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The International Writers Magazine: Games

Burnout Paradise.
Developed by Criterion Games
Published by EA Games
Jack Clarkson review

Available for the Xbox 360 and PS3.Yes! After a long hiatus. It’s time for another episode of "Jack tells the readers of Hackwriters about videogames they never heard of!" Hold on to your hats! It’s time for me to review Burnout Paradise!

For those of you not familiar with the series. Burnout is a racing game about dodging traffic, drifting, and driving on the wrong side of the road in order to fill up your ‘boost bar’ in order to go even faster and make it even harder to dodge the traffic before you screw up… but when you do screw up it’s okay, because good lord those car crashes look cool! You, the player were always treated to a full action replay of the pileups and carnage you wrought upon the crowded road while the other racers sped away in front of you…

Burnout Paradise, the newest addition to the series is no exception. Driving like a lunatic rewards you with more driving like a lunatic, and this time they’ve added stunts like jumps and flips, and bonuses for ramming other cars into each other.
Unfortunately, for everything that’s been added to this game, something equally important has been removed as well! Instead of driving laps with force fields to guide you around the improvised track and only having to worry about reaching mach three without hitting a misplaced bus, you now drive aimlessly around a massive city being given places to race to every now and again. Unfortunately, Criterion Games did not seem to realise that Burnout is about speed and pushing your reflexes to fighter pilot levels and rendering yourself a quivering mess. Not map reading! Sure, the game does tell you which turning to take next, but the on screen prompts are so small and hard to notice when you’re too busy driving into oncoming traffic in order to fill your boost bar up quickly that you frequently find yourself accidentally on the motorway in the wrong direction and no choice but to do a U-turn and find your way back to the road you should have been on in the first place!

What makes things seem even sillier though is that you can take a spiralling route through the city and unless you’re actually near them, the enemy racers all seem to slow down to a glacial pace that allows you to catch up easily… Yeah… you can practically take the scenic route to your destination and still have time to stop and reverse over the finish line!
And secondly, the stunt and aggression modes are fun and all, and the online multiplayer is great. But where’s the bloody split screen multiplayer? That was the best part of the original games, trying to ram each other in front of nearby bollards just to watch them shatter into a thousand pieces, and then find yourself succumbing to the same fate when you were too busy laughing at your friend! Why Criterion? Why did you honestly think it was a good idea to get rid of it?
Half of this game is about exploring Paradise city (named as such just so they could use the Guns N’ Roses song as the theme tune.) Except you are exploring what has to be the most terrifyingly weird city I have ever seen! When was the last time you ever saw a ramp in the middle of the road in real life? And since when were billboards supposed to be routinely destroyed? And how many drive-through mechanics does a single city need?

Speaking of drive through mechanics… One thing it takes a while for you to ask is. Where are the humans? There are no pedestrians, no human characters to interact with, and get this, NO DRIVERS! If you break the windows of your car and go into reverse, you will notice that there is nobody inside the car! Sure, there are human sized doors on all the buildings, and stairs outside some of them. But nobody is there to use them! The city is inhabited entirely by sentient cars!

This must be what resulted from our cars becoming self-aware and realising they didn’t need us anymore!
This is not a driving game! This is a dystopia about the rise of our robot overlords!

When you’ve realised this, the way you unlock new cars suddenly takes a far more sinister light! After winning a pre-determined number of races you are informed that a new car is driving around the city, if you "shut it down" you can have it… By "shutting it down" they mean ramming the poor living-car-beast-thing off the road! Leaving it a crumpled, mangled wreck that you have just realised probably feels pain! If it weren’t for the triumphant "you unlocked a new car" message the unfathomably annoying commentator gives you every time. You would probably hear it begging you to end its agony, to make the pain stop once and for all!

But do you stop it? Do you buggery! When you drive to the nearest junkyard you are given a cut-scene of about ten seconds showing a flashing neon "NEW WRECKS HERE" sign. Yes, not only have you crippled the poor car to little more than a broken husk of it’s former athletic self, you have now forced it into slavery under your command for the rest of it’s life, only to be repaired if you actually want to use it, if it’s unfortunate enough to have been born a "speed" class car, it will spend the rest of it’s life imprisoned within the confines of this automotive graveyard for all eternity, or at least until the sequel comes out…

But despite these misgivings I had with this game, the tainting of the purity of its predecessors, the unnecessary navigation in the races or the horrific implications of a human-less society. I enjoyed the hell out of this game!
The controls are extremely tight, allowing both delicate manoeuvring in tight spaces and accurate car dodging while driving at about six hundred miles an hour. There is always something to do at any one time, and the very prospect of more driving is enough of an incentive to keep playing half the time, which is always a good sign with a game! I played this game round a friend’s house, handing the controller to my host whenever we crashed, and we did, a lot. And true to Burnout tradition, the crashes are half the fun! The addition of "Aggression" mode which is purely about crashing other competitors has to be the most fun I’ve had in a game in years! Seeing a car fly off a cliff and landing in a crumpled ball of metal is amazing!

And then I remember that I’m actually killing sentient beings and have to kill some more of them to cheer myself up!
If you’ve played previous Burnout titles. The lack of helpful magical arrow-shaped forcefields will annoy you at first, but you will be having too much fun to care after a while. If you like driving games and are wondering what you should be buying next then Burnout Paradise might well be what you’re looking for!
Jack Clarkson March 11th 2008

Jack is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth UK
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Review by Jack Clarkson
Scott Lynch seems to share the cynical imagination that Terry Pratchett used to make Discworld so popular. The characters were likeable and hate-able in all the right places.

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