2008 was a simpler time. For one, I was only 20/21 years old, full of enthusiasm and excitement for what the future could hold. It wasn’t a bad year for gaming either, just check this naughty list of titles that were released: Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, Dead Space and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, just to name a few. It wouldn’t be too controversial to claim that 2008 might have had one of the strongest releases in gaming history. Along with those classics that I just mentioned and umpteen other titles, a certain arcade racer came out that blew everyone away. A game that defined the open-world racer and became arguably one of the most beloved racers of the last generation. I am, of course, referring to Criterion Games’ masterpiece that is Burnout: Paradise, and now over 10 years later, it is back, and while it’s not quite better than ever, it sure is still a hell of a lot of fun.
When it was first released in 2008, Burnout: Paradise was something of a revolution in the racing sim world. Sure, there had been open-world racing games before Paradise but nothing quite like the literal open playground that Criterion had created here for us to explore. Burnout: Paradise’s world and how the racing events work take some time to get used to as they really still are vastly different from any other open-world racer, even in 2018. Generally in open-world racers, if you wish to partake in a race event, you drive to a marker or something of the like, and the game will load a pre-generated track based on the location of the game world. These tracks will have the standard neon arrows blocking any side roads and tell you which direction to travel in. If they don’t have the neon lights, then a marker and guide on a mini-map will show you the exact route to take. Burnout: Paradise throws these conventions out of the window. It doesn’t hold your hand and lets you plan your journey to the objective your own way. There is a small hint throughout a race to help you to your objective in the form of the indicators that will blink when approaching the desired turning, but unless you are staring at the back of your car, which is a bad idea, you will generally ignore these. It can be slightly disorienting trying to establish your own route to an objective on the fly at the breakneck speeds you’ll be driving, but after a short time, you will get used to it, and it really is what makes Burnout: Paradise so much fun.
Without the limitations of pre-generated tracks, the open road is yours to explore, whether in a race or out of one. Burnout: Paradise dares you to explore this gorgeous city to your heart’s content. To start a race in Paradise City, there are no pre-loaded markers on a map. You simply drive up to one of the hundreds of traffic lights in the city and simply hold the right and left trigger to start the race event, which includes normal races, where yellow crash barriers guard shortcuts that can either put you well ahead of the pack during a race or take you the completely wrong way with no chance of catching up. It is a risk that is almost always worth taking as there could be a huge jump waiting for you at the end or even one of the 165 billboards that litter Paradise City just waiting for you to smash through. These billboards and the 400 yellow smash gates that hide the hidden tracks are just two reasons why Paradise is just a fun place to drive around out of the race events. There is so much to do that sometimes you’ll be driving around for hours without partaking in an event.
A game that promotes and encourages so much driving would suck if the actual driving mechanics were rubbish, right? Well, thankfully, even still in 2018, Burnout: Paradise features some of the best arcade racing available. Driving purists won’t be impressed here, but for those of us that just want to drive around as fast as possible, this is the game to get. Paradise features the famed Burnout franchise crash system, and it is something that never gets old. Whenever you perform a takedown on a rival, they perform one on you or you simply were not looking where you were going and crash straight into a wall, you’ll be treated to a slow-motion video of your car being utterly destroyed. It is brutal, and no matter how frustrating it can be crashing your car, somehow it is worth it throwing a race away just to see the complete destruction of whatever car you’re driving at the time.
Speaking of cars, there are a lot of them here in Burnout: Paradise. The remastered version comes with all the DLC released for the original game, so with the 80 base cars already waiting for you to unlock in Paradise City, you have five bikes and over 60 additional cars, which include the famous Ghostbusters ambulance, toy cars and police vehicles from the previous Burnout releases. Unlocking cars is achieved by completing racing events, completing Paradise Licenses and finding a rival car driving through the streets of Paradise City and taking them down. Once a car is unlocked, it will be available from your Junkyard which acts as your garage in Paradise City. There are a handful of Junkyards located throughout the map, and you simply need to drive through these and then select whatever car you want. This system really is the only major complaint with Burnout: Paradise. As much as it is fun to drive around Paradise City, and it is a lot of fun, there really should be an easier way to change the car you’re driving. Burnout: Paradise promotes fast, non-stop action, so it is a bit of a chore having to drive to a Junkyard to change your vehicle.
But, how does a game released 10 years ago hold up by today’s standards, I hear you ask? Well, obviously, Burnout: Paradise will never win awards now for its graphics. This might be a remaster, but there is only so much developers can do. Paradise looks great, but there are, of course, better looking racers out there. Gameplay-wise, it’s unmatched in the arcade racing sim world. Last year’s latest Need for Speed attempted to take the crown of the arcade racer, but it fell at a lot of hurdles, and now with Paradise back, that game is but an afterthought. The framerate is at an impressive 60fps, and there is never a noticeable drop. There are some slight, and I mean very slight, rendering delays, but really, they are barely noticeable.
Developer: Criterion Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 16th March 2018