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Take me down to the Paradise City…again

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    Burnout Paradise Remastered

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    Take me down to the Paradise City…again


    January 2008. In the days when the Playstation 3 resembled a deluxe George Foreman Grill and Trophies were only an idea in a Sony boardroom, EA and Criterion Games released Burnout Paradise, an open-world next-gen edition of the much-loved Burnout series. Eschewing the traditional menu-driven layout of past games, Paradise dropped the player into a bustling metropolis known as Paradise City, and gave them a smorgasbord of events and smashable objects to find and defeat, while also delivering a persistent, open-world online environment that could be turned on at the press of a button. While some long-time fans lamented the loss of linear races and the ever-popular Crash Mode, Paradise was a critical and commercial success, delivering the same white-knuckle arcade driving action of Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge, but on a bigger, next-gen scale.

    Now ten years later, with open-world racers commonplace in series like Forza Horizon and Need For Speed, here comes a remaster of Burnout Paradise to satisfy the itch for over-the-top arcade racing action, along with all of the DLC that was offered back in the day, including an off-city area called Big Surf Island with its own exclusive events, and novelty cars including facsimiles of famous TV & movie vehicles like the DeLorean from Back to the Future (including hover mode!), cop cars, and tiny RC vehicles. Despite the lengthy absence, Burnout Paradise Remastered holds up as a terrific remedy to some of the current bloated ills of the racing genre, showing that something old can still be new and invigorating again.


    Burnout Paradise Remastered, for those who may have missed out (a decade is a long time!), is a game about going fast and/or causing car-wrecking mayhem. Paradise offers over 100 events, one at nearly every intersection in Paradise City and sister city Big Surf Island, ranging from simple races, car-specific time trials (Burning Routes), and Stunt Runs to events highlighting Burnout’s long-time calling card of extravagant car crashes, Road Rage (taking down X number of rival cars under a time limit) and the new Marked Man (get from Point A to Point B while heavily armored cars try to wreck you). Despite the open-world nature, the game has an easier difficulty curve than a series like Midnight Club; there’s eight specific finish lines in Paradise City, one for each point of the compass, so after a little familiarity with the city, the player will able to figure out the best way to reach a certain part of the map no matter their starting area. The game also, thankfully, has minimal-to-no AI rubber-banding against the player; if you can get a big lead, you can maintain it so long as you stay crash-free. Of course, staying upright on all four wheels can be easier said than done at Burnout velocities while weaving through traffic, but it cuts down on the artificial frustration built into other games; Paradise fights fair, and that’s always a plus in my book.

    The open-endedness also extends to progression through the game. In an age where even racing games lock you into grinding XP and levels, Paradise’s 2008 simplicity is a welcome antidote. The “pointâ€?of single-player is to climb from your lowly low-class beginner’s license to a Burnout Elite license; to get to the next license tier, you simply have to garner X amount of event wins. Paradise allows you to compile these wins across any events you like, whether you want to mix it up in each event type or simply stick to your preferred one; once you graduate to the next license, Paradise wipes away the wins from the prior license (except for Burning Routes) so that you ‘re never shuttled into a rigid path of progression until you go for the final Elite License, which requires winning all events.

    Going through all of said events are a joy no matter what you stick to though, thanks to Burnout’s ever-present excellent gameplay foundation. Criterion has always been a master of simulating the sensation of out-of-control speed (even today; they were responsible for the space dogfights in 2017’s Star Wars Battlefront II) and Paradise, with its steady 60 fps and camera effects, makes even your starting jalopy feel like a TIE Fighter at full velocity. The city is well-designed for the most part, with countless side paths and shortcuts to use, both ground level and elevated, and puts a motivating onus on the player to discover and memorize the different and best ways to get around the city (while big enough for a lot of content, Paradise City’s map is small compared to modern games, which is actually a blessing; it only takes a few events passes to get a real handle on the major roads for the entire city). The control also makes you feel one with the automotive Force; control is responsive and smooth, and the 70+ different, fictional cars offered feel distinct, from the weak but lightning-fast Speed-class cars, to the hulking vans and trucks in the Aggression class, to the jack-of-all-trades nimble Stunt class.

    Taking down cars in races and crash events also are as satisfying as ever, as a well-timed bump into an opponent can send them careening into a traffic-destroying dance of destruction (and fills up your boost), and the game is always dangling carrots in front of your face beyond cars awarded in events and Burning Routes (winning the latter gives you a better version of the car with which you won the event). New, unlockable cars will pop up in free roam, prompting spontaneous chases to take it down and send it into your inventory. 120 billboards and 400 street gates are all over Paradise City; destroying them all gets you even more souped-up goodies. You’re never at a loss or against a wall with things to do, even in free roam, and the open-world design keeps you within the action all the time. Unlike prior Burnout games, it’s quick and easy to pop in and out races, with no event menus to shift through, lighting-quick load times (after all, the entire city is already loaded up when you boot up the game), and every intersection offers an event ready to be defeated.

    With all the single-player content, it’s easy to forget that online Paradise offers even more to do. At any point, with the press of the D-pad, you can seamlessly and instantly activate an online version of Paradise City, and join or invite up to 7 players to play alongside you. While you can choose to do the standard event modes, the heart of online Paradise is Freeburn Online, which amounts to multiplayer co-op. This is a great idea to take care of players who may shy away from competitive online, as Freeburn offers 500 different challenges to check off alongside other online players. As a host, you can activate these challenges for all players in your lobby to complete, from the individual (such as everyone boosting for X amount of time) to the cooperative (everyone complete a specific jump in the Airfield). There’s a fun team-based joy in taking down one challenge after another that allows players to experience online success that they may not see in the competitive modes, and the mode is forgiving enough to keep challenges alive even if one player leaves the room mid-event.

    For a 2008 game, it has the sensibilities of current games, but at its heart, it is still a remaster, not a remake, and odd artifacts remain untouched. There’s no fast travel option in the game, which I personally didn’t have an issue with, but will definitely rankle some gamers who may be looking for a quicker way to get where they need to go. The game no longer comes with a manual but also lacks a tutorial of any kind, so certain basic mechanics are tucked away and can be easily missed; online play and even the event retry option are in a hidden menu accessed by pressing right on the D-pad and Showtime â€?this game’s equivalent of Crash Mode and needed to 100% the game â€?is activated by pressing L1 + R1 in free roam, things the game will not tell you on its own. There’s also a navigation system to help you stay on the right path in races, but it’s frustrating unhelpful at times; it sometimes tells you too late to make a much-needed turn, and it’s placed near the top of the screen, forcing you to take your eyes off the road completely, which is a very bad thing to do in Burnout. The city is well-constructed but comes with maybe too many objects that jut out, which will cause some frustrating crashes, especially in the night-time cycle. And speaking of day/night cycle, the game feels a bit sparse in terms of detail; weather effects like rain might have helped spruce things up with variety from time to time. One other new wrinkle to be aware of is that the game gives you all the DLC cars out of the box, some of which are the best vehicles in the game and can make the early part of the game a cakewalk. My advice: stick to the general cars until you get your Burnout license and only break out the novelties in online and free roam.

    Yet there are 2008 elements to Paradise that work in its favor today. The game doesn’t drown you in menus and clutter; when you boot up a game, it asks you to pick a car and drops you right into Paradise City. Instead of trying to grind better upgrades for your cars, you simply get awarded better cars. And literally around every corner, there’s something to do. In an era where some games don’t want to get you to get to the game, Paradise keeps you right in its wheelhouse, where escaping a crash by doing a barrel roll off a ramp at max speed, shifting to another ramp that leads to a Super Jump through a billboard and lands you back into first place is as exhilarating as any action sequence in gaming.


    Despite being a 2008 game, Paradise holds up very well. In addition to 1080 and 4K upgrades, those lovely Burnout crashes are now locked in at 60fps, making those sequences look even more awesome (if you caused them) or agonizing (if it’s you eating pavement). The entire game is now at 60 fps, so while the game’s textures won’t confuse it with GT Sport any time soon, the silky framerate coupled with Criterion’s camera tricks makes the game feel even faster than some of its modern peers; where some games try to simulate a realistic sense of 150mph, Paradise makes it feel like 250, which papers over the otherwise last-gen graphics.

    The sound is still as polarizing as EA games go; the sound effects are wonderful, from the twisting steel of a car being ripped asunder to the satisfying BOOM of your boost meter being refilled, but most of the time, you’ll be hearing the mainstay EA Trax. For better or worse, the game brings back every song from its extensive soundtrack back in 2008, meaning the game always boots up to the wonderful riffs of Guns ‘nâ€?Roses classic “Paradise Cityâ€? and you’ll be traversing while headbanging to hair metal favorite “I Wanna Rockâ€?by Twisted Sister or wondering who green-lit the inclusion of Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriendâ€?(seriously). If you’d rather not drift to Faith No More’s painfully-1989 “Epicâ€? individual songs can be turned off, and the game also offers original music tracks from the previous games, on top of some famous classical works if you want some soundtrack dissonance to the mayhem. SSX 3 fans (like myself) should also take note that the fictional, dulcet-toned DJ Atomika is also your guide here, noting on your progress and random going-ons with his easy-listening stylings. While he can be turned off as well, I enjoyed his relaxed, occasional interjections into the proceedings.

    Play Time/Replayability

    Paradise may come out of 2008 but its length does feel at home with current games; it took me about 20 hours to 100% Paradise City, even as someone who cleared it back in the day, and that’s before touching Big Surf Island and its events and smashables, plus the online Freeburn challenges, meaning you can definitely squeeze at least double the hours. It does come at a price of padded longevity; while the game clearing off wins in the early licenses is a big help in letting you play the way you want, this becomes more of an annoyance on the final tier, when it erases the 40 wins needed to go from Class A to Burnout, so you have to re-do those alongside winning the other 90+ non-Burning-Route events to truly complete the game with an Elite License. But you can’t say you don’t get a lot of game for the buck, especially since this one is only $40 (of course, if you’re an XBOX One owner, you can buy the original and all its extras for cheap, since it’s part of the system’s backwards-compatible program).

    Final Recommendation

    Just like with sports games, the racing genre has seen a downturn in arcade gameplay as more powerful systems give way to more photo-realistic, simulation experiences. By resurrecting Burnout Paradise, EA and Criterion have reminded gamers the excitement and thrills that screaming velocities offer over realistic weight distribution models. If you’ve played Burnout Paradise in the past, this is literally the same great game as it was a decade ago, so it’s up to you whether you’re itching to replay it all over again. For those who have not, but yearn for a beautiful, exciting, content-packed arcade racer, time to pack up for Paradise City, where spectacle reigns over realism and fun is in long, long supply.

    (Note: As of this writing �two weeks after release �the PS4 version is prone to crashing (ironic!) and corrupting saves when connecting online. Criterion Games has tweeted out they have found the source of the issue and will patch it as soon as they can, but until then, it may be worth staying off online Paradise until the problem is fixed.)

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