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Burnout Paradise

Developer: Criterion Games | Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 01/22/08 | Genre: Driving

burnout.jpgOnce again the time has come to drive like you have never driven before! Criterion Games has been wowing us with the Burnout franchise for years and the time has come to bring it to the new generation of gaming consoles with Burnout Paradise. Criterion has constantly tweaked each iteration of the franchise but none as much as this installment. Some say change is bad but in this case it is a very good thing.

The game (cue Gun'n'Roses) takes you down to Paradise City where the grass is green and the crashes are very pretty. The biggest change you will notice right away is there is no more choosing events from a list; it is an entirely free roaming environment with events all throughout. The city is completely open from the start and this is one big city. You start the game out with a piece of junk car to travel the city. To start an event, just pull up to a intersection and press the gas and brake buttons. The events in the game start at almost every intersection in the game and depending on the event end at one of eight locations. Each race is completely up to you on how you get to the end. As you drive through the city, at the top of the screen the game displays the street signs. The middle being the current road you are on and to the left and right, the ones you are coming up to. During a race the sign will blink as a suggested path to take. For some players, this type of racing may turn them off from the game--especially if they prefer to have a predetermined path to race on. Because of this, you may have to keep pausing the game to plan what roads you are going to take next so you can be sure you are going in the right direction. Along with the signs on you screen there is also a mini map and a compass that helps keep you pointed towards the finish. I have noticed a few times that I was going too fast and missed a suggested turn . Fortunately, because it is big a city, you can usually take the next street and be right back in the middle of all the action.

Another downside to the game is after losing a event, you can not simply hit restart it. This will get frustrating to the players that are trying to finished every event because the only way to replay it is to return to the intersection where you first started the particular event. Personally, I don't feel that this is as big of a problem as it sounds. As I mentioned before, there are events all over the city so after each race it is very easy to just start a different event. If you play like this I don't think you will ever care that you can't restart a race.

Along with the standard race, returning from past games is Burning Route and Road Rage. Road Rage has probably been changed the least but if it ain't broke, don't fix it--right? The only real change has been there are now more cars on the screen at once which makes it more chaotic than ever before! Burning Route is simply a race with a time limit. Each car has one Burning Route race and by winning you a able to unlock a upgrade of your car. One very unique thing is earning new cars in the game. After winning some races you don't unlock cars but the ability to unlock them. You will see the cars driving through out the city and to earn them you have to take them down!

A few new events have been added to this installment. One of those events is Marksman. In this event, you have to race from point A to B. While this may seem simple enough, the computer's only purpose is stop you from getting to the finish. At the early levels it is not extremely difficult--but the action heats up shortly afterwards. Another newly added race type the is the Stunt event. With all the ramp and cars to dodge this event type makes sense to have. You get a set score to beat and by doing barrel rolls (don't say it Peppy), drifts, jumps, near missing cars, and many other stunts you earn points and multipliers. You can usually find plenty of jumps to combo with drifts and other stunts to rack up points.

One mode that has completely be changed is crash mode which is now called Showtime. The concept of crash is still there and I think thats all that really matters. You can start Showtime mode any time in the open city even after crashing by just pressing L1 + R1 (LB + RB on 360) and your car will just start flipping and rolling. You press the X/A button to continue flipping your car as long as you have boost. You can control the movement of your car pretty easily and my it bounce very far. You don't have to worry if there car cars around when you start because the moment you start the mode the traffic gets a lot worse but this mode is a very good thing.

The AI for the traffic has been improved a lot. In past Burnout games, the cars would just drive right into you. In Paradise they try to avoid you at all costs and I think it makes this mode more challenging and entertaining.

Every road has it's own offline and online high score and there is a in game ticker that gives you updates on which roads have recently been beat and by who. There is also a Timed Showtime mode, if you are at the beginning of a street and start driving a timing will start and time you to the end of the street. This mode pretty much a time trial and is ranked the same way the Crash Showtime is.

For people that want to beat the game 100% or get all there achievement points, through out the cityb there are billboards to smash, shortcuts to find, repaint stations, gas stations, repair stations, junkyards and jumps to find. The gas stations fill your boost, repair station fix your car and repaint stations give you a fresh coat of paint. Junkyards are where you can swap what car you are using. Each of the 70+ cars there are 3 types they fall under, stunt, aggressive, and speed. Each has there flaws and benefits for the different events.

Probably the most impressive part of Burnout Paradise in the online play. It is by far the easiest game to start a online game. You can press right on the d-pad to pull up a small menu, while still playing the game, select to play with your friends or random in less than 3 button presses. After that you get a message that you are going into a game and bam, no loading, no waiting to start a room you are in the in the game with up to 7 other people. While you can play offline, this game was built to be played online. You can set up races, do showtime runs or challenges. There are 50 different challenges for each number of players in the game. 2 players have 50 challenges, 3 players have 50 different challenges and so on. This will make it take a while to complete the entire game. Another unique feature is the inclusion of the Playstation Eye/ Xbox Vision cameras. If you are taken down by a online player you will get a few seconds to pose for a mug shot for the other player to see. So far, I haven't run across any unpleasant photo experiences. However, I have heard of this happening to others..

A few very important notes about Burnout Paradise is that the game runs at a very smooth 60 FPS with no slow downs at 720p. Criterion has always had the sense of speed down but the 60 FPS really make it that much more incredible. The crashes are incredible, if you hit a pole your car will wrap around it and shatter in to pieces like to no other game. The controls in the game are very well done and it look gorgeous. The PS3 version has some motion steering which works pretty well but control during Crash Showtime mode seems a little odd, I've yet to been able to control it well.

Overall Burnout Paradise is a fantastic game, people who like racing and even some who don't will find fun in the chaotic racing game. There are a few flaws but I think they are simple to overcome and don't hinder the game at all. No matter how many times you crash into something, you are still wowed by how badly you smashed the other guy up.

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By Paul Cummins - 02/24/08
ESRB Details: Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Burnout Paradise

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