When it comes to video games, one of my favorite genres are racers. I tend to divide racers into two main categories. On one side you have “serious” racers like Turismo and Forza. These games require serious skills. Every turn requires planning and you try to memorize courses and proper lines. On the other hand you have pure ‘arcade’ style racers, like Burnout. I’ve played Burnout for a few years now on the XBox and the PSP. Burnout is all about speed. A typical race involves driving at about 200 MPH while barely surviving. It is incredibly fun. And when you do crash, the crashes are spectacular. You don’t mind!
Burnout Paradise is the first Burnout for the next-gen systems. (Burnout Revenge was released earlier, but it was really just an update to the last Burnout on XBox/PS2.) The graphics shine and as far as I can see - the game really takes great advantage of the 360. But what I really want to talk about is the big change to the series.
You see - apparently some game named Grand Theft something-or-other popularized this idea of “sandbox” and the Burnout team decided this would be a good idea. In previous incarnations of the series, you would select events from a menu, typically an expanding list as you advanced through the game.
Burnout Paradise changes this around. You have an entire city (Paradise) to drive around in. This one city has areas that pretty much cover all the types of races you saw in the past, so even though you are limited to one city, you do get quite a bit of variety.
To start an event, you simply go to an intersection. Each intersection has an event. You hit the right key combo and the race begins. Here is where my main disappoint lies.
Let me describe a race to you in earlier Burnous. As I said - the game is great for invoking the feeling of high speed, near death races. The same applies to Paradise. But due to the “sandbox” nature of the game, you have to pay attention to a little map to tell you where to go. The game also gives you turning hints, but imagine this. Your racing your heart out. You finally get to first place. You are 90% through the race when all of a sudden you make a wrong turn and you come in dead last. Crap.
But wait, it gets better. You may think to yourself - I just made a simple mistake, let me restart. But there isn’t a restart. You have to drive back to where you started and begin the race again. Bleh.
As I’ve played more, I’ve gotten better but frankly, the races now are stressful, not fun.
Here is another fun little change. Burning laps, which are point to point races, require a particular car. I’ve done a grand total of one of these races because to switch cars, you have to drive to a junkyard. So here you are - at the intersection - and you think - yeah, lets do one - and you can’t because you don’t have the right car.
The game isn’t all bad. Road rage works well under a sandbox. There is also a new mode called “Marked Man”, which is a race from one point to another while a few cars try like hell to kill you. The game also has an online component, but I’ve only played it a tiny bit. Crashes are also improved. You can now start a crash anywhere and they last a bit longer then older series. I also like the stunt events although they are a bit hard to pull off.
It seems like maybe if they added a simple restart, and a quicker way to change cars, the game would be improved. Right now though I can’t see myself completing the game. It’s work. I don’t want to work - I want to play.
One last note. The game’s soundtrack is very well done. My favorite track (you can listen to it here) is a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Cities in Dust by Junkie XL. This is one of the best covers I’ve heard in a while. (And prompted me to listen to my Siousxie collection this week!)