You know when you start a new job you always fear that somehow you’re not going to be able to live up to the expectations of your new employers? You dread the night before or on the train in the morning that they’re going to sit you down at your desk, lump a whole load papers and files in front of you, say “sort it by noon” and walk off. Well, if that is familiar to you then Burnout Paradise goes some way to creating that nightmare scenario right in front of your eyes. However, and that’s a big however, as with your first day at your new job you soon find nobody expects you to know what you are doing and you always find your way in the end. Hell, after a few hours you forget the fact that you didn’t know anything and time flies by: bear this analogy in mind when you put the Burnout Paradise disk in for the first time.
You see, Burnout throws you straight into the action. I don’t mean when you choose ‘start’ from the main menu you start by entering a race or something like that. No, what I mean is that there is no main menu, there is no start button. The game simply starts, you’re in a car, there’s a huge open city in front of you, now drive. This of course can prove slightly daunting. No-one is puppy-walking through the first few ‘stages’ of the game as well, there simply aren’t any stages anyway. No on screen help guide to get you on your way and that you can turn off once you remember everything. You start behind the wheel and you just drive. Enter DJ Atomica.
Mr. DJ is the only friend you have whilst navigating your way through Paradise City (yes the Guns and Roses song is a part of the soundtrack). He, in a typically cheesy DJ vernacular, gives you certain tips along the way, like hold R1 and L1 when at traffic lights to start certain events, only if you feel like it mind, but I’ll get back to that later.
The events are rather varied and revolve around going really fast, taking down other vehicles and watching as their car goes through the most amazing crash sequences I’ve seen in modern day gaming (was there an olden day?), avoiding witnessing your own car getting trashed and performing mind boggling tricks and stunts. After completing certain tasks, DJ Atomica will inform you of a car that’s driving around and if you take it down, it appears at your garage. These events start off simple enough but as you progress, knowing the city off by heart – the shorts cuts etc. – become essential as the better cars you get hold of, the better the opposition become.
Your ‘aim’ is to get your Elite Drivers Licence and the only way you can get this is by simply driving up to traffic lights, pulling the shoulder buttons and completing the task at hand until you’ve completed enough to move up a license and it’s pretty much rinse and repeat. However, and this is another big however, if you fail to complete a race across town, or even just come in second you can simply replay that race. You can, if you wish (and if you can remember where you started from) drive all the way back and try again otherwise the came just carries on. What Burnout Paradise tries to impress upon you is that this city is yours to do what you want with, however it just limits your options to how you do things.
I really loved the open feel to the game, sometimes when I’ve completed a race or a Marked Man event (think all against one by you’re the one and cars looking to smash you off the road are the ‘all’) I just drove leisurely around the mountainside looking for Private Property barriers to smash though and thus take my tally to 145 out of a possible 400. Or simply fly off ramps and hurtle into Billboards with making the car spin 360 degrees midflight then landing and smashing through some crates and traffic furniture. You are never forced to participate in these events and there’s so much to see and do anyway, sometimes you really don’t feel the need to. But when you do want to do a Timed Run for example and the game tells you that you’re car isn’t the right type, it would be very handy if you could change cars there and then instead driving around for another ten minutes looking for your junkyard and then trying to remember the way back. So if you do want to complete everything and unlock all the Achievements and what not then the structure and discipline will have to come from you, the player as the game offers no help in this regard.
Taking the game online is simply a must. A virtually seamless transition from your current single player game over to multiplayer where you can race your friends, perform group tasks like drifting for 3000 yards and getting a total of three minutes air time. Or you can simply hunt each other down and create some hilarious pileups. There are around 120 tasks in all so yet again, the longevity is there in the form of goals or you can just play the game as you wish. What’s also a nice touch is that your Achievements carry over from your single player game, thus not incorporating specific ‘online Achievements’ which many games have and much to my annoyance at that.
Well, I’ve written all this and I haven’t mentioned the graphics and sound once. It looks amazing: a beautifully detailed cityscape cut into a mountainside all running at a super smooth 60 fps. The sound of the engines will delight the motorheads out there as they really do growl when ignited. The soundtrack is like most EA soundtracks, some very good songs interspersed by about twenty average ones but on the whole I’d say most of it was passable.
So, you’re back on the train but this time it’s not on your way to work you are on your way to buy Burnout Paradise. Nervous? Just a little. Will you be ok? Of course you will. Trust me, give the game about 30 minutes and you’ll be flying around town with this huge grin on your face, holding down your Burnout button and experiencing your brain melt as you trying to take in all the motion blur as you’re hurtling around the street as literally impossible speeds. For all the little annoyances, Burnout Paradise is still an extremely fun game to play. If you’re a fan of driving games, it simply is a must.