Burnout Paradise

Hands-on: Criterion's sandbox crash-'em-up

Paradise is a very different Burnout game. The biggest change is that it's jumping on the free-roaming city bandwagon that every current-gen racing game seems to parade with such enthusiasm these days.

Unlike your Test Drives and Midnight Clubs though, the metropolis in Burnout Paradise has truly been designed for a wealth of things to do inside your motor.

Paradise Playground
On any road in Paradise you can activate 'Road Rules' with just a tap of the d-pad. Once activated, the best time for racing the length of that street pops up on-screen and if you beat it you 'own' that route. Take that online and you can see a huge friends list competition take shape.

Similarly, handbreak onto a curb and you'll activate the parallel parking challenge, another completely seamless batch of fun that has nothing to do with the game's main races and events, but adds tons of content to Burnout's massive metropolis.

While Paradise City is clearly massive, it's obvious that most of Criterion's effort has gone into maintaining this sort of immediate, accessible arcade action that Burnout is known for - and you're never far from something to do.

A crazy shortcut that has you smashing through scenery and onto a packed highway is always round the corner, and learning and exploring the city will help you in racing events later on.

Handling feels far more solid and believable than Burnout's nearest competitor, FlatOut.

Metal crunches, sparks fly from soft scrapes and glass shatters violently. Crashing a motor in Burnout Paradise really feels like it would hurt and motors feel and control like solid objects rather and a big bunch of floating polygons.

As always, Burnout takes some liberties where realism is concerned, but it's all in the name of enhancing the old fashioned arcade fun. Lamp posts fall down like paper trees and a billboard ready to be smashed is never more than a short drive away.

Paradise's liberal sprinkling of shortcuts across the city encourages you to learn its layout; in Survive and Marked Man races computer combatants won't follow you down back alleys and shortcut streets, so knowing their location can help greatly when everyone on the road is trying to smash you into a lamp post.

Impressively, even though arcade antics are clearly at the forefront, Paradise City feels completely organic as well - and it runs at a gorgeous 60fps. On one end you can cruise a sunny beach district, move on to the concrete highway, across the docks and onto a Half-Life 2-style hilly coastline.

It's not quite as impressive as Midnight Club LA's awesome recreation of Hollywood, but Paradise City certainly isn't a tiny town.

Collisions, of course, look fantastic. Impacts seem to carry some force this time around, as the power of the crash seems to ripple through the body of the car carrying deformation along with it.

At points, we were actually cringing at the screen. The characters from 90s flick Crash would properly get off on this.

The crash system is a bit different this time around as well. In Paradise not all collisions send your motor to the scrap yard.

If your smash isn't particularly harsh you'll end up with a 'driveaway' collision and be able to drive off with the damage intact. Basically, if you're still on four wheels you won't respawn with a new car. This adds a lot more skill potential to Paradise, because a clip against an oncoming car doesn't necessarily equal 'game over' any more.

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