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Old 01-28-2008, 09:32 AM   #1
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[360,PS3] - Burnout Paradise Review

Title: Burnout Paradise
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Criterion
Platform: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
MSRP: $59.99
Editors: Nicholas 'bapenguin' Puleo, Scott 'Psykoboy2' Benton, Loren 'AgtFox' Halek

Burnout Paradise Review

Scott "Psykoboy2" Benton

Burnout Paradise is the 5th game in the Burnout series from Criterion (it's actually the 7th if you count Legends for the DS/PSP and Dominator for PS2) and I suppose you could look at it as a brand new start; even a reboot for the franchise.

Paradise is an open world arcade racer, but some would argue about the last word in that phrase including myself. It has race elements, sure, but it has SO much more to offer, even if all you want to do is drive around the city. There are jumps, shortcuts, stunt runs, etc. Paradise City is like a car playground: regardless of what you want to do, you're bound to have fun doing it.

The guys at Criterion wanted to make a Burnout game with freedom and they've succeeded 200%. You can do whatever you want in the City and at your own leisure. The entire map is open to you from the very start. Feel like a race, stunt run, burning route, road rage, or maybe a marked man event? Just take a peek at the mini-map in the lower right-hand corner of the screen and drive to any one of them. With 248 events, there's a good chance you aren't far from one.

The open city is one part of the reboot. Another part has to do with the races and burning routes. In the past, these events were lap based and on a closed circuit. Giant chevrons would keep you in line and on the track, but not anymore. Probably the biggest change Paradise has from the other games in the Burnout series is the open racing. You've got a start point and a finish point, and it's up to you to fill in the rest. And if you don't finish first, you get NOTHING. And that brings up the next big issue with Burnout Paradise - the lack of a "restart" option. Whenever I do lose an event I have to admit that I wish the option was there for me, but it's not. I check my mini-map and drive off to the next closest event.

My biggest fear in open world games is that they can become boring or repetitive. So far, that isn't the case with Burnout Paradise. Granted, it hasn't even been a week of owning the game at the time I'm writing this, but it holds promise…lots of it. Online freeburn with 8 people is a blast with over 300 challenges for online play, not to mention the ability to create your own races with or without checkpoints.

Then there are the road rules. This also leads to the longevity of the game. Each stretch of road in Paradise City has 2 benchmarks. One is for time which measures the fastest time on that stretch of road from end to end. The benchmark is the Showtime score. We'll get to that in a minute, but I just want to mention that Paradise keeps up with everyone on your friends list with these two benchmarks and will tell you when one of your friends has bested your time or score. There is also "offline" times and scores pre-set for you to try (beat them all and you get a new car).

My first love in the Burnout series happened with the first sequel, "Point Of Impact". The racing was great, but it was Crash Mode that totally held my attention. During development of Paradise , all we ever heard from the developers was that Crash Mode was in the game, but that it is now called Showtime Mode. Then I saw the first video of it in action and my heart sank a little. I was going to miss Crash Mode. Then I finally played it and then I played it again, and again, and again, etc. In fact, I've played it so much that it's almost become a natural instinct to start the mode any time I pass by a bus.

Showtime mode can be activated at any time in the game. Just driving around or in the middle of an event, you can press the shoulder buttons and off you go. Your car then goes into a roll and (most times) traffic floods the roads. Your goal then is to rack up a ton of damage dollars before you run out of boost. Boost is basically your timer for the mode and each car you hit gives you a bit of boost with every 10th car giving you a much bigger chunk of it. Every bus then increases you a multiplier. It isn't crash mode by any means, but it gets the job done and does it quite well. I never thought I would be addicted to it as much as I am, especially in trying to beat other people’s scores on different roads in the city.

Burnout Paradise is a new direction for the franchise. Risky? Yes. Did it pay off? I think it did and in spades. Criterion could have just sat back and gave us new tracks here and there and a new mode or two and called it a day. Personally, I would have been fine with that too, but they decided to take a different route. Criterion has always made me nervous with each new game in the series but they've never failed me in delivering a great racing game. With Paradise , they gave me a pretty good scare there for a bit, but in the end, all they did was strengthen my trust in that they can really do no wrong with the franchise.

Score: 5 out of 5

Nick "bapenguin" Puleo

For me Burnout Paradise is twofold. What Criterion did with the online mode is pure genius. On the other hand, what they did with the offline mode is pretty much a total disaster. It's a lesson in what NOT to do when designing a user interface.

My biggest gripe with the offline mode is not that it's a giant free roaming map with challenges at every corner; it's the fact that it's a giant free roaming map with challenges at every corner and no simple way to jump between them, or as Scott pointed out, restart them. When you look at other open world racing games like Test Drive Unlimited and even EA's own Need for Speed series, there's always an alternate and quick way to jump to an event or even restart an event. And while there is an event at every corner in Burnout, it's not necessarily an event you'd like to do...or as you get further into the game it's an event you've already done. So now you waste 4 or 5 minutes driving to your destination just to start that one event you need. I'm all about giving the player freedom, but when you take away options to give freedom it's simply a poor design choice.

The racing aspect of the game is pretty much a mess as well. In a game that's all about blazing speed and near misses, forcing players to make constant 90 degree turns as well as check the mini map for the best route completely breaks the intensity that was in previous Burnout racing games. There was a reason those games had a closed course. And again, if you look at what other open world racers did here, they designed actual courses that were fun to drive and put up barricades and guidance for the events. It's almost as if the developers decided to take the lazy way out by not designing fun courses to drive. The Showtime mode is evidence of this as well. Instead of designing interesting crash mode layouts to achieve, they simply made a random onslaught of cars and buses to hit while your car flips ridiculously down the road. I'm going to disagree with Scott here, after the first couple of times I was bored to tears with it. There's simply no unique strategy from Showtime to Showtime event, unlike the previous game's crash mode.

Those few complaints aside the online mode is a friggin blast to play. With a ton of unique and fun challenges to complete with friends, it'll keep you entertained for hours. The other great thing is the mug shot aspect of the game. If you have the Vision Cam on 360 or Eye Toy on PS3 you'll be able to send a picture to an opponent online when they take you down. It's a fun little way to increase the banter that goes on. The game is gorgeous graphically, and the crashes are the most realistic and intense that we've seen in any car game to date. Put simply, when the crashes are downright brutal you will cringe at the carnage that is ensuing on the screen. And here's a surprise for an EA game...the soundtrack doesn't totally suck!

All in all I'm pretty disappointed with Burnout Paradise. With a few simple additions to the game they could have had something truly great. The online mode is truly the game's saving grace.

Score: 3 out of 5

Loren "AgtFox" Halek

The two opinions above show just how divisive people are over Burnout Paradise. I personally don’t love the game like Scott does nor do I hate what Criterion has done with the overall racing mechanic like Nick does. Instead I sit squarely in the middle of their two opinions as seen by my score below.

Much like Scott, I am a huge fan of the Burnout series. I’ve been with it since the start and have picked up every game (minus Dominator and the PSP game) in the series on Day 1. I feel like Burnout Paradise is a much more revolutionary step than Criterion has taken in the past with the series and it both helps and hinders them. It helps them because this is the most open Burnout game yet that allows you to pretty much do whatever you want whenever you want. It hinders them because in many cases where they’ve decided to really shake up the series they have also alienated a large part of the Burnout fan base in my mind and we’ll get to that now.

I agree that Showtime mode is one of the biggest mistakes this game contains. It is fun for the first few times, but unless you’re a person that thrives on competition with the need to own every road on the map and actually like the mode you will grow tired of it and wish for the days of the strategic Crash mode again. What wasn't talked about, but alluded to, is where another big problem with this game lies: the map itself. The Eastern part of the map is no problem since it is pretty densely populated with events to choose from and plenty of shortcuts to be used while racing. The Western part of the map is another story. You've heard about the restart problem in the game and it is magnified to a massive degree when you are stuck out in the rural Western area and have to drive all the way back to the Eastern area to restart an event or search out a new event.

I don’t have as much of a problem with the racing events with no blockades as Nick does, but I can easily see why they are so frustrating. I find them to be a nice change of pace and allow you to take whatever path you want. Sometimes you can save time by going a different way than the pack, sometimes you lose time. I also find that the races rely upon you taking down your opponents a lot in order to win the race and there is virtually no rubber-banding AI in the game, a first for the series that I remember. If you are far ahead you will win the race, but if you are close behind the leader the AI will give you an ever so slight window to win the race if you play your cards correctly. I found a big advantage in the racing challenges is to take an Aggressive car so you can bowl everyone over, but sometimes going to the junk yard in order to change cars can become a task in itself.

There is a lot of fun to have both offline and online in Burnout Paradise. Getting through all the licenses, unlocking all the cars and finding all the extras like billboards and gates to smash through is a monumental task for anyone and that is where the longevity of the offline experience (along with some frustration) will come from. Once you get online with a bunch of friends Paradise becomes a totally different experience that you lose hours of time to. I personally can’t remember another game that was so much fun to play online. Some of the guys from Evil Avatar and I were doing barrel rolls at the beach and we just kept doing them. Sometimes someone would accidentally hit someone else just as they were ready to attempt the roll, but everyone laughed it off and just enjoyed the experience.

The last thing of note is that if you pick up either version of the game you will be pleased. I’ve played both the 360 and PS3 versions and I only give the slight nod to the 360 version because I like the controls a bit better. I’m not a big fan of the small PS3 controller and the way the L2 and R2 buttons push in and given that you use those two buttons for the majority of gameplay time the experience just isn’t as fun. The PS3 is arguably the better looking of the two. The only place I really noticed the PS3 being faster (using the same car in the same area) was when you went into Showtime mode. Showtime seems to flow a lot better on the PS3 than on the 360. Outside of that the two versions are virtually the same and it really depends on what controller you like and how many friends you have on each console.

Burnout Paradise is a very good game, but it contains just enough missteps to not be considered a great game. There’s a lot of fun to be had in Paradise City and, as Nick said, you’ll even enjoy most of the soundtrack for once in an EA produced game.

Score: 4 out of 5


Score: 4 out of 5

(About our Rating)

The Good
+ Great graphics with incredible crashes
+ Tons of events to choose from in an open world setting
+ In depth leaderboards and stat tracking
+ Seamless online mode with 300+ Co-Op challenges

The Bad
- Some design decisions come into question
- Showtime mode pretty shallow
- Some may be turned off by the racing aspect

The Ugly
- No restart option
- No quick race select
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Old 01-28-2008, 09:49 AM   #2
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Nice reviews by all

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Old 01-28-2008, 10:00 AM   #3
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Great reviews fellas.

I personally am closer to Baps opinion than the others, which is the online looks like it took a good step but the single player and free roam aspects simply don't work well for me and create less of a great experience than the previous titles.

Still though, good write up guys.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:04 AM   #4
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Ok. I don't find it takes 4-5 minutes to get to an event. It just feels like it because you want instant gratification. There does need to be a retry or at least let you start from whatever junkyard you want.

I was bothered to by the 90 degree turns until I learned how to do controlled drifts. It's just like a real race, go outside and then in, and yeah, sometimes you have to slow down. There's so many events, however, does one need to do them all? I don't know.

I have found that the shortcuts are not really shortcuts, at least not in the races I've been in. However, the most fun I've had with the game have been the challenges. RestlessAvenger said it best in the big 'ol thread.

Showtime was great at first but became a big meh for me because yeah, there's really no strategy. Some type of goal...or achievement, for them would have been nice.

These are are great reviews and I value the opinions. Bapenguin's certainly has been the harshest I've seen online.

I still find it fun, and that's all that matters.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:11 AM   #5
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Great reviews. These really show the strength of a 3 person review team.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:13 AM   #6
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I have to add my own two cents and say that the new "Crash Showtime" is horrible. I detest the rolling Car-Katamari it has become. Not only does it look ridiculous it just doesn't fit even in a crazy world like Burnout.

I can just imagine the brainstorm for that one: "Hey, guys, I really like playing Katamari Damacy on my PSP. How can we incorporate that into Burnout?".

The game has some fun aspects but, I think, they've dumbed it down. Crash Mode took skill and timing to get the highest score and was fun. Crash Showtime can be done by a two year old and where's the challenge in that?
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:15 AM   #7
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You summed it up very well at the very end. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly described exactly in short what people have been saying online. Very nice reviews as always.

I swear, the biggest head ache for me has been the fact that I work and go to class, so if I want to fire up a round of Burnout, I have to then go find a race I haven't done and if I lose, go back, All the while crashing ever so often and trying to find busses. It's a let down, yes, but it definitely doesn't hinder the fun. I still miss the puzzle aspect from crashing, and being awarded medals for my destruction, but showtime was 20x better than I had expected it to be. Oh, and landing your first tripple barrel roll is fuck awesome.

The thing your going to hear absolutely most about this game and as was stated above already, this game is fucking fun. It's full blown chaotic fun, and no one is going to possibly disagree that wrecking into someone, no matter how many times, is hillarious, great to watch, and very theraputic after a long day at work. They could not have been any smarter when inclding the tricks into the game. Paradise City was designed extremely well and keeps you on edge even when in the mountains, I was very pleased because a poor city design could have easily ruined this game. Lastly, the AI though weak at first, becomes quite challenging as you near the end. The challenges follow suit and at first I was a bit apprehensive of this, until I got better and better realizing this challenging AI even made me better online. Now I am starting to get a feel for the city and where certain shortcuts are and where they go. I am still osing at a race, but like I said on Live two nights ago. I have never had so much god damn fun losing at a video game.

Can't wait to catch you all on there!

EDIT: Oh, and for the first time I really do want to purchase a Live cam.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:19 AM   #8
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You can get to any event on the map in 2 minutes.

Showtime sucks. What is this puzzle game doing stuck in a racing game?

There is a quick race select, you just have to race against real people to use it.

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Old 01-28-2008, 10:44 AM   #9
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I hate hate HATE the fact that there is no restart function for an event. But to be completely honest, I'd gladly trade that ability away just for a simple way-point system. Sometimes I find myself driving in the mountains for 10 minutes, only to still be driving in the mountains 10 minutes later. It's easy to get lost on unfamiliar terrain in the game. With a user way-point system, I could at least mark a spot I want to get to, and follow my HUD, oh wait, I have to view the minimap, no HUD for directions.... Too many times I find myself actually pausing the game to see the full map and how to get to where I want to go.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:47 AM   #10
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While Bap's opinion is his own, I still have problems hearing him describe the interface as a "mess" or alternatively "atrocious". He may have problems with it, but overall it seems like most people have praised the simple interface to start challenges. In fact it's one of the most seamless and intuitive interfaces I've seen in a racing game.

Of course Bap may consider the lack of a race restart as part of the interface, but I consider it a gameplay design choice. You can dislike their design choice all you like, but call it that and not an interface issue.

I personally find it simple to use the D-pad to select challenges, activate timed road rules, or cycle through the current best drifts, air times, etc.

The single player experience is so rich, I actually played offline the entire weekend unlocking cars, doing races, flipping around in Showtime mode, and doing whatever else I felt like doing. It felt a lot more organic to me than the old style of selecting races in a lobby, and the decision to keep me in my car for most of a driving game seems so obvious it's odd that we're calling it a departure.

I guess to me I'd rather talk about what Burnout Paradise IS and not what it isn't compared to the older games. If I wanted the older games I would go play them.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:49 AM   #11
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I'm with BA, while it's a great game, the racing aspect is not fun, I would go as far as to say it's broken.

It's like they traded the open world design (which I like) for the fun of Burnout racing. And that's not even what pisses me off; it pisses me off that they didn't have to. It also seems racing is now less about drifting and speed and more about who can hit the most yellow gates between the start and the finish. I like shortcuts, but they are taken to extreme in BP, again to the detriment of the racing.

Overall I like the game, but it won't hold my attention for more than another 3 or 4 days. All the other event types are fun, to be sure, but Burnout without great racing isn't something I'll play for very long.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:54 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Bone View Post
While Bap's opinion is his own, I still have problems hearing him describe the interface as a "mess" or alternatively "atrocious". He may have problems with it, but overall it seems like most people have praised the simple interface to start challenges. In fact it's one of the most seamless and intuitive interfaces I've seen in a racing game.
The menu/setup/selection aspects of the interface are excellent, imho one of very few examples where the practical aspects of gaming have gone next generation along with the graphics.

I could see somebody complaining about the aspects of the GUI that help you navigate being a mess. That mess would have been taken care of by a bit of tutorial at the beginning highlighting everything it does do for you in terms of navigation.

As far as racing goes, it is boring in singleplayer(like most racing games), and a blast in multiplayer. AI is just no substitute in the age of online videogaming.

My approach to singleplayer is as a training/learning phase in preparation for multiplayer. The events do a good job of teaching the physics of the game and the lay of the land, performance of different classes of cars, etc. If I were looking at the game as just a singleplayer experience I wouldn't have purchased it and I wouldn't recommend it anybody who is solely interested in singleplayer.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:00 AM   #13
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:02 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Bone View Post
I personally find it simple to use the D-pad to select challenges, activate timed road rules, or cycle through the current best drifts, air times, etc.
Everything you just described does not further you single player experience. That doesn't help you unlock licenses or cars.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:04 AM   #15
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Nice review. Anyone who's played online with me knows I enjoy this game. I've been playing it for several days now and think it's a nice addition to my games library.

But Nick's right: don't take away the player's options - give the player more options. The lack of a restart or quick-travel option and the absence of a way to tell if you've completed a specific race (without having to start it first) is a significant oversight on Criterion's part. Both find me frustrated frequently with the singleplayer game.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:07 AM   #16
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I am personally torn about Paradise. On one hand the game is much easier than its predecessors. On the other hand, the game is frustrating as you have to go all the way back to the starting point to re-initiate an event (note: This only becomes a problem when trying to get your Elite license or when doing Car specific Burnouts).

The variety of events is also not there. You basically have races, burnouts (time trials), Wanted Man (four cars try to wreck you out before you get to your destination), and points. One thing I loved about the previous Burnout titles were the Crash (score) modes, having specific goals per map (ex. Train Takedown or Jump the Gap) and playing against an AI which was bloody tough.

I am almost done with the game (60 more events to get my Elite license), and I would safely score the game a 3/5 for a Burnout title.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:09 AM   #17
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Lack of a replay option on races doesn't really suck until late in the game. Early on you simply do a different event in the area and end up somewhere else, which is honestly something I wouldn't have done without the option not being there. Much like GTA, the fact that you HAVE to travel from point to point enhances the immersion of the game. If you're meaning to do a race but see a billboard on the way, it lets the player switch contexts without any break at all. Some people like this, some people don't and for the majority of the game it honestly works fine. It only really becomes terrible when you're trying to do something specific... like Burning Laps. Some middle ground (like having a restart option after 5 failures) would go a long way to not making the tail end of the game eye-gouging. Doing 2+ minute burning laps in cars that wreck at the first sign of a stiff breeze is not much fun, and I didn't even make it out of Class B before I gave up on certain cars. It's doubly punishing because of the stupid Speed style cars that demand complete perfection.

Showtime is just stupid. Other than that the game is a shitload of fun if you enjoyed the recent Burnout games, and I played so long my trigger finger cramped up yesterday.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:10 AM   #18
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bapenguin wrote the review I would have written myself, almost exactly. It also irks me greatly that I need to go to the junkyard to switch out my car. Still having fun with it, I just wish they'd have made a shortcut function to access each of the map markers.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:11 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by bapenguin View Post
Everything you just described does not further you single player experience. That doesn't help you unlock licenses or cars.
Right, but what part of unlocking licenses or cars did you find difficult? It seems glaringly simple to me.

I guess I'm asking, which part of the interface is "a mess"? It just doesn't compute to me, when it seems so easy.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:19 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by bapenguin View Post
Everything you just described does not further you single player experience. That doesn't help you unlock licenses or cars.
It isn't an MMORPG, why so focused on leveling? If unlocking licenses and cars are what you after just rent the game for a weekend, you'll unlock just about everything.
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