"Traditionally I am not a massive fan of driving games and I fail to get excited about the likes of Gran Turismo despite its impressive graphics and wealth of options. It all smacks a little too much of simulation to me and tuning up my suspension not only confuses me but bores me to death. Thankfully EA made the wise move of releasing a demo of Burnout Paradise on the PSN. If they hadnít it is very likely I would have missed out on a truly amazing game. "
Traditionally I am not a massive fan of driving games and I fail to get excited about the likes of Gran Turismo despite its impressive graphics and wealth of options. It all smacks a little too much of simulation to me and tuning up my suspension not only confuses me but bores me to death. Thankfully EA made the wise move of releasing a demo of Burnout Paradise on the PSN. If they hadnít it is very likely I would have missed out on a truly amazing game.
This is my first venture into the Burnout series and I am lead to believe that this game is quite a bit different to the previous incarnations. This might be worth bearing in mind if you are a hardcore fan of the earlier games and were hoping for more of the same. I canít imagine that you will be disappointed with the changes that have been made, just donít say I didnít warn you. As I said, I havenít played any of the previous games so I wonít be able to offer any direct comparison. All I can do is tell you how this one works and let you make your own mind up from there.
So, back to the story at hand; this version of Burnout is set in across the over 250 miles of road which make up Paradise City. There are no tracks or fixed routes so you can simply get into your car and do as you please. It is reminiscent of the driving aspect of Grand Theft Auto whereby, if you fancy just driving around, exploring and admiring the scenery then you can. Naturally there are events to be completed in the game but these again offer total freedom in that you can complete them in any order you wish. Completing these events will upgrade your driverís license and, more importantly, open up new cars for you to use so it is fairly certain that you will want to complete them rather their being an annoyance.
The events take the form of; Race, Road Rage, Marked Man, Stunt Run or Burning Route and can be discovered at any intersection on the map. Simply pull up to a set of traffic lights and the event for that junction will be shown at the bottom right corner of the screen. If you donít fancy completing it straight away then donít worry. Once you discover an event it is marked on your map permanently, with a different colour used to denote each type. This is very handy if you are particularly good at say, Stunt Run, as you can not only see these objectives approaching on your in game mini-map but you can also press select to view the world map and plan your route accordingly. If you want to start the event straight away, however, you must remain at the lights and then hold both your break and accelerator. The game will then switch out to the event in question and the ever present DJ Atomika will give you a break down of how it all works.
Race and Burning Route are almost identical street races from one point on the map to another; the only difference is that Burning Routeís can only be completed in a specific type of car. At the start of the event the world map will flash up to give you a clear idea of where you need to be headed and, thankfully, there are only eight possible destinations for any race so it possible to learn the routes with a bit of practise. Should you get lost there are always the in game mini-map and a compass at the top of the screen to help you along your way. Be warned though; you are not driving around a nice sterile race track here and if you pay too much attention to the map then you will soon find yourself high speed parking into a wall somewhere.
Road Rage and Marked Man are again very similar but with the opposite objective in mind. In Road Rage you are given a set amount of time to knock a number of opposition vehicles off of the road whereas in Marked Man the opposition are trying their hardest to knock you off of the road before you reach a certain point on the map. Road Rage is thoroughly satisfying as there are a number of options available when it comes to totalling the other cars. My personal favourite has to be forcing them into the path of an oncoming bus and then admiring the slow motion carnage as one of their wheels totters off down the road on its own. Naturally this is less amusing when you are the victim and even in races the opponents are extremely aggressive. Fortunately the game is quite forgiving as the opponents will not only target you but will spend plenty of time whaling on each other or crashing because they were driving too fast. Post crash both you and the opposition are dropped right back into the action so it is possible to win an event even if you make a mistake.
Lastly, Stunt Run is, well fairly obvious too I guess. You are given a set amount of time to achieve a target score by pulling off as many stunts as you possibly can. There are plenty of jumps, both obvious and well hidden to discover and the more you manage to chain together, the greater the score you will be awarded. In addition there are billboards and fences about the map which can be smashed through to keep the chain going. I know it isnít especially complicated but if you do find yourself at a loss at any stage then donít worry. The commentary in this game is very helpful without ever being intrusive and DJ Atomika will always cut over the music to give you a hint when you start an event for the first time.
I appreciate that this is getting a little wordy now but that only goes to show how much there is to say about this game. Even if you have completed all of the 120 plus events then there is still the challenge of ruling all of the roads. If you press up on the D pad at any time then all of the street signs will turn from green to red giving you the option of challenging top scores set by other players. You can choose from trying to set the fastest time for a particular stretch of road or trying to cause the most carnage by crashing into as many vehicles as you can. Your achievements and those of others are constantly updated so you can get into quite a battle trying to set a best time only to have it announced a few minutes later that someone else has bested you.
If you have had enough of someone constantly defeating your times then you still have the option of taking the battle online. If you press right on the D pad then a new menu will open allowing you to challenge up to seven other drivers in person. Your PSN friends will already be only the list ready to go so it couldnít be easier. If you do manage to beat them then you get their license mug shot added to your library for future gloating privileges. If you have a USB camera to hand then you can use that to add a mug shot of your own and have your handsome visage decorating PS3s across the globe, if not then your PSN avatar will take its place.
Graphically this game is stunning. There has been a lot of attention paid to the city so that it never looks samey or gets bring to drive around. There are plenty of landmarks to navigate by too which can help you if you get lost and donít have time to get your map out. The crash physics is also very impressive and, although I havenít had a protractor out or anything, now matter what you hit your car behaves in a predictable fashion. Both crashes and large jumps will earn you a slow motion camera effect so just driving around and seeing what you can get away with never gets old. If only there was some way of saving these scenes or at least getting an instant replay. Then again the sheer amount of stuff in the game already I can hardly complain now can I.
Sound-wise the music varies from the good to the not so good but at least it is mostly original artists and you can turn off the ones you donít like so that they will not appear in the loop. As for longevity well if the fact that I have been waffling on for ages now hasnít given you a clue then I shall spell it out. This game has so much stuff to do it initially seems daunting and with the freedom to pretty much do what you please and the constantly updating online targets to beat I can see this one keeping me entertained for a long time. At last a driving game which I actually like and a break from the repetitive FPS nonsense which seems to be dominating the market lately.
Community review by OrpheusUK (April 14, 2008)
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