Burnout Paradise

Burnout Paradise
Burnout Paradise Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, Windows, PlayStation 3
Genre Open-world arcade racing
MtAMinutes to Action 5
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

We haven’t played a lot of first hours of racing games: Diddy Kong Racing, Beetle Adventure Racing, and Split/Second, that’s about it. They don’t make for very conducive first hour and usually a gamer can figure out within the first lap of the first race whether they’ll enjoy the rest of the game.

But Burnout Paradise set about to turn racing games on their head. Mixing the super-arcade pedigree of the previous Burnout titles with the open-worldness of the Grand Theft Auto series produced one of 2008’s hits. Criterion Games produced a well received game that has allowed them to branch out and work on last year’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which also received similar acclaim (and many, many sales).

I have a long history with the Burnout series stemming from a random rental I made of Burnout 3: Takedown during college. I was very excited to play Paradise when it was released but had to settle with just playing the excellent demo for the longest time until I received the game myself for the Xbox 360.

This first hour review was originally supposed to be for the site Games ‘N Beer, which hopefully much like this site, is self-explanatory in nature. I conducted some drunk driving safely in my own living room playing Burnout Paradise with a six-pack of Summit beer in January 2010, with the intention that he would post the review along with my thoughts on the beer. Alas, CJ Stratton has seemingly given up on the site with only one post since then, so I’ve decided to deliver the goods the normal way.

As for the beer, it was delicious and went down smooth. As for the game, here’s the first hour of Burnout Paradise.

Minute by Minute

00 - As I load up Burnout Paradise Guns ‘n Roses’ Paradise City is unsurprisingly playing in the background. Would I like to download the update so I can play online? Nah, not for the first hour.

01 - The camera pans over Paradise City, looks fantastic. This is my first Burnout game on the current generation of systems, even though Burnout Revenge was released on the Xbox 360 (I own it on the original Xbox).

02 - The female narrator is describing all the various hot-spots of Paradise City: country club, stadium, ranch... This is more of a full-on county than just a city. Reminds me of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

03 - More loading... more Paradise City (the song). How about some more Paradise City (the game)? Going to get my learner’s permit in a moment, has my avatar’s picture on it, if I had the Xbox Live camera that people use to show off their junk while playing Uno I could get my real headshot in the game!

04 - My first car is a Hunter Cavalry. This car looks really bad, ouch. Oh, I can get it fixed up. Still haven’t driven yet.

05 - Finally get control of the car, controls are pretty typical for a racer: R accelerates and L brakes. You initiate events by pulling up to intersections and revving your engine. I tune my car up at an auto repair station, the Cavalry honestly looks great now. Also refilled my boost.

Burnout Paradise Learners Permit

06 - Going to attempt the first mission at Agnes Wharf and Watt Street. The game reveals the map and reveals I need to essentially travel across the entire city while staying alive. Road signs flicker by as I pass through intersections.

08 - I’ve been taken out a few times now, the Crash FM DJ suggests I drive a stronger car. At critical damage now that I’ve been taken out three times, will I make it? Nope. Four takedowns and I’m done.

09 - Game looks gorgeous on my HDTV, looks better than Grand Theft Auto IV and of course, the cars control a lot better. I take out a few secret route barriers... 4/400 discovered. What?!

11 - Almost did a barrel roll off a ramp, almost. My car gets beat up but lets me keep driving. That’s awesome, zero downtime. Out in the country now, again reminds me of San Andreas (loved that game, by the way).

12 - Boost buildup seems to work the same way as the previous titles: drive against traffic, go off jumps, nearly miss big crashes, etc. No traffic checking thankfully! Whoops, wrecked my car! Awesome, the game just gives me a fresh one, thank you!

Burnout Paradise Paradise Wharf Boost

14 - I take a look at the map... geez, this is huge. Paradise City proper only takes up about one-fifth of the entire map! Let’s participate in another survival race.

16 - I’ve only wrecked once so far, and took someone else out too!

18 - Well, now I’m in critical, but the end is in sight! Yes!

19 - Just noticed there’s no one in my car, hey, there’s no one in any car! I think at least Burnout 3: Takedown had a stunt man inside.

21 - Working on a Road Rage event now, woah, there’s an El Camino! Probably not an official El Camino though. Hah, I just took it out!

24 - Even though I ended up crashing too many times, I still won the event with seven takedowns! My license has been updated to a D license. The Hunter Mesquite has been unlocked. That’s a car, not something else that sounds just as dumb.

Burnout Paradise Billboard Crash

27 - Cruising around town now looking for some other interesting events. Have to admit it’s pretty great just to break some laws and cause havoc.

29 - The game utilizes the fabled EA Trax to handle the music, more Alice in Chains.

30 - Just lost a one-on-one race very badly, was never even in first. Tough loss, but I’m really appreciating the arcade style racing of Burnout. Just have bad memories of Gran Turismo, Forza, PGR, etc.

34 - In another race now and I’m winning! Even though the map looks big, traveling across it doesn’t take long at all. I win and grab an achievement.

35 - A Nakamura car is driving around Paradise City now and if I take it out I add it to my collection, just need to find it...

36 - OH! There it is! I’m going to take this sucker down. Yeah! Got it, guess I got his pink slip. 3/75 cars unlocked.

Burnout Paradise car Damage Critical

39 - The narrator has decided to talk for a couple minutes about all the different things you can do with the D-pad including racing online. You can also bounce your car after you crash, huh?

40 - Graphics still look great, marveling at the skyline. I’m in another race now, the computer is taking the highway and I’m on the city streets, one of the bonuses of Burnout going open world. Looks like the highway was the way to go, I took third.

42 - Found a Burning Route but it’s not for my car, dang. Oh, here’s that duel race I lost earlier, let’s try it again. Not a good start: already crashed!

43 - Oh, he just crashed on his own! Loser. Except I crash again, sucker. Yeah, I lost.

46 - Cruising around town until I find another race, this is just a normal six car race.

47 - And I won! Four more racers until I unlock the next license, and the Hunter Vegas is cruising around Paradise City for me to takedown and capture.

Burnout Paradise City map

51 - Continuing to drive around Paradise City just exploring the world.

53 - Tons of ramps, shortcuts, and other things to find around town. Criterion really pulled off the transition from relatively linear racer to full-on open world.

55 - Found a junkyard to exchange my car out, the cars drop down from the sky one-by-one in front of you. Makes for picking out a car kind of slow, actually.

56 - I decide to try out the Nakamura, as soon as I leave the junkyard I see the Hunter Vegas which is available for capture!

58 - Finally got the sly dog, he put up a bit of a fight, but in the end I know the game doesn’t want to make it too frustrating.

60 - No time for any more races so that’s it for the first hour of Burnout Paradise!

Burnout Paradise Huge Jump

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 5

What I loved: The open world gameplay of Burnout Paradise meant Criterion Games had to make a lot of interesting gameplay decisions such as how to trigger races, recover from wrecks, and keep the non-racing gameplay entertaining. I believe they succeeded on all fronts, especially on car wrecks. There’s essentially two types of wrecks, one that you can immediately drive away from because you landed back on your wheels, and one that just requires a quick screen wipe to get you back on the road. You’re never sent back to the start of the race or some obscure location on the map, even when your car is in totaled, you are instantly rewarded a brand new one. Zero downtime is the best kind.

While the car I used was supposed to be junk, I still loved the way it handled. Rounding corners was decidedly fun and easy, at least relative to something like Grand Theft Auto IV.

What I didn’t like: Graphically gorgeous, but it’s a bit odd not seeing any people around, whether they’re absent from cars or the street. I know this isn’t supposed to be Carmageddon (yet), but for such a realistic looking world, something feels missing.

For a more real complaint, I felt like I was driving by mini-map most of the time. Paradise City is a big place with lots of intersections, and while the game tries to give you as much on-screen help as it can, navigating an unknown city just isn’t easy. Will I get used to it eventually? Probably. Doesn’t mean it’s not tough at first though.

Would I Keep Playing? Yes, Burnout Paradise features an excellent first hour that just lets you race and enjoy the road. I can't wait to be taken down to Paradise City.