Review: Burnout Paradise (Lost)

This post is more than 2 years old.

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!)

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA https://www.raymondcamden.com

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Willy posted on 2/16/2008 at 9:34 PM

There's an analogy begging to be made here. This reminds me of a project I was on where we adopted the newest, hippest technology to the total detriment of our final product, which would have been better if we had stuck to simpler principles. Instead, we had to figure out the new stuff, and didn't have time to focus on the experience. Seems like this GTAIII sandbox business is something that's still filtering through the game industry... It's a killer, revolutionary concept, but there are right applications of it and wrong applications of it, and it comes down to good decisions about the experience. RIA, anyone?

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 2/16/2008 at 9:43 PM

Heh, sometimes I worry about posting too many non-tech articles here on my blog, and then a reader comes along and brings it _back_ to being on topic. Thanks. ;)

Seriously though - I agree with you completely. "Sandbox" is nice - but I don't think it's always applicable or a good idea for a game.

Comment 3 by Justin Lewis posted on 2/17/2008 at 1:36 AM

I totally agree. I hate having to drive back to the start point of races, I get the whole sandbox thing but the nice thing about burnout ancestors was the ease of getting to do what you want to do quickly.

Comment 4 by radek posted on 2/18/2008 at 2:14 AM

I love the whole Burnout series and Paradise is great! But I have to agree - driving back to the race start is pain. The map component it definitely taken from NFS carbon but unfortunatelly someone forgot about 'Move me there' option and 'Show GPS' option...
Anyway - even with lack of these options Burnout Paradise is great game... and one from EA for PS3 which doesn't hang :)

Comment 5 by TigeRyan posted on 2/18/2008 at 7:48 AM

I do find the "No Restart" option annoying as well, I generally just find another race near where I screwed up the last one and do that instead of going back and doing that one particular race...The bigger pain is switching cars, there are not enough Junk Yards around for my taste. Even with these drawbacks it is a great game and I can't wait for the new content they are supposed to be adding :)

PS. Online play is really fun if you get a group of guys together who like to do challenges...

Comment 6 by Akira posted on 2/18/2008 at 6:50 PM

This game looks beautiful, but is it really worth paying $60 for it right now? I have the other Burnout games for PS2.

Comment 7 by Raymond Camden posted on 2/18/2008 at 7:18 PM

Akira: While I don't hate the game - I wish I had gotten it later on - cheaper. I had almost picked Devil May Cry, now I kind of wish I had.

Comment 8 by Javier Julio posted on 2/20/2008 at 2:34 AM

Ray, if you love racers you really need to get Wipeout Pulse for PSP. The first Wipeout PSP game was a release title and it too was amazing. A headliner for the system. I'm not sure if you have tried them out but I highly recommend both.

Comment 9 by Raymond Camden posted on 2/20/2008 at 2:36 AM

Believe it or not - I haven't touched my PSP in months. I got sick and tired of the load times. I did play the first WO, and I did think it was cool. Just wish the system ran faster. The DS really spoils you.

Comment 10 by Javier Julio posted on 2/20/2008 at 2:38 AM

Ray, I agree wholeheartedly. The DS does spoil you quite a bit since the load is instant. On the DS I'm looking forward to Racing Gears 2. The original was a GBA game. An awesome racer with that old school birds-eye view. Highly recommended too!

Comment 11 by Raymond Camden posted on 2/20/2008 at 2:42 AM

You know what's funny - my youngest son has an old Gameboy game - Hotwheels something or another. It has 2 games bundled. It's WAY old. But it's fun as heck. The 3d graphics reminds me of the old Atari arcade game that had true 3d graphics. Back in the day it was THE hottest arcade driver.

Comment 12 by David Pienta posted on 2/21/2008 at 1:17 AM

I want to get Burnout Paradise, but I have not done so yet. I may go get it today. I have Call of Duty 4 and I am addicted to the online game play.

What system do you have Ray? I am using xbox 360.

Comment 13 by Raymond Camden posted on 2/21/2008 at 1:21 AM

XBox 360 mainly.

Comment 14 by John Wise posted on 2/21/2008 at 7:41 PM

Unless I'm absolutely certain that I'm going to buy a game, I just rent it through GameFly first. Then, if I decide I want to keep it, I hang on to it for awhile until the price drops to an acceptable level, then click the "Keep It" button. Cuts down on buyer's remorse and lets us try out a variety of games across the different platforms we have in the house (360, PS3, Wii, Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, DS, and GBA)

As for Paradise, I concur with Ray's comments. I've lost quite a few races near the end due to a wrong turn. Not having a restart option is a big oversight. NFSU also made you drive to a garage to switch cars, but they were confined to a smaller area in that game, and, thus, easier/quicker to get to. I would've also preferred to be able to set nav points on the map; every other decent racer has had those for years.

Comment 15 by Akira posted on 2/22/2008 at 12:49 AM

Are people with the PS3 version able to play online with the 360 version, and vice versa?

I'm sure the answer is no, but that would be a really cool thing. :)

Comment 16 by Raymond Camden posted on 3/14/2008 at 2:16 AM

Two links to share.

First is the developer's responses to people's complaints about the demo. Frankly, I find his comment about a reset to be BS. I get that not having a load screen is fine - but when I just lost a long race at the last minute, a reset, with a load screen, is MUCH preferable to me driving back.

http://www.criteriongames.c...

And finally - Zero Punctuation on BP - this is filled with curse words, so if cursing offends you, don't follow the link.

http://www.escapistmagazine...