You won't know what to think to begin with. The first thing that hits you is how sprawling Paradise's map seems. (Burnout's entered the free-roaming age, in case you didn't know.) Then you realise you can drive from one end to the other in only about four minutes, and around its entire circumference in about ten, and it's a little disheartening. But then you discover just how dense Paradise City is, how much there is to explore away from the main roads and all seems rosy.
Except that, although 120 race events sounds like plenty, it isn't - we uncovered 97 of them within six hours, and although you can only take part in some events with certain cars, a dedicated gamer could polish off the bulk of the action in a couple of days.
But let's rewind a bit, and tell you what most hardcore Burnout fans really want to know - yes, it's fast. Hurtling along with your boost bar at top whack is a rush unsurpassed by any other driving game, and - hurrah - the frame-rate is perfect. If Paradise had fallen victim to the slowdown plague, like PES and The Orange Box, it would have killed the game stone dead. That it can look so beautiful, and shift so much around the screen so quickly (other cars, crash debris, palm trees, road sign, buildings, lakes, mountains - there's rarely a time when the scenery looks sparse), is cause for celebration. If this is what Burnout looks like in the early days of PS3's life cycle, when the machine is still wobbling along on stabilizers, we can't wait to see how the game looks a few years down the line.
But the new free-roaming structure won't be to everyone's taste - having all the events open from the beginning (OK, so you have to find them first - they're all at traffic lights; pull up and press p and i to begin) impacts negatively on your feelings of progression. You race, you win. So what? You don't unlock any new levels, you simply get a mark on your driving licence (i.e. you level up).
This rewards you with new cars (there are 75 in total) whenever you go up a rank. This is all well and good, but new motors aren't as exciting a reward as new tracks or areas, as happened previously. And to actually get your new car, you've got to find it - it'll be driving around the city somewhere - ram it off the road, and then collect it from the junkyard. It's a process designed to artificially lengthen the game and can become a bit of a chore.
In fact, if you're not the sort of person who enjoys collecting every little thing in a game and nailing it 100%, you might have trouble in Paradise. Aware that the free-roaming thing has muddied the game's focus, Criterion have injected BP with a stack of other objectives.
There are GTA-style Super Jumps to find - 50, in fact - which you might discover at the top of a hill, say, or above a multi-story car park - and it's massively exciting when you're pelting down a road, spot a hidden alley out the corner of your eye, hit a ramp and soar skyward. There are 400 secret gates to break down and 120 Burnout billboards dotted about to find and smash through.
So if you adore playing games until they're drained, empty husks, Paradise is quite the proposition. If you don't, though, it's a tiny bit shallow. But complaining about Burnout lacking depth is missing the point magnificently - Burnout has always been about speed, mangled metal, heart-pumping near misses and sheer, outrageous fun. And Paradise is a tremendous example of all that.
There's no lack of variety. Our favourite new mode is Marked Man, which tasks you to race to a checkpoint while a herd of computer cars gang up on you and try to ram you until your car is a write-off. Then there's Stunt Race, which baffles the first time you play because you won't have uncovered enough ramps and jumps to do stunts on and will fail dismally.