits from being played with friends, there are a large number of challenges to do around paradise city from anywhere from two to eight players, varying from “meet up at X location” to “do 10 barrel rolls between you at location X”. The revenge system returns (a system I think should be present in every online multiplayer) where the game tracks who has taken you down so that you can easily identify them and send them all the way to the scrap heap. If you or your opponent has a PlayStation camera you can have your photo on your Burnout license, or even better it will take a photo of your expression as you get taken down and send it to the taker-downer. One of the best online experiences you could hope to get this year. Hoping to have as much fun split screen? Don’t count on it; there is absolutely no offline multiplayer mode this time round, sorry guys, time to get an internet connection.
So is it better?
In many ways, yes this is a definitive improvement over previous Burnout games, the online mode is fantastic and the open world environment has many perks that reward players who make the effort to learn its small nuances. The game is let down by the lack of a proper Crash modem, the irritating sat nav and the lack of a retry button. Everything else though is nothing short of excellent and Criterion should be commended for taking a bold step with their beloved franchise in an attempt to keep things fresh.
Keep on Burning baby!