Released: 16 March 2014
Originally Released: 22 January 2008
Developer: Criterion Games
Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Original Version); Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 (Remaster)
The Burnout franchise is a series of racing games developed by Criterion Games that began with the appropriately-titled Burnout (ibid, 2001) and is best known for its fast-paced, arcade style racing and its innovative crash mechanics and physics. Now, traditionally, I’m not really one for racing games; it’s not really my thing and I tend to stay away from anything that isn’t a mascot racer. In 2011, though, you may remember that millions of PlayStation Network accounts were compromised; as a means of compensation, players were offered a number of free games, one of which was Burnout Paradise, a title I ended up enjoying so much that I bought a physical copy some time later.
Unlike the other games in the Burnout series, Burnout Paradise is an open world game designed around exploration, online play, and racing without predefined tracks. Though the developers had to work hard to justify these new elements with the game’s sceptical publisher, Electronic Arts, Burnout Paradise was met with a generally positive response from critics and was supported by lots of downloadable content (DLC) that included additional cars, gameplay modes, and a whole new island to explore. The vast majority of this content was included in the Remastered version of the game, which also included support for higher-resolution monitors and ran at sixty frames a second. Considering how much fun I had with the original version of the game, I was delighted when a friend of mine gifted me the Remastered version so I could get back to racing through the streets, taking down cars with reckless abandon, and bopping along to the game’s awesome soundtrack.
Welcome to Paradise City, a large, urban environment where racing is the aim of the game. With guidance from DJ Atomika, you are shown the basics of how to race in Paradise City with the ultimate aim to upgrade your driving licence and earn a whole collection of top quality motors.
Burnout Paradise: Remastered is an open world racing game in which you drive around the fictional Paradise City taking part in a series of races and other challenges to upgrade your driving license, unlock some cool cars, and be the most respected driver in the entire city. There isn’t really a “story” to speak of or a character to play as; all of the cars are empty, the streets are completely devoid of pedestrians, and while the motorbikes do have a rider, they disappear if you get into one of the game’s signature wreck sequences. As a result, the vehicles take centre stage and the only character the game really has is DK Atomika, a radio DJ who acts as your guide and talks you through the basics of the game’s controls, objectives, and offers advice as you’re driving around.
There are a variety of vehicles on offer in Burnout Paradise: Remastered, each with their own unique statistics and abilities, though all control largely similar: you press and hold in the Right Trigger to accelerate, use the Left Trigger to brake and reverse, glance behind you with the Left Bumper and switch camera positions with the Y button, and press X to use your emergency brake (or “E brake”) to perform drifts and power slides and such. As you drive, you’ll also build up a Boost meter in the bottom left of the screen; once it’s full, you can initiate a nitrous boost with the X button to blast ahead and dramatically increase your speed and odds in races. The type of car you have determines how long your Boost meter is and how effective it is; while “Speed” orientated cars have the smallest meter that drains once you press and hold A, heavier vehicles allowing for a three-tiered Boost meter, and “Stunt” orientated cars build their meter by performing special tricks and jumps.
Choosing the right type of vehicle is the key to completing all of the game’s various racing challenges (known as “Events”); you may have to sacrifice speed for strength to survive “Marked Man” challenges but heavier cars won’t serve you too well in the longer races. In Burnout Paradise: Remastered, you can pull up and stop at multiple sets of traffic lights throughout the city and initiate an Event by pressing LT and RT together and there are multiple types of Events on offer. Each vehicle has their own unique Burning Route, a timed event that awards you an alternative version of the vehicle you use (with Burning and Midnight Rides substituting for the bikes); Marked Man has you race to a specific point on the map while a number of cars try to take you down; a Race is simply that: you start at one point and race to another, generally against more opponents and across a longer, more difficult distance as the game progresses; Road Rage has you perform a set number of takedowns within a time limit; and Stunt Run has you performing power slides, jumps, and a variety of other tricks to build up a required amount of points.
There are a couple of other Events on offer as well, such as Road Rules, Time Road Rules, and Showtime Road Rules, which see you setting speed and damage runs within a time limit for the benefit of the online leaderboards. You can use the directional pad (D-pad) to restart an Event if you mess up or are about to lose and the D-pad also accesses a separate menu for online functionality. Navigating Paradise City is pretty simple thanks to the mini map in the bottom right of the screen, which clearly shows the main road through the city and the many twisting, turning side roads and country lanes; it also highlights your opponents and nearby points of interest, like the Auto Repair shops that repair your car when it has taken damage and the Junk Yards where you can switch vehicles. If you need a better view, you can access a larger, more detailed map from the pause screen and filter it to show these landmarks, and others, which are added to your map as you pass by them while driving. Sadly, though, there’s no way to set a route to follow and no fast travel features but there are plenty of recognisable landmarks (such as the airfield, the football stadium, and the country club) and, as you’re racing towards a destination, street signs appear at the top of the screen and blink left or right so you always know when to turn…just be prepared to apply a little E-brake for tight corners.
Of course, the biggest selling point of the game, and the franchise, are the elaborate crashes; as you’re driving along at high speeds, you’ll have to dodge other vehicles and obstacles such as walls and bollards. If you clip or crash head-first into these, you’ll be treated to a stunning visual of your vehicle crumpling like paper or flipping over and over. If the crash is only minor, you might get lucky enough to simply drive away from it but, if it’s more serious, your car will get wrecked and you’ll need to visit an Auto Repair to fix it up. There is no game over, though, so you don’t need to worry about the game ending because of damage but if you get too smashed up you won’t last long in Events so it’s best to either repair the damage or switch to a tougher vehicle.
Graphics and Sound:
As a racing title, the main thing Burnout Paradise: Remastered needs to worry about is performing consistently well at high speeds and rendering its large, multifaceted city. Thankfully, the game excels at both as I experienced no slowdown at all even when racing against multiple opponents and the city flies past at breakneck speed, never glitching or suffering from pop up or loads times, which are effectively masked by the city’s vast size and various areas. The only times I found the game slowed down was when you were in the Junk Yard, especially when you visit after unlocking a number of new vehicles, as each one has to load in and there’s no way to skip past these sequences.
Burnout Paradise: Remastered features a wide variety of cars, bikes, and other vehicles, all of which are based heavily on real-world vehicles but changed for legal purposes. You’ll get to drive sports cars, muscle cars, racing cars, jeeps, coupes, and even massively impractical piston engines on wheels. There are also a selection of motorcycles on offer, cop cars and other emergency vehicles, vehicles based on iconic cars from television shows and movies, and even miniature toy cars. I’m no really a “car guy” but I was impressed by the game’s wide selection and the detail on offer; each vehicle controls a little differently and even crashes a little differently so you can mix and match and experiment to see what’s best for you in any given situation. It’s not easy to do this, though, since you have to travel to a Junk Yard to switch cars, which can take a while if you’re stuck in the mountains, but the majority of the cars can also be customised with paint jobs in the Junk Yard are by driving through a Paint Shop.
Paradise City itself is the game’s most impressive feature; it’s a massive city, with lots to do and see, and it’s just fun to simply drive around aimlessly listening to some tunes and looking for things to smash through. Numerous tracks will play from the in-game radio; these can be skipped using RB and customised from the main menu and include classic music, original tracks from the previous Burnout games, and some kick-ass tunes from the likes of Sense Fail, Alice in Chains, Twisted Sister, and, of course, the game’s title track: “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses. The game also features a day/night cycle that you can customise the length of from the pause menu, which is a neat feature, and there are numerous landmarks to see all over the place. You’ll also stumble across fun little side areas to mess around in, such as a number of parking lots for big jumps, a quarry pit, and a railroad track and the game’s size and scope is further expanded with a visit across the bridge to Big Surf Island, where a host of additional challenges await.
Enemies and Bosses:
As it’s a racing game, there’s no real “enemies” in the traditional sense; one of the main things you’ll need to worry about as you race around the city are the many hazards that can wreck your car, from small stuff like walls and bollards to major things like oncoming traffic or rocky cliffs. When racing in Events, your main enemy will, of course, be the other racers; these start off pretty simple, with one or two cars putting up a little bit of competition, but as your license upgrades you’ll find the opponents start taking multiple different routes to the end goal and are much tougher to beat. One thing that is helpful, though, is that you can take the other drivers down to give yourself an edge in a race; they’ll return to the fray but it can be enough to buy you some time to pull ahead.
You’ll face far more aggressive opposition in Marked Man and Road Rage Events; in the former, black cars will try to ram you off the road and wreck your car and, in the latter, you’ll be doing this to a certain number of vehicles. Again, at first, this isn’t so hard; you can race up behind and alongside the cars to shove them into oncoming traffic, walls, and other opponents to build up a multiplier bonus which is always fun but, as the game progresses, the opponents get faster and much more aggressive so it’s worth switching to a car with more strength and durability than a flimsy sports car.
Similarly, there are no “bosses” as such but, as you win Events and upgrade your licence, new vehicles will appear throughout Paradise City. When these race past you, you have to chase after them and take them down in order to add that vehicle to your Junk Yard. Again, chasing down cars and smashing them up makes for some of the most entertaining aspects of the game but it’s a bit random when they’ll appear and fly past you and, as the map doesn’t highlight them, you’ll have to keep your eyes open when there’s a few out in the wild.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There’s only really one power-up available to you in the game and that’s the aforementioned Boost function. The Boost meter is built up by performing takedowns, stunts, and racing along, and really is the most valuable tool in your arsenal as it allows you to quickly catch up to cars to take them down or blast past them to the finish line. The downside, though, comes when you drive a vehicle that blows through its Boost meter in one go and the boost you receive can make certain cars careen out of control and into incredible crashes.
Otherwise, your power-ups are tied towards the type of vehicle you use; faster cars with a decent Boost meter are good for most of the game’s Events but can cause you to be easily smashed up. As a result, it’s best to keep an eye out for the Auto Repair Shops to repair any damage and refill your boost at other drive-throughs, both of which are super handy mid-race to give you an edge.
As you explore Paradise City, you’ll find numerous gates and giant billboards to crash through; if you spot these, make sure you crash into them at every opportunity as you’ll learn a handy shortcut and take one step towards earning the game’s numerous Achievements. In addition, scattered throughout the city are a number of jumps and Super Jumps, many of which will have you crashing through one of the 120 billboards and are guaranteed to be found atop the parking lots. You’ll want to reverse up a bit, though, and get a good run up and time your boost to really fly through the Super Jumps and make sure you stick the landing or you might fail the jump.
As mentioned above, the game features a number of Achievements; fifty-six, in fact. From what I can tell from my memory of the PlayStation 3 version’s Trophies, these are actually a little different than those seen in the original game and include such things as upgrading your licence, landing a certain number of Super Jumps, getting a takedown multiplier, winning Events, and so forth. You can easily burn through a whole bunch in just an hour or so of play but you’ll need to hunt high and low to find all the billboards and gates to smash through.
Thanks to being the most complete version of the game, Burnout Paradise: Remastered includes all of the DLC from the original game; this means you can jump in a variety of police cars (each of which comes with a siren you can toggle on and off) to race around in. These cop cars are also used in the game’s online mode as a “Capture the Flag” style game where four players, as the cops, must chase four others as the robbers. You can also challenge online players to ranked and unranked races, Freeburn Challenges, and variations of the usual in-game Events, as well as have your best times and scores uploaded to the online leaderboards. Toy versions of certain cars are also freely available as are the “Legendary Cars”, which offer vehicles based on the Knight Industries Three Thousand (K.I.T.T.), ECTO-1, and the DeLorean time machine, amongst others. I found myself drawn towards these simply for their speed and iconography and the fact that you can put the DeLorean into hover mode!
Finally, there’s Big Surf Island, a massive extra area to explore that is accessed via a bridge. Big Surf Island is smaller than Paradise City but pretty big in its own right and is home to a whole new load of billboards, gates, and jumps (here called “Mega Jumps”) as well as new cars (most of which you’ll have access to from the start) and Events that see you having to race to specific checkpoints across the island. One thing to keep in mind about Big Surf Island, though, is that nothing you do there contributes to upgrading your driving licence; instead, the points go towards building up your “Big Surf Island License”, which is levelled up to 100% by completing everything the island has to offer.
Now, I’m not really a fan of cars or racing, much less racing games; all of my car knowledge comes from Top Gear (specifically from 2002 to 2015) and my experience with racing games is limited to a few arcade titles and kart/mascot racers. Yet, I really enjoyed Burnout Paradise and, as such, found this Remastered version just as enjoyable, if not more so thanks to the inclusion of all of the DLC right off the bat so you have everything the game has to offer available to you. If you enjoy racing, the game has you covered. Stunts and such? It’s not for me but it’s in there. Maybe you’re more like me and you prefer the high speed crashes and taking down other cars by shoving them into the path of an oncoming bus without mercy. If so, this is the game for you. Simple to play, with loads to do and see, and fun to just drive around aimlessly, Burnout Paradise: Remastered is a great game to just throw on for an hour or so and unwind after a stressful day, taking part in some super fast races, ridiculous crashes, and listening to some great tunes while you do it.
Are you a fan of Burnout Paradise and the Burnout franchise? If so, which game is your favourite and what is it about the games that you like? Did you pick up this Remastered version of the game; if so, how do you think it compares to the original? What is your favourite racing game franchise? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and let me know.