Burnout Paradise Xbox 360 Review

It’s hard to believe it is only just over six years since Burnout first hit our consoles, the game has changed so much in such a short amount of time. It’s gone from a relatively simple arcade racer, with each instalment adding new elements, and has now become a massive sprawling free roaming city. This is how Criterion always envisaged Burnout, so they say, but I can’t help feeling that somewhere along the way something has been lost.

Big City

The Paradise in the title refers to the name of the city the game takes place in, and it’s one hell of a city, with over 240 miles of streets to race through, all more visually stunning than ever before. Being a free roaming game what you do in the city is completely up to you, every set of traffic lights in the city represents a challenge. Some of these are favourites from previous games, some are all new, you get races, road rage events, and burning laps – as before – but all new are marked man events, where you have to reach a destination in one piece, and stunt runs, where you get a time limit to pull off as many stunts as possible to score points. With 120 of these events littered all over the city there’s plenty to do, but that’s not all you get; Crash mode has been replaced by Showtime, hit both shoulder buttons simultaneously and start an improvised Crash event anywhere you like. In theory this sounds great, pick any of Paradise City’s perfectly designed streets or roads and smash things up, but in practice it doesn’t really work that well. The randomly flowing traffic of the sandbox environment just cannot match the superbly designed crash junctions of previous games, they really should have left things as they were as it has ruined one of the game’s best features.

Smash it up

Despite Crash mode being buggered up there’s still plenty of smashing to be done, throughout the city there are literally hundreds of billboards and shortcuts to smash your way through. Some of these will be in obvious places and easily found, others you’ll be able to see, but will be scratching your head how to get to them, that’s not all there is to do though. You’ll also find loads of ramps around the city, giving you the opportunity to attempt super jumps, spanning incredible distances and heights, land one of these without wrecking your car and your stats keep climbing. And there’s a stat for everything, even one of the most boring aspects of driving – parking. There’s always been parked cars in Burnout, they were always just there to get in the way before though. Now you’ll find spaces between the cars for you to handbrake turn your car in to, and if you can come to a stop without hitting another car you’ll be awarded another point on your records. There’s so much to do, races to win, cars to smash, shortcuts to find, and a whole lot more, one things for sure if you’re motivated enough this game has a lot to keep you occupied.

Paradise Lost

That’s the beauty of the open world gameplay, wherever you go there’s always something to do without going too far, but it does have it’s downside too as you can get lost. There are no race routes now, just start and finish points, you find your own way with the help of a compass pointing you towards your destination. But anybody who has driven around London will tell you, negotiating a city is a bit more complicated than just knowing which direction to go in. You get street signs flashing up at the top of the screen, indicating a turn to take to help you, but this is Burnout, taking your eyes off the action, even for a split second, can result in a nasty pile up. There is a way round this though, you can call up a map at any time allowing you to plan your route, but Burnout is all about non stop action, so it just doesn’t feel right to be pausing all the time to check a map. You can always risk using the on screen indicators, but you miss one too many turnings you could be stuck on the long way round with no hope of recovery, and it’s not like you can just restart the race. So, you’re left with a trade off – you can constantly pause throughout a race, and ruin the whole feel of the game, or you can keep what made Burnout great, and risk getting lost all the time. Tough choice. You get the same choice in the game’s multiplayer, but there it’s an even tougher choice, use the map and you risk losing time.

Online Only

Burnout has always been as much about the multiplayer as single player, and not just online, it was always a blast going head to head in split screen. Because of the game’s new format though there is no offline multiplayer anymore, just an extensive online mode, which is a real shame. The online modes can be a little confusing at first, but once you get the hang of the set up works pretty well, making good use of the open city. Another nice addition is the use of the Xbox Live Vision camera, which allows you to see your opponents faces when you run them off the road, and they can see yours too, this is a nice touch and really adds to the online rivalry system. The only real problem I found with the game’s online races were that due to the open city, you might not see another racer for ages, lessening the feeling of competition.

Is Bigger Better?

Well, there’s no question Paradise takes Burnout to a whole new level. Is it better though? Personally I’m inclined to think not. The open world city has definitely made for more expansive gameplay, but it’s created too many problems, making the game more about luck than skill compared to how it used to be. Maybe they were being a little bit too ambitious, and it didn’t quite work out as well as it could’ve done, but it’s still a lot of fun, and that’s what counts, isn’t it?

8/10

by

Version tested: Xbox 360

Developer: Criterion Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Genre: Racing

Players: 1-8