- Scribbled on February 7th, 2008 by Jonah Falcon
- Filed in Driving/Racing, Microsoft Xbox 360, Reviews, Sony PlayStation 3
Remember when The Cosby Show forced viewers to endure an entire college commencement address? No jokes – just an entire college commencement, with the cameras placed distant enough so that you felt like you were really enduring one for real? At that point, Bill Cosby’s ego had grown so fat that he actually believed he could get away with this because he has a hit show! Of course, The Simpsons and his string of flops (Leonard Pt. 6, Ghost Dad, etc. etc.) would insure that television and film would never be blighted by his face again – when’s the last time you even sniffed Bill’s image? Not even a Coke or Pudding Pop commercial.
Criterion had better watch it – they’re strolling down that same avenue with Burnout Paradise.
So, let’s get to what’s good about Paradise. First off, it’s incredibly beautiful and detailed. Few
next current-gen games have this level of detail, and Criterion put a lot (too much?) work into the graphics. When a car crashes in slow-mo, as with other Burnout games, you see the cars crumple realistically. Paradise takes it to an all-new level; not only is the physics/material effects life-like (glass shatters when the frame puts too much stress on the windshield, the body crumples depending on the angle it was hit, etc.), but there’s tons more detailed innards you can see affected, such as the transmission. If you have a nice, huge 1080p HDTV and you want to show off what your 360/PS3 can do, pop Paradise in, go at full speed and find something to crash into.
And that’s about it for the good stuff.
The bad stuff is everything else. First off is the fact that this is the slowest paced fast racing game ever made. Criterion’s decision to put Burnout in an open-ended world sounded like a good idea, until it becomes clear after an hour or three of actual practice that it was probably a terrible idea. It doesn’t work for the type of smash-your-opponent racing game Burnout is.
First, of course, is the controversial decision by Criterion that the player must drive to intersections to start a specific type of race. Their claim is that the load times would ruin the experience – as if taking a minute or four, depending on how far you raced, enhanced it. (The rare times, incidentally, in which a car was loaded to a new specific location was fast.) Imagine this scenario: you want to do a burning lap, which is basically a time trial from one point to another. You drive around trying to find a specific intersection for a burning lap. Oops, wrong car – this burning lap requires a specific car, so you have to drive all the way to a junkyard just to swap cars. Unfortunately, there’s only 5 of them scattered around a 16 mile radius. So, you have to drive to the junkyard, swap the car, and drive back to the previous intersection. Once you find the right one, as you may find the wrong one (that requires another car), you start the race. You drive, take the wrong turn – instant failure. So, to stop the race, you simply stop the car. Yes, stop the car and do nothing for a little bit - no “End Race” menu item – so you spend more time trying to stop a race. So, after you patiently wait for the game to acknowledge the burning lap is over, you have to drive back to the burning lap intersection to run that particular race over. You’ve just spent 6+ minutes doing basically nothing having to do with Burnout, while the race usually takes less than 2. Having to head to a junkyard to change your car is particularly irritating, since types of races take types of cars.
Another issue is that even the really fun single player combat race games are easier’n heck, and again, part of it is due to the open-ended nature of all the tracks. Whereas the lack of clearly defined tracks in regular racing can be irritating as one wrong turn and the race could be over, in marked man (every car wants to take you out) and road rage (take down as many cars as you can), the lack of defined tracks is a boon. Why? Well, since there’s no set track, when you make a sharp turn, the computer cars continue on down the street you had been heading down – and it’s a second or three before the cars to respawn down the street you’re travelling. This basically resets the cars, which makes them easier for road rage (since they zoom just ahead of you as if to say, “Take me out! Please!”) and marked man (since you’re given a brief refuge from enemies.) (It doesn’t help that neither mode has anything even remotely a personality; the police during Bounty missions in Need for Speed: Most Wanted at least featured police chatter so you could giggle as they talked about the mayhem your car was causing.)
It seems obvious now that the decision was to pad the running time of the game, because without having to drive to every location to start a race, much less drive back to the starting point on failure, the single player game would be over in one sitting.
The lack of a set track makes it impossible to play these races on online multiplayer, though they could have easily included boundaries to make it an enclosed track – you know, like every other online racer with an “open ended city”. But alas, no, which leaves by far the worst multiplayer in the Burnout series. Either you have a regular old race (yawn), which will practically insure that a few people leave the party as they quit the race – and who can blame them, when they’re 2 miles off course due to a wrong turn in the mountains, or, you can engage in co-op mode, which is lamer than it sounds, unless you enjoy “everyone do a barrel roll!” “everyone turbo for 30 seconds!” “everyone bust through a billboard!” Romper Room crap that’s boring the first time you try it online, and ultra-boring after an hour. Of course, the online party could just be people doing their own thing, and occasionally attacking each other for rivalries, but honestly, it’s formless crap. With just racing and the co-op garbage, there’s no reason to ever go online, unless you’re an Xbox 360 owner and really really need Achievements.
There’s also the two single player modes not mentioned yet – Stunt Run and Showtime mode. Stunt run is mildly entertaining, but again, off-the-wall easy and repetitive. Showtime is the stinky junk left over from Crash mode, in which you voluntarily crash anyplace on the map, then hop and bounce your car around trying to hit cars and buses like some insane version of Car Pinball. It is mildly entertaining, but its easiness and lack of realism makes you yearn for the original Crash mode in which you drive into a crowd, crash, and see how many cars naturally get ensnared in your pileup. Hopping around like a metallic Frogger gets old, quick.
What is truly amazing is how many high scores Paradise has received, and I can only believe (and hope) it’s what’s called the Black & White effect, where every reviewer has based their review on 3-4 hours of single player play and a few minutes playing online with the developers, because it is impossible, yes, impossible to imagine anyone giving this a high score. It makes me want to ask each and every reviewer if they played some special version of Paradise that wasn’t a half-baked racing game with a tremendously bad design that doomed it to failure before it was even worked on.
Please, whatever Burnout 6 is, just make it a Special Edition of Burnout Revenge. Please, for the love of God, don’t even try this again, Criterion. I don’t know what happy pills other reviewers have taken, but from personal, nonscientific polling online and elsewhere, no one whose actually spent more than 4 hours with the game has actually liked it.
And why wasn’t I sent any happy pills?