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Burnout Paradise Member Review for the Xbox360

Tyrranis By:
GENRE Racing 
DEVELOPER Criterion 
E10+ Contains Language, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Take me down in the Paradise City...

...where the girls ain't there and the cars ain't pretty (Well, not once I've gotten ahold of them).

Yup, another Burnout title has come (and been for a while), this time set in the fictional Paradise City, probably to justify the licensing of the Guns 'N Roses song referenced a couple of lines ago. But, while this one does focus on the same, face-melting speeds of previous installments, it somehow manages to both stick to its often-contradicting roots AND innovate at the same time!

Confused? Read on!

As I said, the game is set in Paradise City. But, unlike previous titles that had you zipping across the globe, Paradise is set entirely in this city, and in the entire city. All the time. Even during races. That means that the old single-path routes of old instalments are out, and navigation creativity is in. You can choose your own route to the objective, and to make it easy, every race will end at one of the 8 pre-determined end-race points. All you gotta do is figure out which one a particular race is going to, plot your course and then drive it. Then, maybe you might actually want to put it into practice by starting the race. It's not necessary to know exactly where you're going, though, as more often than not you can just follow a competitor until the final stretch, then make him play tag with some unfortunate wall, car or other such solid object and steal a victory. Is it a dirty way to win? Yeah. Is it punished? Hell no! Is it rewarded? Oh, yes! Is it fun? Hell yes!

The game modes are half-new, half-familiar for fans of the Burnout series (otherwise known as Burners, or from their opponents in other racing games; "Wall-hugging, aggressive gits who ram their way to the front.") You've got your standard races which can have 1, 5 or 7 opponents, your Burning Routes (Time-attack runs for specific cars) and your Road Rage events, where you win by 'taking down' your opponents (Read: Ram them off the road). Then, you have the three new game types, Marked Man, which works like the Pursuit mode of old, only you gotta get to a specific end-zone while crazed black-sedan drivers tail you and try to give you a concrete makeover. You crash too much, you lose. You get to the end, you don't lose. There's also the Stunt Man modes, where you have a certain time period to earn a certain amount of points by boosting, power-sliding and doing aerial stunts.

The final game mode is Showtime, which is different from the other 5 in terms of its execution. In comarison to Burnouts past, it is similar in effect to the Crash mode of old. When you hit both bumpers at the same time, your car goes end-over-end. Each car you hit gets cash, with some objects in the game world (signs for example) being worth extra cash. You can't move in the traditional pedal-makes-the-wheels-move sense, but you can move by 'hopping' your car. Each hop takes boost, and you earn it by hitting cars, the bigger the better. Each road has its own Showtime score, but your Showtime runs only have to start on that road to qualify. It's not Crash mode, but its definately fun.

Much like how you unlock some of your cars. Although it is true that you get handed cars when you advance your license and when you win a Burning Route, all the other cars are unlocked via. a Shutdown. What that means is that while you're just freeburning around the city (Read: Driving outside of events), you may find these cars jetting around at ludicrous speeds. Take them off the road, and they'll be sent to the Junkyard. Or, more specifically, one of the Junkyards around the city where you store and retrieve your cars. It'll need a repair though, like all the cars you unlock.

Each car has one of three methods of Boosting: Speed, Stunt or Aggression. Fans of the first two Burnout titles, as well as anyone else who likes to move like a greased weasal with a jet booster will choose a Speed-type, as although they can only boost once the bar is full, using the entire bar in one go means they perform a Burnout, and they get a lot of the bar back instantly. Out of the three types, Speed cars have the smallest Boost bars, and they tend to be supercars which can go insanely insane speeds, but tend to crumple whenever touched by anything.

Stunt cars are for the lemming-people who just can't stand having all four wheels on the ground, or facing the direction they are travelling. They have the largest boost bars, and can use their boost anytime, with bigger earns than the other two types for stunts, such as jumps and slides. As such, their cars tend to be good balances between speed and weight.

Lastly, there's the Aggression cars, for people like me who drive with all the subtlety and nuance of a flourescent green sledgehammer, preferring the ability to both take and dish out blows with an incredible ferocity. Aside from getting more boost for attacking opponents, these cars follow the rules of more recent Burnout titles, starting with Takedown. When you cause an opponent to crash, you get an extra chunk of Boost bar, and get it filled too. You get taken down, you lose a chunk. Fortunately, the technology has evolved, so you can crash without losing a chunk, so long as it's only because you were being an idiot, instead of being a victim. With all the chunks, Aggression cars have the biggest bars, but without any chunks, they have the same size bars as a Speed car. Larger Aggression cars also have the 'traffic checking' rule of Burnout: Revenge, except refined in that even same-way traffic can be checked, but you can only check a few cars before you end up doing an accordian impersonation. (Well, this larger cars rule could also apply to Stunt and Speed cars, but I have yet to find a single one of them get a high-enough Strength stat so that they can do it)

This pretty much lives to the slogan I made up for the Burnout series; "Some people race with speed, others race with style. I race by process of elimination". Man, that paranoia's setting in again...

Anyway, the music of Burnout: Paradise is yet another example of old-meets-new, with a combination of licensed tracks (including the aforementioned 'Paradise City') and songs from Burnouts of old. There's the good, such as the amazingly appropriate 'Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast' (Which, if I may be frank, the first time I heard it I thought it said "Too much, too young, too badass", which is no less awesome), the mediocre, like the aforementioned 'Paradise City' (Don't get me wrong, it's a great song, it just seems shoehorned into the game), and there's the bad. I mean, honestly, April Lavigne's 'Girlfriend'? I certainly hope they didn't put that in intentionally. It's the only song in the playlist that I turned off completely, all others I didn't like I just put into Freeburn mode (They'll turn off whenever I start a race, leaving behind only the awesome) It's also somewhat amusing to hear the different renditions of the Burnout theme, which first appeared in Burnout 2 as 'Destroyer Mix'.

It's also rather nice to just cruise around the city. Not just to take notes of shortcuts, jumps and such, but just to appreciate the aesthetics. Paradise makes good use of next-gen processing power, and presents itself incredibly well. The city looks amazing, and even the effect you get when you're near death on events where crashs matter (Showtime, Road Rage and Marked Man) all the colour bleeds out looks great and is so subtle you won't notice it until you finish an event near-death, and the contrast between it and the standard view really comes into focus.

But not all is well in Paradise. For one, the car variety is lacking. Most of your rides will be sedans, hatchbacks and the like. OK, there are exceptions, such as the 4 x 4, van and SUV, but those are few and far between. I'd like to see some more insane car choices, like beach buggies, jet cars and perhaps a semi or two. I remember the Super Heavyweights of Burnout 3: Takedown (and, even earlier in the series, unlocking a bus in the original Burnout), and their ommision in this nostalgia-heavy Paradise is noticable. For another, you can easily see that the cars are empty when the doors come off. Although it's understandable that you wouldn't want to have people in cars that routinely smash into traffic at speeds even the clinically insane fear, it is an unusual sight. Perhaps, if there was at least something that made it even remotely look remote-controlled, that would explain it, but otherwise it doesn't make sense.

My main criticism is that it's substantially shorter than previous installments. I rented it once for 8 days, and I already have an A grade license with almost enough points to get the next level up. Apparently, more is less.

Still, if you're a fan of the series, well, you'd probably already have a copy. If you're looking to get into the series for the first time, Paradise combines enough old-and-new to get you fired up and digging the vibe.

If I may quote a song: "Too much, too young, too fast. I'm gonna drink it up while it lasts". How appropriate.

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