Ask anyone in the corporate world about the keys to success, and most of them are bound to tell you that it's all about knowing when to take risks. There was no doubt in my mind diehard purists would be among the first to contest Criterion's shift of the Burnout universe into the open-ended realm. In fact, this glaringly obvious distinction from its predecessors compelled me to scrutinize every aspect of what Paradise had to offer. If you caught a glimpse at my glowing first-impressions that hit our blog channel two weeks ago, then you know I love the game. Love it. However, there are some finer details left out intentionally so that I could take the time to discuss them in the full report you're reading now.
You're still reading right?
Those of you hoping for a linear experience might want to head back to the world of Burnout 3: Takedown.
It should come as no surprise that Paradise draws its influence from good ol' California, give or take a few minor fictional locales tossed in for good measure. Those of you hoping for a linear experience might want to head back to the world of Burnout 3: Takedown. I said "linear" in the last sentence as a means to get a few of you to perk up and recognize that Criterion might be onto something here. Now racing presents a broader degree of challenges as you have endless routes to reach your final destination; cut through the construction site, use the railroad tracks to head across town, or take the high road ala Batman Begins and leap from one rooftop to another – the choice is up to you.
It's got an exciting spin to it, doesn't it? Well, get off that cloud for a sec and come back to reality. All of this won't mean squat if you can't cross the finish line in one piece while still trying to find your way around. Yes, Paradise City is a pretty big place that needs to be carefully studied in order to uncover the best routes, and they aren't always so obvious. For this reason alone, spending some quality time cruising offline will do you a lot of good. Many of the shortcuts can be easily spotted by yellow gates (officially referred to as "smashes"), shaving some valuable seconds off standard racing or other Burnout-related events.
This brings me to a collective gripe presented by Paradise players: the lack of a restart option. Each time you fail an event, you're forced to drive all the way back to the original starting point, which will get annoying VERY fast. The absence of this feature makes failure more of a killjoy that might lead some players to just give up and groan.
Like its predecessors, Paradise offers a diverse selection of events to complete including the ever-popular Road Rage challenge, Burning Route (the "evolution" of the Burning Lap), and Stunt Run; a new feature that challenges you to rack up points by performing certain vehicular tricks. As an added bonus, the game includes what I consider to be a mini-game of its own, in which you must dominate each road/intersection by achieving the best race time and collateral damage. This feature alone delivers a great deal of replay value as you can compare your personal scores to others on your friends list, all vying for their place amongst the top competitors.
Which reminds me: Ross, please stop trying to beat my Showtime scores. :(
Finally, there's a "party mode," in which 2 to 8 players can link up and participate in over 50 different challenges, from racing to specific hotspots to performing aerial stunts to power parking. This is an excellent diversion for players looking for a non-competitive session to enjoy with family and friends.
In more ways than one, it should be obvious that Burnout Paradise offers a robust selection of events that will keep you entertained for hours online and off. Overall, the direction is very solid and I applaud Criterion's bravery for getting out of their comfort zone to explore a new horizon, instead of pondering what could have been.