Burnout Paradise Review (Xbox 360)
Welcome to Paradise City, home of the Burnout Racing series and quite possibly one of the most intense racers you will play this year. Burnout Paradise is probably the biggest change in the Burnout series since its inception, and the changes work. Simply put Paradise is one of the first must own games of 2008.
The first thing you will notice (other than Guns & Roses opening up things in the title screen) is the fact you are racing in an open ended world, which is a stark difference to previous Burnout titles. The setting for this open ended racing world is a coastal town called Paradise City. There are a number of various events to take part in which consist of standard Burnout fare such as races and takedown events and overall there is just tons of road to explore.
Big Props to the Controls
Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport junkies need not apply to this one, as the racing action is littered with fictional cars that can sometimes do fictional things. For those of you not in the know, this is not a simulation title by any stretch of the imagination. The control is very tight and each car indeed feels different to drive. At one point while playing I switched from a heavy pick-up truck which I was using in takedown style events to a small and agile foreign sports car and it felt like my controller had lost about 1500 pounds. The best way to describe the variety encountered while controlling each car is, to say it's simply incredible.
But it's hard to describe adequately just how different each car feels without actually describing how each car drives. You have a huge collection of different cars and trucks to drive, including replicas of old heavy pickups and cutting edge sports cars that are light and fast. Each car is a new experience while driving which results in many different ways to tackle each event.
Fast, Furious, Plus Stupid Drivers
The best of the best drivers in Paradise City are really good; in fact you'll probably have to retry several of the events in the upper end the difficulty spectrum. However, the pedestrian traffic you run into can be downright atrocious at times and it will cost you many events. In fact at times, you feel like they are swerving into you. Unlike previous Burnout titles, hitting these mere plebes on the road will result in you wrecking, which I found frustrating at first. As time went on my driving skills improved and the crashes due to these bad drivers became a bit of history, but I would still mess up a time or two.
Another potential drawback to me is the low camera angle. With so many different ways to crash I felt like sometimes I was driving around just waiting to crash. Yes, I know I suck at the game compared to many, and for those of you that are excellent drivers this probably won't be a problem, but the low camera angle did cause me problems at times so most likely it cause issues for a lot of folks as well.
However, with all that being said I had a blast playing against the computer AI in several events. It's not the greatest AI you'll ever play against, but it is more than adequate and it offers up a decent challenge for your driving skills.
Looking and Sounding Just Great
Each car looks and sounds different and the damage graphics are really something to behold due to the crash variety. This isn't the prettiest game on the 360, but it has a consistent frame rate, you can see forever and the whole package just presents itself in a great way. The artistic design of Paradise City is top notch; the soundtrack is full of big names -- it still all comes down to taste though. I personally had no problem with the soundtrack and found it to be a good mixture of different genres.
Quite honestly, the whole package looks and sounds beautiful as you play it. I actually had a couple of slight frame rate drops and such but they were extremely rare. If you want to justify your purchase based off the graphics and/or sound, you might as well go spend the $60 right away.
Variety is Good...
Burnout: Paradise is a really good game overall. The different events give you enough variety to make the game feel fresh while you play it. In that same line, racing is just what you think it is, but the key is incorporating your knowledge of the city and taking shortcuts to victory. The longer you play the more you'll learn these shortcuts and the easier the races will get. Shortcuts also help you in marked man events, which involve you trying to survive a drive across town while cars try to take you down.
As previously mentioned, you get to take other cars down in road rage events, which are very similar to past Burnout iterations. There are also stunt runs, which I found to be a heavier and faster version of what you'd find in a Tony Hawk game. In the end, there are over 120 events to be played throughout the city and chances are you won't complete every single one of them for a long time. Quite simply, there is so much variety you probably won't get bored for a very long time. Throw in online play and you might be playing Paradise for an even longer time.
The one thing I cannot say enough about this game is how varied the cars feel to drive and how fun it really is to play. There are gripes to be had throughout the game but they don't ruin the game at all. The variety of the events plus the variety of the cars makes for a game that won't get old anytime soon. The value of this title is very good considering you could spend dozens of hours playing it and still not figure everything out.
...But having to drive across town to re-do events isn't.
My main gripe about Burnout: Paradise is the simple fact you cannot restart events after you fail them without going back across town to restart the events. This only takes a minute or two tops but if you can't pass an event or two and you want to keep trying you could easily waste 10 minutes or more just driving back to the starting point for the event. The key here to circumvent this is to be flexible and not get stuck on any one event; however, this is a major design flaw for the game. It's all about making these events as convenient as possible, so I should never be inconvenienced by a game design decision. Whatever the thought process behind this was quite frankly was extremely poor.
In the End, an Excellent Experience
In the end despite the game's few nagging flaws, Burnout Paradise has more than enough style, spunk, and class to occupy a significant amount of time in your console. If you want to play a driving game that doesn't take itself too seriously in terms of simulation but is still intense and fun to play, this is the game to get.
Graphics: The graphics are crisp and just look great. Stylistically this is a solid title.
Sound: The soundtrack is solid and the game sounds are very good. Each car has its own unique sounds which makes them stand out more.
Entertainment Value: Paradise will keep you awake past midnight most nights and you will keep playing even after getting your special Burnout License.
Learning Curve: It is pick up and play arcade action for sure, however mastering the game by figuring out the best shortcuts and such is going to take quite awhile.
Online: The online component is perfectly integrated into the game just make sure you have an HDD to make it work on the 360.