Back on the streets with Burnout Paradise

I have to admit that I’ve had a fairly intense love/hate relationship with the whole Burnout franchise.  When times were good, Burnout was a sumptuous slice of gaming heaven.  When times were bad, Burnout was just another game I couldn’t be bothered playing.  It all started with the original Burnout on the PS2.  If I recall, I thought at the time that it was a steaming pile of… well, rubbish.  Burnout 2: Point of Impact though, changed everything.  In my mind it was perfect: the graphics were the best I’d seen in a racing game since Gran Turismo and the gameplay was spot-on.

I dabbled with Burnout 3: Takedown on the original Xbox and found it to be great fun, but the gaming experience didn’t feel as pure as its predecessor.  After that, I totally skipped the next instalments in the series, Burnout: Revenge and Burnout: Dominator (which was not even developed by Criterion).  You see, Burnout had got rid of the gameplay feature that gave its name; the burnout.  In Burnout 2: Point of impact, you could drain your boost meter without stopping which would cause the meter to refill, meaning that as long as you didn’t crash, you could chain as many boosts together as you wanted.  It melted your eyes.

The experience of chaining boosts together was exhilarating.  Your car was screaming towards heavy traffic at what felt like the speed of a bullet and only three things could happen: one) you made it through and felt amazing, either attributing it to your skill or luck; two) you hoped for the best and watched in horror as your car disintegrated into thousands of pieces across the highway; or three) you chickened out, ending boost and saw the reassuring ‘burnout’ sign flash up either humiliating you if you could have made it through or vindicating you if going through with boost would have been impossible.  This gameplay mechanic was sorely missed.

Onto the next generation of consoles with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 came Burnout Paradise.  I had played the demo and was terribly disappointed, voicing my grief in a post entitled ‘Criterion defend their new baby‘.  For the time being, my driving game of choice switched from the Burnout series to the latest release in the TOCA Touring Car Series, Race Driver: GRID.  I summed up my thoughts at the time in ‘My driving game of choice: is there a worthy successor?‘  (Side note: seeing where Codemasters has taken the McRae:DiRT series with the sequel, I hope they don’t go down the same path for GRID 2.)

I began to ease off playing racing/driving games, but one day I spotted Argos selling Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box, which had most expansion packs included bar Big Surf Island for the bargain sum of £17.99.  I couldn’t resist.  I’m glad I gave into the temptation as whilst I’m not going to backtrack on what I have said in previous posts, the game really does merit further play.  Looking back, the demo wasn’t really suited to the type of gameplay that the Burnout series now has in this incarnation as you weren’t necessarily thrust into the chaotic and sublime races that the game has to offer.

I still hate having to roam the city looking for the right traffic lights to start an event, but it’s worth it just to experience some of the great races that you can compete in.  The only major problem I have with Paradise City is lack of variety.  Because it’s just one big city, everywhere is more or less the same.  Sure, you have different areas and districts but you’re not going to have as much variety in previous games that went to places in Europe and Japan instead of always taking place in some generic US city.  Just my opinion.

I still stand by the fact that this is not the game I originally fell in love with.  Instead of being a game you can really sink your teeth into, it’s more of a takeaway game that you can dip in and out of if you’ve got a bit of spare time and a craving for a spot of gaming.  If it wasn’t for the low-ball pricing then I wouldn’t have snagged this game at all.  At least it’s got me back on to the streets and back into the driving seat.  Maybe that’s where I’ve always belonged.

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