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- Review: Burnout Paradise – The Ultimate Box
- Malevolent Effect
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Review: Burnout Paradise – The Ultimate Box
I think I have a problem.
I don’t drive, and I have yet to take any lessons, but I feel if anyone saw me playing Burnout Paradise this week, I fear they wouldn’t let me behind the wheel of a milk float, never mind anything with any horsepower to it. I can’t help it, I just seem to be magnetically drawn to the nearest ramp, fence, billboard or indeed fellow motorists with the desire to drive – and indeed crash – as recklessly as possible. Criterion Games, bless ’em, have managed to turn me into a vehicular homicidal maniac. But with good cause. The Burnout series has been a long standing tradition on the consoles, throwing away most of the things that realistic racing fans have come to expect and replacing them with a massive tank full of fun and outlandish improbability. Finally, the series has made an appearance on the PC with the latest release of the current iteration. Burnout Paradise – The Ultimate Box to give it it’s full title – contains the entire game released last year to our console cousins allowing you to smash, crash and bash your way though Paradise City. But in addition, all the free updates released for the game in the past year; which even by usual standards is pretty big (including weather, new cars and indeed bikes) and then on top of that the brand new Party Pack – the first premium (ie: paid for) content pack all in one generous package.
The game is set in the rather expansive metropolis of Paradise City, whereupon opportunities for racing and insane stunts are plentiful, not least for the many well placed ramps, billboards and wrought iron fences dotted around the fair city. Rather than going for the route a lot of these ‘freeform’ racing games go with a small area of the city to start you off in and futher areas opened up to you as you make progress, Burnout Paradise drops you off in the middle of the city, with the entire map and (nearly) all it’s races open to you. Just drive along to the nearest junction, and there’s usually one of four different types of events there – Races of course, Stunt Runs which see you pulling off your fanciest tricks in order to rack up a high score. Then there’s the two more agressive modes, Road Rage where you have to take down as many other racers as you can in the time limit, and Marked Man in which you are the one trying to avoid being taken down.
Having the entire map open to you from the off is both exciting and a little bit intimidating, as there really is a great deal to do, along with the events mentioned above there’s billboards to smash, Super Jumps to attempt to leap and gates to crash through. However, some form of progression is offered to you through the unlocking of new cars and improving your Burnout License. Just racking up the wins means these cars start driving around the city, and if you take them out – as in: make them crash – they’re added to your junkyard where you can then take them for a spin yourself. The cars themselves come in three varieties, and some are better suited to certain events than others. The Stunt cars gain a boost from, unsurprisingly, stunts, while the Aggression cars are more hardy and gain their boost from making others crash and smashing stuff up. Finally, the Speed category cars move the fastest but their boost can only be used when completely full – and ‘combos’ which refill the bar can let you achieve teeth-clenchingly fast speeds if you can use the whole lot in one go.
And credit to Criterion, they’ve really done well with the cars. Each type requires a slightly different approach to driving them, and even then just about every car seems different and worth driving. Even when you unlock new cars, you may find yourself heading back to earlier models in order to best achieve your goals. In addition, each vehicle also has a time trial style Burning Route, allowing you to unlock an improved model of each car, which is a great touch. There’s also incentives to smash every billboard and yellow fence in the city in addition to finding every jump, Junk Yard, every garage, paint shop and car park in the city. To top it all off, there’s even Paradise Achievements to be gained from just about every other possible thing to do in the game. All in all, this is a racing game that’s been designed to be the worst nightmare of those with a low attention span. You’ll be lucky to get through an entire race without becoming sidetracked by one of the extra tasks, or seeing that jump you just know you can pull off now you’re going fast enough to hit it. It is rare to see an open world racing game with anywhere near as much stuff to do in between races as Paradise, but that’s not even mentioning the bikes, the Showtime crash mode, the Road Rules or the Party Mode crammed into the game – you really do believe Criterion’s claim that this might just be ‘The Ultimate Box’.
The conversion to the PC is also of worthy merit – it looks pretty damn good even on the minimum specifications, which you would hope to expect from the developers of the multi-platform Renderware engine. And even if the visuals themselves are not to the same sort of level as GRID, the visual style of a slightly sun-kissed look suits the game well and the deformation of the cars when crashing at high speeds looks sufficiently brutal enough. The city itself is almost believable, although you do have to wonder exactly how much they’re paying the cities workforce given the amount of unfinished buildings. However, there is a marked difference to how it feels driving in the downtown area to the countryside half of the map. It’s clear that the world has been designed intricately, to get the most enjoyment from exploring and racing. Every little backalley, every shortcut and every inch of drivable terrain has a purpose and use. Whether it’s for going faster or for getting that little bit of extra height in order to plough through that billboard, I don’t think there’s any part of Paradise City that isn’t there for you to utilize in the best way possible.
Finally, the multiplayer aspect of the game is implemented perfectly for an open world racing game, with so much to do and with such a huge playground, the developers have wisely given players free reign. Of course there are races provided for you, but there’s also challenges giving players the opportunity to do a variety of stunts tasks and races. Even more generously there are different challenges depending on how many players are on the server, plus if you just want to go crazy in Paradise City you can of course do this too. The only negative aspect perhaps from a PC players point of view is that there is no way to see the latency of other players online, and so occasionally the collision detection can be a bit suspect resulting in takedowns when you were sure you (or they) completely missed you…
Overall, BP:TUB (which sounds a bit like a new form of petrol storage) is a welcome introduction to the Burnout series on the PC. If you’ve played the other iterations on the console you may be a little disheartened at the lack of any sort of ‘proper’ crash mode – the Showtime feature is nice, but a bit rubbish in comparison to Burnout 3’s glorious destruction based Crash mode. If you take your racing rather seriously, and are the sort of person who knows your drive belt from your cam shaft, then this may not do much for you. If, however, you want a fast, furious and most of all fun racing game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you could do a lot worse than Burnout Paradise. Some may criticize the lack of difficulty and repetition of the races after a while, but just the fact that Criterion have stuffed in so much to do makes this just about forgiveable – heck, you’ve probably found another jump you missed by the time you notice. Oh, but don’t get this game if you’re a goldfish. Oh, but don’t get this game if you’re a goldfish. Oh, but…