Friday, March 28, 2008

Review: Burnout Paradise (Part 1)

During GDC, Derek Andersen and the rest of the marketing team at EA Redwood gifted me with a copy of Burnout Paradise. I'm terrible at taking care of my controllers (my expenses speak volumes on the subject), and until last night, I had resigned myself to playing my PS3 with the only controller left standing - my first PS1 controller.

Yes, if you bought the USB adapter, they work... to a certain degree. Warhawk plays like a dream, as does Super Stardust HD, but the shoulder buttons don't register in Oblivion. Worse yet, the controller doesn't work at all with Burnout Paradise, and so it took me quite a while to scrape together enough money to get a new PS3 controller; I'll do a quick write-up of the Gamestop controller I ended up getting, it's really great.

The changes Criterion made since 'Revenge' are sizable. Gone are the menus and the forced entry into events to continue with the game, replaced by an enormous open-world map with which players interact to progress through the game. Events are placed at intersections around the map, so while it's a bit more tedious to rinse-repeat a tough event, the game no longer limits your freedom; perhaps a menu overlay would be better in future iterations, to expedite the process of clearing events if people chose to use it.

The game also offers excellent exploration game-play, something wholly absent from the previous titles. You'll still find the familiar yellow chain-link throughout the game world, with added persistence and a running tally of how many you've broken through. There are also a large number of Burnout billboards that can be destroyed, "super jumps" to clear, and a number of gas stations (to instantly replenish Boost), repair shops (to fix durability), paint shops (to pimp your ride), and junk yards (to change cars). Allowing for quick travel to these specialty locations would have been nice, too.

There are four major event types: races, stunt runs, "Road Rage," and "Marked Man." The first two should be familiar to vets, and Road Rage certainly isn't something vastly different. Marked Man simply requires you to go from point A to point B without totaling your car (the number of times you can wreck before a total depends on the car). The persistent world does wonders in making these events stay fresh through multiple attempts.

It's much easier to wreck in this game, especially with the speed- and stunt-class vehicles. Repeated traffic checking used to be a great way to keep your boost filled through a crowded street, but even the toughest cars will wreck if an NPC vehicle so much as creates wake too close to your vehicle. The world has much more collision-enabled detail, so be prepared to see the long (and awesomely so, I might add, until you've seen three in quick succession) crash sequences frequently. Mirror's Edge, an upcoming first-person platformer from EA DICE, uses a system to highlight important on-screen features (like ledges and ladders), and I can't help but think a game as fast-paced as Burnout could use a handicap like that for the minute pillars that can ruin a race for you.

So far, I'm incredibly impressed with Criterion's additions to the franchise and can't wait to get more play time in.

First Session:B

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