Racing game aficionados always have something to play on the consoles, no matter if it’s an arcade or a full-blown racing simulator. Concerning the arcade genre, the Burnout series boosted itself up onto the podium right from the beginning, mainly because of the destruction level which added a lot of appeal to the races. After releasing Burnout Revenge in 2006, a title which was received very well by critics and gamers alike, Criterion Games continue the franchise with Burnout Paradise, meant to address its predecessor’s minuses by using the latest technology for the next-gen consoles, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, for a new experience.
I started this game with great interest, because I love open-world racing games, the ones that give the player the freedom of exploring vast locations, not constraining him to take part only in certain races, no matter if they are on a circuit or in the cities. A game that meets all of these criteria is Test Drive Unlimited, a game which I play whenever I have the occasion, but in which the stunts and car damage system isn’t present.
The first thing that I observed was that the game doesn’t have a start menu, but you can always press the D-pad’s "Right" button to access the most important options. On a "Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City" background, a feminine voice introduces you briefly into the game, starting with a city named Paradise, followed by DJ Atomica, our guide throughout our whole adventure. This is how I discovered out that there are many types of licenses in order to drive the cars, but since I’m a newbie, I only get a “Learner’s Permit”. Depending on the amount of victories in different types of races, in the future I can obtain types D, C, B, A, with the Elite or Burnout licenses being the most hard to obtain (and the most prestigious because of this).
The action starts inside a Junkyard, where the only vehicle I looks like it surely has seen better days. But no worries, DJ Atomica ensures me that I can fix this by going to an Auto-Repair Shop, which will get my ride in top condition in no-time without any other costs. The producers wanted to simplify the simulation part, so there is no speed meter for instance. Moreover, on the screen, besides the car I was driving, I only found a mini-map, the name of the street I was driving on, and the boost indicator. You can’t even move the camera, but the angle is pretty okay in most of the situations. Unwillingly I notice that the game has certain similarities to Test Drive Unlimited, like an amazing freedom of movement, although Paradise City isn’t quite as large as the island in TDU. In Paradise though there’s lots of traffic, but despite my attempts to spot the driver, I didn’t have much luck. Who drives these cars, I wonder?
The city itself has a nice design, with skyscrapers, tunnels, bridges and even unfinished buildings or cranes, thus bringing a dose of realism to the game. Having in mind the thought of changing my car and driver license as soon as possible, I start the races. Unlike its predecessor in which the races were strongly structured, in Burnout Paradise the player isn’t restricted at all, and has the privilege of choosing anytime the type and order of these races, even while driving through the city. The race starting points can easily be found on the map, therefore you can begin a race by pressing LT+RT (Left Trigger + Right Trigger) when you’re next to the starting line you have chosen.
In Paradise there are four main types of races: Stunt Runs, Races, Marked Man and Road Rage. During Stunt Runs, you need to reach a certain amount of points (depending on your license) in a pre-established period of time. These points are obtained by doing various stunts with your car – jumps from the ramps strategically put throughout town, handbrake turns, drifts or hitting the so-called Billboards. Stun Runs were the races who always gave me headaches, mostly because it is hard to find ramps on streets that you do not know very well, but as I learned the streets (and the ramp’s placement) things came out pretty nice, and the stuns are a visual treat.