Burnout 3: Takedown is, in my opinion, inarguably the greatest racing game ever made. It mixed tight controls, incredible track design, and a frenetic sense of speed with an arcade game like sensibility, and led to a game so gloriously addictive that it is yet to be topped. Its follow ups- Burnout Revenge and Burnout Paradise– were fantastic in their own right, too. Burnout as a franchise was the king of the hill.
And then it all ended. For some reason, Paradise was the last Burnout game EA released. We never got another one after that. Criterion first got pulled into making Need for Speed games- which they did, and they were fine, albeit not as good as Burnout– and then, they got pulled into… what, exactly? The studio was reduced to providing support for other studios, becoming a shell staff, if that. How had the same developer who had given us one of the most beloved franchises of all time come to this?
Well, it’s unclear what happened, or even what the future holds for them- but what is clear is that Burnout, at least, gets another lap under the sun, even if it is on a track we’ve already seen it race on. Burnout Paradise may not be the most beloved Burnout game- in fact, due to its open world nature, as well as its removal of the beloved Crash Mode, it is arguably the most divisive one- but it is a Burnout game nonetheless, and that means it is fantastic by definition. And now, the market gets another shot to let it shine.
"In a lot of ways, booting up Burnout Paradise reveals just how ahead of its time the original game, which came out over ten yeas ago in January 2008, was."
In a lot of ways, booting up Burnout Paradise reveals just how ahead of its time the original game, which came out over ten yeas ago in January 2008, was- here was a game that went fully open world (long before the present movement to open world games industry wide began), and with persistent social events and online gameplay, in the vein of games like Monster Hunter, Destiny, and The Division. And it did this all back in 2008- in many ways, the game was so far ahead of its time, the market probably didn’t properly appreciate it back then.
The flipside of that is, where Paradise may have been a revelation back in 2008- and for all its divisiveness with its fanbase, it was- it can come off as a little ho-hum and trite today. An open world racer? With persistent social elements? What’s the big deal, exactly? Every game does that today. Heck, even racers do that today, including Ubisoft’s The Crew, Microsoft’s Forza Horizon, and EA’s own new Need for Speed games.
The thing that Burnout Paradise, however, does, which those games do not, and which allows it to easily surmount and belie its age, is just how fantastically well it is designed. This is instantly apparent with Paradise City, which the game takes place in and is named after- Paradise City is a monument of game design, one of the best, most dense, and richly designed levels ever. It unfolds like a sprawling, multi layered labyrinth, with everything from roads, to shortcuts, billboards, traffic, and obvious and not-so-obvious markers acting as cues for where the player can go and what they can do. Burnout Paradise‘s open world was a revelation, not just for how well it was implemented in context of the larger racing in the gameBurnout games had always been about causing carnage, with emphasis being on the ‘car’ part of that word- and in Burnout Paradise, the training wheels were off, and you got a full city to spread your terror in, ramming into traffic and causing glorious metal destruction.
The actual driving is utterly fantastic, too. Controls are tight, the sense of speed is palpable (seriously, no one ever did this as well as Criterion did), and the sensation of making a sharp turn to nudge into a vehicle who then slams into the side of the road, with glorious particle effect aplenty to signify the crash as the camera pans over the destruction in slow motion… there are few feelings as visceral or as satisfying in all of gaming. Ten years later, Burnout manages to still show up just about every other racing game on the market how it is done.
It helps, too, that there is so much to do in Paradise– the base game was absolutely packed with content, as already mentioned, but EA and Criterion have also made the wise decision of including every single bit of DLC ever released for the title with the remaster. Which is standard practice for all remasters, of course, and only adds to the amount of already ludicrous content available in the game- but also has the curious effect of actually adversely affecting the game somewhat in this case, since many high level cars, that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to you until the end game, are unlocked from the get go now, ruining the progression curve somewhat.
"Burnout Paradise is absolutely fantastic. I cannot give many games a higher recommendation than I am giving to this game. Burnout was, back in the day, king, and Paradise was the king’s final days on the throne. Now we don’t know if the king will ever return, but at least, for now, we get to relive the last of his glory days."
It helps that it looks and sounds great, too. Paradise was a looker back in the day, thanks to Criterion being technical geniuses, and because their art style was sharp and clean- and ten years later, remastered in glorious 4K, the game continues to look stunning. There are some things about it that can betray its age somewhat- like some blander textures- but if you can see those, chances are you’re going too slow, and therefore not playing the game as it is supposed to be played.
That said, the game’s strong technical and visual design for its time, or the fact that the sense of speed can cover the blemishes that it has now in 2018, cannot excuse the fact that this seems to be a curiously subdued port. Yes, the game looks good- but that’s because, as mentioned, because of the extremely strong visual design the original game had to begin with. Improvements on the original are minimal, and while 4K resolution is supported, the rest of the game’s visuals don’t seem to have gotten the upgrade that they deserved to go along with that increase in resolution, which only throws the deficiencies in sharper contrast.
Burnout Paradise also had a hell of a soundtrack, with Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City playing as you booted the game up, and… I am so happy to report that the music has made it through into the remaster with no omissions. Given not just how good the music was, but how much it actively contributed to the atmosphere of the game, I am so glad this is the case.
On the other hand, as great as Burnout Paradise is, there are certain aspects of it that betray that it is an older game right away. The most baffling of this is the lack of fast travel or quick select for events. Now, this does make sense from a perspective- Criterion has created this whole sandbox for you to tromp around in, and bypassing that literally misses the point of the game, and travel in a Burnout game is by definition fast. But a time will come when you are dozens of hours into the game, and you have already scoured and uncovered the entire city, discovered all its shortcuts and collectibles, and there is nothing new left to uncover- at that point, you probably just want to get on to the next race already, and the game doesn’t let you. That’s kind of a bummer.
The other big problem is, and this was as much a problem back in 2008 as it is now, the lack of a Crash Mode. Crash Mode was, along with the takedown fuelled Road Rage mode, the series’ most popular and signature mode. There was a puzzle box sensibility to Crash Mode, which asked players to carefully consider the flow of the traffic, the placement of power ups, and the lay of the roads, before timing their crashes that made it so compelling- but it was gone from Paradise. Its replacement was a mode name Showtime, and while it was fine, it was never as great as Crash Mode. It still is not.
These problems mar the experience a bit- but only a bit. Burnout Paradise is absolutely fantastic. I cannot give many games a higher recommendation than I am giving to this game. Burnout was, back in the day, king, and Paradise was the king’s final days on the throne. Now we don’t know if the king will ever return, but at least, for now, we get to relive the last of his glory days- for now, that will have to suffice.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 4.
Incredible sense of speed, tight controls, satisfying gameplay unlike anything the industry has been able to offer since, gorgeous graphics that miraculously manage to hold up to this day, an incredible soundtrack, a sense of style and atmosphere that is unmatched in the industry, an impeccably designed open world that is a monument to game design and still a delight to unravel
Minor blemishes that show the game's age, such as its lack of some QoL features like fast travel; Crash Mode is, sadly, still missing; minimal improvements over the original; inclusion of DLC perplexingly spoils the progression curve of the game somewhat