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neurological dryer lint

dirty deeds... and the dunderchief


from a cold steel rail

burnout: paradise was one of the initial reasons i was eyeing nextgen consoles. i've really enjoyed the franchise and the concept - described as an open-world, always-online, build-your-own-race-anywhere update with incredible 60fps visuals - sounded delicious. the demo had three events and one vehicle and did exactly what demos are supposed to do - got me fully hyped for the retail version.

so what we have here is a flawed but ultimately enjoyable trip. the classic burnout events - race, burning lap (a time trial event), and road rage (my favorite, take down a set # of opponents in a certain period of time) are still there; and whereas in older releases there was a menu system that let you pick your event, now you drive to the location on the map where an event is and start it at the stoplight by revving your engine.

little features like that abound in paradise - you can also drive through repair shops to insta-fix your car, paint shops to restylize, gas stations to refill your boost (all without stopping)... and there's certainly plenty to do - 120 events, 75 cars to find, 50 crazy stunt jumps, 400 gates to knock down and 120 billboards to tag. the completist or achievement junkie won't get bored.

road rage is still the most satisfying mode of the game - you are given 4 minutes or so to drive anywhere on the map and knock out opponents - and they're on every street, so you're never searching for one. that mode alone makes this game worth its time; unfortunately it falls pretty hard on a few other levels.

while technically the concept i mentioned is an accurate description of what you get, there are a ton of caveats. "race anywhere", for one, means your race still has to end at one of eight locations on the map (it's not user-configurable), and "build your own" isn't quite the truth - you still need to start from one of the preset events on the map.

and navigation is just plain awful. the open-world sandbox idea is a great one and while just driving around is seamless and highly detailed, it breaks down during events: you have a tiny map in the corner of the screen (that's too small to make any use of while driving); you have a compass that points in your destination's direction (also useless while racing, because if you try to eyeball just that, you'll probably hit a wall or drive into water); and you have street signs that flash when you need to make a turn left or right. except you're usually going so blindingly fast in an event that a twitch reflex to turn will probably ram you into a guardrail or a wall. none of these nav tools are great on their own, and trying to use a combination of them mid-race is just not possible for a human with two eyes.

it ends up making what should be great races incredibly frustrating - because you are constantly defeated not by the other racers, but because you just can't find the finish line. worse - there are plenty of roads that appear on the map to be the right one to get you where you want to go - but might actually take you over or under your goal. all of these things happening while you're trying to stay in first place, or trying to not hit an innocent bystander stopped at an intersection... i think they were trying to make the whole thing more sophisticated, bless them, but it ended up suffering from the complexity, instead of benefiting from it. while in a race, they should have stuck with the formula - block off streets that don't take you to your goal. focus on the race, going fast, and staying alive, not trying to find the end.

all of that said, the spirit of the old games is still here. taking down an opponent feels marvelous, as does a perfectly-executed stunt jump. and it's perfect for casual players to just aimlessly explore, or the hardcore running event after event nonstop. i haven't had much of a chance to do a lot online - it's just not the same running these races with strangers in other countries.

what makes it worth checking out is this: during the very first race i ran, i was taking an unintended shortcut on an elevated railway bridge and the ground cut out - my car fell through to the street below, and i landed on top of one of my opponents, scoring a "vertical takedown". i shouted like a little kid in excitement at how effortlessly awesome that simple move was, and the game is packed with a ton of that, and it's exactly what burnout fans are looking for.


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