Burnout Paradise, originally released back in 2008, returns in a Remastered version for Xbox One, PS4 and (later this year) PC. This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.
Although Burnout Paradise was well-received on the Xbox 360 and PS3, for me the series peaked with Burnout 3 on the Playstation 2. It felt like the ultimate arcade racer for home platforms, and racing seems to have moved away from that style in the almost 15 (!) years since its release. Criterion briefly moved to EA’s Need for Speed franchise, but even though that is probably one of the most arcade-like franchises today, series veterans will tell you it’s no Burnout.
Burnout Paradise took the gameplay of the first four Burnout games and adds an open world environment called “Paradise City” – I’ll give you one guess as to the title song they licensed to go along with the theme. This approach gives players the opportunity to progress and level up with a larger degree of freedom in which events they tackle first, but it also comes with a downside. Getting to a certain mission or destination will take time as you drive from place to place, and after a while you’re going to wish you could just fast travel there or select events from a menu. Neither option was available back in 2008, and they haven’t been added this time around.
Arguably the most original feature in the first few Burnout games was Crash Mode, which was changed to Showtime Mode for Burnout Paradise. If you’ve played Burnout Crash! on the Playstation 3 then you sort of know what to expect in terms of bouncing your car around and causing havoc, but if you haven’t played a Burnout title in quite a while it will feel different. Showtime Mode can be activated at any location in the game – not just the busy and pre-orchestrated intersections that were available in the earlier games. It fits with the “open” character of Burnout Paradise, but I personally missed the level/challenge-like approach of the original Crash Mode while playing.
Another way in which you can see that Burnout is more arcade-like than Need for Speed is in its licenses. Many cars are clearly inspired by real-life vehicles and brands, but without the actual license in place. This allows the creators of Burnout Paradise to go nuts with these cars, without being confined by licensing restrictions – and the game’s better off for it. There are even a few movie-inspired cars in there, with inspiration drawn from the likes of Back to the Future and Ghostbusters.
For a remaster, Burnout Paradise carries a hefty price tag, which will have gamers undoubtedly question its value. With the “ultimate box” version of the game regularly on sale for as little as five euros/dollars on Steam, you’d be right to wonder why the current remaster is priced at eight times that price (or twice the regular price). For many, the main draw here is being able to play the game at 4K with improved visuals at 60 frames per second – the game itself is unchanged when it comes to gameplay and content.
Speaking of content though, it’s worth noting that this remaster comes with all of the original DLC content packs. This includes Big Surf Island which adds a new area as well as small expansions that add new cars, bikes and game modes. Nothing that’s exclusive to this version, but worth noting if you never invested in digital addons past the vanilla console version of Burnout Paradise. You’re also granted access to many more cars right from the beginning in this remaster, but I’m not sure that’s a move for the better if you’re interested in following a campaign and enjoying these cars as unlockables.
Perhaps this review seems overly critical of Burnout Paradise Remastered, so don’t get me wrong – this is still an excellent game, and I love playing it. I enjoy the recent Need for Speed titles as well, but they always feel like they’re still a bit too realistic – like they’re a Hollywood adaptation of an arcade racer. Burnout Paradise doesn’t suffer from this, and puts arcade racing fun at the forefront. Sure, Forza Horizon offers a similar experience on Xbox, but Playstation owners don’t have a better alternative than this one – and that’s a pretty big compliment for a 10 year old game. There’s a great soundtrack in place, the visuals have held up reasonably well, and the classic Burnout gameplay still has no equal. Let’s hope this is the kickstart to a proper sequel – if you’re bound to an Xbox One or PS4 and miss Burnout, this’ll feel like a warm bath.