Paradise becomes a Haven
Glimpsing upon Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box, I felt a tad confused. Here was a series that built up its unique reputation on its fetish for watching public information videos about drink driving, introducing bikes into its cathartic mix of vehicle violence. Then I see a 7+ rating. Surely a high speed crash in the world of Burnout without a mobile cage to protect you would send vital organs flying into the faces of seagulls, swatting them down over a dishevelled corpse whilst policemen in France are picking up bone marrow. Being the curious, yet slightly sick man that I am, I tested it out at top speed, and instead of the aforementioned scenario, the rider seems to disappear, perhaps off to Hogwarts, before any damage can be done. Shame.
Sadistic this may seem, it’s what Burnout does best with all its players. It brings out an unparalleled blood lust in us that can rival Jason Statham jittering on Amphetamines. Back in 2008, Burnout took its vicious vehicle violence to the streets of Paradise City, and now it’s returned with a bunch of shiny extras attached.
Despite the aforementioned promised madness, things in Paradise City begin remarkably calm. The sun glistens across the perfectly clear sea as it casts shadows of the pier across the moist sand. You, an ordinary civilian, leisurely cruise across the seaside in a vintage American Muscle car. The cities’ only lead figure of authority, DJ Atomika, is nice enough to freely give you your driver’s license whilst playing you some whimsical classical music. Of course it’s only a matter of time before you’re asked to turn the city into a high speed arena of mayhem.
Winning events and dominating the roads with your dangerous driving earns points on your license, but of course, in the twisted world of Paradise City, points don’t mean a huge fine and a heavily cushioned cell, points mean PRIZES!!! Do well in the city and you’ll be flooded with new cars that’ll help you defeat more experienced drivers in future events, ranging from deceptively simple races to classic Burnout Road Rages, specifically built to release your sadistic steroid built alter ego. All 120 events can be easily accessed by simply pulling up at a traffic junction, throwing acres worth of menus to the wind and making gameplay run incredibly smoothly.
Points don’t mean a huge fine and a heavily cushioned cell, points mean PRIZES!!!
The free-roaming aspect of Burnout Paradise is also emphasised in the events and proves itself critical within races. Players are given the location of the finish line, and are then left to their own devices to map out their way there. This can be either an incredibly good or horribly bad system, depending on how you play the game. Constantly referring to the mute GPS in the corner may seem like the easiest option, it puts you in serious danger of colliding with those civilians who just want to make it through another day in the city without a write off. Those who refer to the indicators on the top of the screen showing them a fairly basic way of getting from A to B miss out on finding decent routes and the whole thing sort of abolishes the ‘Free-roaming’ aspect of the game. Having your other half sit next to you, staring intensely at the GPS, screaming out directions will do nothing but damage both your car and your relationship. The only way to truly feel the benefits of the events is by simply driving, discovering and learning the layout of the city. It seems like a big thing to ask, but behind the vast amount of roads and junctions lies a simple layout with memorable landmarks, making the map and the indicators seem less like bare necessities in your fights for survival.
‘Crash Junctions’ from previous games, where the player would have to simply crash and burn whilst causing as much havoc with the traffic as possible, have been replaced with ‘Road Rules’. Each of the 64 roads hold two records. One a time record, where players will have to beat a set time period driving from one end of the road to the other, and Crash records where players must collide with as many cars as possible. Despite not following the conventional manners seen in ‘Crash Junctions’ and stripping the mode of special bonuses such as multipliers, it still remains an incredibly addictive feature of the game. Completing both records on a road give you a gold plated sign in your honour and proclaims that you rule the road. Although a brilliant feature which extends the gameplay even further, I await a customisation mode for each street you rule for the sequel so I can paint everything to form a replica of Tracy Island.
Despite tons of things to keep lonely players happy, online play is heavily emphasised in Burnout Paradise, and those who log in won’t be disappointed. On top of the standard online events, players are given hundreds of challenges to complete. Unfortunately they all rely on team work, and should someone quit halfway in-between, a challenge will automatically cancel itself out, causing much frustration. Then again, this is more a gripe with the human race in general, rather than the game itself, and Burnout Paradise is one of those games that tells you it’s alright to shriek, swear and stick two fingers up at the online opposition. Hell, even those with a Xbox Live Vision Camera are able to moon me whenever I take them down, adding piles of diseased flesh to my otherwise sweet victory.
Exclusive to The Ultimate Box are several extras. Some of them are only small, but welcome. The ability to allow Paradise City to follow the same time zone you’re in gives the game a much more natural feel, and the ability to instantly restart an event after failing saves a lot of unnecessary and annoying backtracking. You’re even greeted with the Burnout Paradise Network, a handy application which keeps track of all the goings on in Paradise City, tracking your records, informing you on new DLC, and…telling you what the weather is like in Rome…
Of course, the bikes take the centre stage in terms of new content. Rather than focusing on battling it out and deliberately attempting to cripple other drivers whilst listening to Beethoven, (Scenes which could easily be slipped into a Director’s Cut of A Clockwork Orange), the bikes focus more on speed and balance out the driving styles of both vehicles well. However, events only consist of speed runs from A to B with nothing but the time for competition, and with only 4 bikes to choose from, the add-on does feel slightly slim.
Having said this, however, Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box is a huge, beautiful, unique driving game which manages to refuel the franchise and give it the boost it needed. It’s incredibly easy to either jump in for 5 minutes or play for a marathon set of hours and is guaranteed to keep you hooked throughout
this dreary, disappointing summer. Drive carefully.
The Bad: Bikes can be a tad fragile and a few additions are a little slim