Burnout Paradise Remastered (2018) "Take me home"
Burnout Paradise Remastered
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Tested on Xbox One X)
Release date: Mar 16, 2018 (PS4, XB1)/TBC (PC)
Developer: Criterion Games/Stellar Entertainment
I can't believe it has been ten years since the last Burnout game was released. That game was the original Burnout Paradise for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, and a lot of people loved this new and fresh open world take on Criterion's popular arcade racing game series. Others, such as myself, weren't so convinced at the time that Burnout needed an open world in the first place, but there was no denying that Criterion had done a fantastic job with Paradise and it is a game that absolutely deserves its accolades. There were some issues that hindered gameplay early on (such as the inability to instantly retry a race), but Criterion quickly fixed most of these with a patch and added a metric ton of both free and paid DLC content for the game.
However, as the years went by, one question remained – when are we getting a new Burnout? For the longest time, the answer to that question seemed to be "never", as EA put Criterion to work on the Need for Speed series. Criterion's NFS games, Hot Pursuit (2010) and Most Wanted (2012) rank among the better games in that series and borrow a number of elements from Burnout, but are very obviously not Burnout. Eventually, EA gutted the whole studio, moving a chunk of the staff to current Need for Speed developer Ghost Games and assigning the remainder to work on various projects, most recently the space combat portions of EA's Star Wars: Battlefront games.
Criterion's founders, Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry, left the studio and formed Three Fields Entertainment in early 2014. As of March 2018, Three Fields Entertainment has released three games – Dangerous Golf, Lethal VR, and Danger Zone. The latter is the most interesting since it attempts to recreate the hugely popular Crash mode from the Burnout games, but sadly fails to capture the old magic due to its drab "virtual crash test facility" presentation and lackluster damage modeling. It seemed as if this would be the closest we'd get to a new Burnout, because EA had seemingly forgotten the series even existed. Then, out of nowhere, rumors began circulating in early 2018 that a remastered version of Burnout Paradise was in the works, and EA eventually announced a March 16 release for the game.
Let me get this out of the way right from the get-go: this is not a new Burnout game. As far as I can tell, there isn't even any new content in Burnout Paradise Remastered. It's exactly what the name suggests – Burnout Paradise, remastered for a new generation of hardware, running at resolutions up to 4K at a smooth 60 frames per second. At the very least, all the DLC is included in the package, but the $39.99 price tag still feels a bit steep considering that you can buy the Ultimate Box edition of the original Burnout Paradise for practically nothing, and today's PC hardware can easily play the original at 4K60. Sure, some of the DLC never made it to the old PC version and the remastered version has improved textures and graphical effects, but that's about it. I think PC gamers may want to stick with the original release for now, unless they really want to explore Big Surf Island.
On the console front, there is definitely a massive upgrade here. The old 720p resolution with mostly stable 60 fps is now a full-fat native 4K60 on the Xbox One X, and while I haven't had the opportunity to try the PS4 Pro version (the ten-hour prerelease trial is only available on the Xbox One, and probably on PC later on), I expect that to look and run great as well. Paradise City has never looked this good, certainly not on a console. I also don't have the tools to measure frame rates, but the Xbox One X version runs beautifully and I noticed only two instances of very minor frame drops in ten hours of gameplay in 4K mode.
The game itself is exactly as you remember it. All the races are there, all the multiplayer modes are there, all the cars are present and accounted for, and it's every bit as fun to race and crash your way around Paradise City as it was ten years ago. As you explore the city, you can still find 400 gates and 120 billboards to smash through (I managed to get nearly all of these during the trial, only missing five of each) as well as fifty stunt jumps scattered around. Finding these is an absolute blast, and crashing through billboards has never been as satisfying as it is here. Hell, crashing in general is fun in Burnout Paradise, because the car damage and crash physics are nothing short of spectacular. It's difficult to get mad even when you lose a race because you wrecked, because you'll probably be too busy marveling (or laughing) at the destruction on display here.
If you have never played Burnout Paradise, let me explain how the career progress system works and what kind of race events there are in the city. You start off creating a license, and after a number of race wins your license gets upgraded to the next class. Reaching the next class resets the events, so you can go win the same races again with more challenging opponents and more traffic. Or just go win other races (there's a total of 120 events, all of which are found in the open world), the choice is yours. The higher your class, the more races you need to win to rank up. The Big Surf Island and Burnout Paradise Bikes DLC packs feature their own sets of events.
Winning races and ranking up also unlocks new cars, which can be picked up at the various junkyards around town. Many of the cars are found racing around the city and need to be shut down (that's a polite way of saying "wrecked") before they're unlocked, and the game will always tell you when there is a car to shut down.
The basic races are exactly what you'd expect: get from point A to B before your opponents. However, unlike the previous Burnout games, Burnout Paradise adds a little wrinkle into the proceedings by letting you choose the best route to the finish, sort of like the Midtown Madness and Midnight Club series. And yes, this means you can royally screw up your race by taking the wrong turn. The game does help you out by adding flashing indicators on the top of the screen and flashing your car's turn signals to tell you which way you're supposed to be going, but when you're racing through the traffic at what feels like 600 mph (seriously, the faster cars in this game might as well be F-Zero machines on wheels) it can be a bit difficult to notice the indicators.
Along with the normal races, Burnout Paradise offers several other event types that are arguably a lot more interesting. There is the stunt run, where you must drive dangerously and perform stunts in order to earn a certain number of points within a time limit; my personal favorite, Road Rage, where you must wreck as many opponents as you can before the time or your car's health runs out; Burning Route, basically a time trial; and Marked Man, where you need to get from point A to B while being pestered by incredibly strong AI cars that try to ram you off the road. You get to the goal alive, you win.
Burnout Paradise has online multiplayer, but I've never played it as the single player mode is really the meat of the game for me. You can participate in various ranked and unranked races as well as Freeburn Online events, or just try to beat random players' best times in the Road Rules mode. There are some offline pass-the-pad multiplayer modes as well, but they're not particularly interesting.
The music in Burnout Paradise is kind of a mixed bag. Yes, Guns N' Roses' hit "Paradise City" is on the soundtrack and is actually the first thing you hear every time you boot up the game. If the song wasn't in Burnout Paradise, I assure you that I would've complained on forums quite a lot, but fortunately I didn't have to. Unfortunately though, EA decided to use a heavily censored version of the song with words such as "gas chamber" and "cigarette" muted or replaced so as to avoid warping the minds of impressionable young players.
Other famous bands such as Faith No More, Alice in Chains, Depeche Mode, and Soundgarden appear on the soundtrack as well, along with Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" for whatever reason. There's also a decent selection of classical pieces for a more sophisticated automotive smash, and even though I doubt many people were clamoring for them I was glad to find Criterion's music from Burnout 1, 2 and 3 on the playlist. Personally, I prefer to listen to my own tunes, and that is thankfully an option now that Spotify is on the Xbox One so I spent a lot of time listening to White Zombie and Ministry while playing the trial. Mark from Classic Game Room would be proud.
While Burnout Paradise Remastered may not be the new Burnout game fans have been wishing for, it is at least a sign that EA has not completely forgotten about the once-proud series in favor of Need for Speed. Perhaps now that NFS is going through something of a rough patch in the wake of a number of lackluster releases, EA might be convinced to give Burnout another go, especially if Paradise Remastered does well. Now we just need to hope that happens, and of course that EA won't screw up the potential new Burnout with their loot box nonsense. Don't let us down again, EA.
Burnout Paradise Remastered will be released on March 16th, with a ten-hour trial version available for EA Access members on Xbox One until the full release.