Where the Grass is Green and the Girls Are Pretty

Burnout Paradise was a game I’ve had on my radar for quite some time. The series first caught my eye when I played the Burnout Revenge demo that came with my XBOX 360, which came with a really cool take down mode. However, the demo for Burnout Paradise left me skeptical. The sensation of going fast was intact, as well as the joy of wrecking other cars (as well as your own), but the demo didn’t really give me a sense of how the open-world structure of the game would work.

I may be two years too late, and the developers have added a ton of free and paid additional content to the game since I last tried it, but I recently got a copy of Burnout Paradise at the bargain basement price of $5 at a Blockbuster Video sale. Was this ticket to paradise well worth it?

I’m not sure if it’s been done before, but Burnout Paradise is the first open-world racing game I’ve ever played. In theory, this sounds pretty sweet to be in a consistent world as opposed to the game artificially shuffling you from race to race. You’re free to drive anywhere in the city, which can be fun all by itself thanks to the number of secrets to find in the world. Should you actually want to get down to business, you just pull up to any intersection in the game and hit gas and brake at the same time.

I’m about 1/3 through my B license and I’m still not sure how I feel about this mechanic. At times, I like the freedom and the ability to choose what event I do at any time, but sometimes the freedom is too daunting. In particular, racing can get really ugly when the game doesn’t do the best job of telling you where to go. Sure, it does have a compass and the street signs flicker on your HUD when you need to turn, but it can be hard to follow those when you’re driving at a blistering speed while weaving through traffic. It’s very easy to make wrong turns or get lost, which basically ruins your chance at winning. At least when you get the 1.9 patch, you can quick restart at any point in a race. Unfortunately, Burnout Paradise players had to wait almost a year for that feature to be implemented.

The overall structure of the game kind of lends itself to feeling repetitive. You win events, which then goes towards improving your license, which also helps you unlock cars. After you reach each grade, the game resets all the events so you can do the same event over again. It is kind of a downer to end up doing the same race again, and at times, you’ll unintentionally trigger the same race you’ve already beaten at your grade, which makes doing it again a waste of time. The way the grades work doesn’t help quell that feeling of repetition, as each grade takes exponentially longer to pass. You end up feeling like you’ve been stuck in the same class for too long without actually moving forward.

The game also tries to give you progression by giving you cars, which happens a lot more steadily than license upgrades. All the cars have their own quirks and it’s cool to try out all of them. Some cars are unlocked simply by completing a certain amount of events while others are earned by taking them out as you drive around. The idea is really cool, and it lent itself to some epic chases where I would drive across the city trying to catch up to and ultimately take down a car I could unlock. However, there were also times where I just wanted to change lanes and the car I needed to take down would randomly hit me and crash, which takes out all the fun in earning them.

Sure, the game has it’s quirks, but I’m still having fun with it. The actual sensation of driving fast is so awesome in this game. Everything moves so quickly and the game does a great job of feeling like you have barely enough control  avoid turning your car into an accordion. Maybe even better than that is the game’s emphasis on breaking stuff. Taking down cars and watching them wreck in slow-motion never gets old, and even watching your own car get wrecked is still fun (and encouraged by the game in some places). I haven’t played any online yet, but it appears as though there is a ton of great online implementation in this game.

I’m not sure when I’ll write about this game again, or if I’ll actually beat it, but I’ve had a few good hours with Burnout Paradise. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the core mechanics of driving and crashing are great. I can’t pass judgment on the rest of the experience around that, but I can see it going either way depending on your tastes. At this point in time, you can get Burnout Paradise for dirt cheap. If you’re looking for an arcade racer to add to your collection, this might be worth a look.

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