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Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge are two of the most intense and action-packed racing games I’ve ever played. I, personally, think 3 is the better game but the traffic checking in Revenge is crazy fun and let’s face it, it’s pure road rage fantasy. After Revenge, Criterion began working on Burnout Paradise which takes the series into the open world genre. Developed by Criterion Games and published by EA, Burnout Paradise was released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in January, 2008. It was re-released with all of the DLC and support for higher resolutions as Burnout Paradise Remastered for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in March, 2018, PC in August of that same year, and Switch in June, 2020. For this review, I played the Switch version because I was having difficulties with the PC version. The game kept crashing whenever I tried to get into the gameplay which I believe is due to a server connection issue based on my research. I put Origin in offline mode and was able to get passed the intro but it would crash after that. Instead of dealing with that nonsense, I decided to play the Switch version which also meant I could play it on-the-go.
In Paradise City the vehicles rule the roads and there are no people to be found. You’re free to drive around the world and complete events at your own leisure. You can accelerate, brake, and drift and vehicles convey a nice sense of weight. You can swap them out and change their paint type, finish, and color at Junkyards found throughout the city. Performing takedowns is still a big part of the gameplay but aftertouch takedowns and crashbreakers are not present. Traffic checking returns but it’s not like it was in Revenge. Vehicles with a lot of strength can check traffic vehicles but they’re not punted around so easily which is a little disappointing. Boosting does return and each vehicle has one of multiple types of boost systems. Speed vehicles can perform burnouts and boost chains, stunt vehicles earn more boost by performing stunts, and aggression vehicles have a boost mechanic similar to that of Burnout 3. There’s a DLC vehicle that lets you switch between multiple boost types at any time and another with a locked boost system which means the boost cannot be stopped once activated unless you brake to a standstill or crash.
There is a large roster of vehicles in Paradise and they’re split up into multiple categories. Each one has different stats in speed, boost, and strength. You can drive cars, vans, police vehicles, motorcycles, even toy cars. Legendary vehicles are nods to movies like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, among others. Paradise is the first Burnout game to feature motorcycles and I find them to be disappointing. For one thing, they can’t boost. They also don’t show visible damage and the rider just disappears when you crash. Plus, you can only participate in Burning and Midnight Ride events in single player. It would have been cool if the developers implemented some type of road rash styled gameplay. One cool thing the Burnout Bikes update introduced is the day/night cycle and certain events can only be completed at night. The game lets you to choose how long the transition is and when playing offline, you can switch between day and night at any time. You can even set the time to match your local time which I thought was neat.
There’s plenty to see and do in Paradise City. You can smash through gates and billboards, drive off jumps, and set record times and crashes on each street in the world. Events can be started at traffic lights and after winning enough events, your driver’s license rank increases, granting you access to new vehicles. There are actually three different licenses in the game. Your driver’s license represents your progress in the main game, the bike license represents your bike progress, and the island license represents your Big Surf Island Pack progress. As you complete events, you’ll be alerted to specific vehicles driving around the world and if you shut them down, they will be delivered to the junkyard. I did witness several of these vehicles drive around in circles and into walls as if they were bugged. They stopped doing that after exiting the game and going back in.
In single player, familiar events like race and road rage return but absent are eliminator and grand prix. Burning Route events are similar to Burning Laps from the previous games. Many Paradise vehicles have a Burning Route and the goal is to drive from one location to another and if you get to the destination within the target time, a modified version of your vehicle will be delivered to the junkyard. Burning Ride and Midnight Ride events are similar to Burning Route except these are exclusive to bikes and you’ll have to drive through a series of checkpoints. Island Tour is just like the Ride events and was included with the Big Surf Island Pack update. Marked Man is one of my favorite new events. The objective is to get to a specific location in one piece. You’ll be pursued by Hunter Civilian vehicles which will try and take you down before you can get to your destination. If you crash or are taken down enough times, you’ll fail. Finally there’s the Stunt Run event. The objective is to reach or exceed the target score by chaining together stunts and acquiring multipliers. You’re never restricted to a certain route so you can drive all over the city during events which is pretty cool.
In addition to events are Road Rules and Showtime Road Rules. Every road has a different time and showtime amount that can be beaten. If you manage to beat them, you rule the road. Showtime Road Rules are the game’s form of crash events. The goal is to cause as much destruction as possible by crashing into traffic vehicles. But this time you can bounce your vehicle all over the road, buses grant you multipliers, and you get bonus points for crashing into signs. The whole thing is absurd and I love it. You can compete with others online and the one mode I wanted to try was Cops and Robbers but, unfortunately, I was unable to get it going but I was able to join matches and compete in various challenges. There is no Pursuit event in single player but you do have access to the police vehicles which makes me wish there was some kind of offline cop mode or event. It could even be a variant of Marked Man.
When you first start playing, you may notice AI opponents don’t put up much of a fight. However, Hunter Civilians are always aggressive. Things do get more challenging as you progress and you’ll eventually go up against faster vehicles. The AI will utilize shortcuts and try to take you down. Rubberbanding is present but I was able to gain a significant lead during many races and even if I crashed, I was often far enough ahead that opponents weren’t close enough to pass me. Hunter Civilians are fast and can easily shove you around the road so driving a vehicle with a lot of strength is beneficial during a Marked Man event. You can still take down opponents in the normal ways and one new takedown type is the T-Bone takedown.
The world of Paradise City is well designed, traffic vehicles are all over the roads, and the only thing that would make Paradise City feel more like a living place would be pedestrians roaming around. You’ll drive on busy streets, mountain roads, off road, through tunnels, and across bridges. There’s all kinds of shortcuts and ramps throughout the world and you’re not restricted to a certain path or route. You can reference the waypoint on the compass so you know what direction you need to travel but you’re free to take your own route to the destination. The game grants you a lot of freedom and the world is big. Big enough that I wish there was some kind of fast travel system. I want to fast travel to junkyards or a faster way to switch vehicles. I understand the game wants you to drive everywhere and explore but if you like to switch vehicles often, having to drive to a Junkyard every time becomes tedious. Throughout the world are places you can drive to that affect your vehicle in some way. Auto-Repair shops will fix your vehicle, paint shops will change your vehicle’s color, and gas stations will refill your boost bar. Events will normally take you to different locations around the world and the Big Surf Island Pack update added a small island off the mainland.
Burnout Paradise is easily the best looking game in the series and while the Switch port of Remastered doesn’t look quite as good as the others, it still looks great and has the benefit of being played on-the-go. Vehicle models are detailed and you can actually see them deform in real-time during crashes. Tires come off, particles go flying, and smoke fills the air. The world is filled with various brands and landmarks that make it feel like it could be a real place. The soundtrack consists of licensed music from various artists but no Slayer or Exodus, unfortunately. However, the game does open with the song “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses which isn’t a bad tune and you can also listen to tunes from the first three games. This is a Burnout game so you’re going to hear a lot of metal crunching and glass breaking during crashes and screeching tires as you burn rubber. On the technical side, I did notice the frame rate dip during certain events and some showtimes, usually when things got really hectic, but it never hindered the gameplay. Most of the time it ran smooth. Overall, it runs great with the Switch docked and in handheld mode.
I love Burnout Paradise and while it does introduce some cool new stuff, I do miss some things from the previous games. While Paradise maintains the arcade-styled racing gameplay the series is known for, it dials back on some of the more over-the-top crazy shit. I can’t tell you how many times I began pressing buttons on my controller after crashing in an effort to blow up my wreckage until I remembered you can’t do that in this game. And I really miss the insanely fun traffic checking experienced in Burnout Revenge. Obviously, it’s the open world that sets Burnout Paradise apart from its predecessors and the events are fun and action-packed. It’s also fun just driving around the world and exploring. There’s always something to see and do, something to crash into, you can perform stunts, discover new routes and/or shortcuts, and at any time you can enter a showtime event and start causing vehicular destruction. You’re given a shit-ton of vehicles and while I think the motorcycles are a missed opportunity, you have more than enough options when it comes to how you want to tear up the road.
I would absolutely recommend Burnout Paradise Remastered to anyone. It’s an extremely fun game. It delivers an intense action-packed racing experience set in a vehicular playground and it can be enjoyed in short bursts or long sessions, solo or with others. I think it’s one of the best games in the series and one of the best open world racing games out there. Definitely check it out.