Where to Start...
How about starting with the negative, as there isn't much. Right off the bat, the number one thing that drives me crazy about this game is repeatedly hearing the beginning of the Guns N Roses song "Paradise City." Okay, I see what they did there but the implementation was off, way the hell off. I can appreciate Guns N Roses for helping to bring music back from the '80s, showing that rock was actually still an option, don't get me wrong. It's just that every time you leave the main menu (for instance, navigating to a submenu) the menu music restarts when you go back. To be clear, it isn't the fact that they used "Paradise City" as the title music, it is the fact that you hear the very beginning (specifically the beginning) of the song several times before you ever play the game the first time. Then when the game loads and you see "Paradise City" for the first time, the song starts again for your introductory explanation (that you can’t skip).
For Those That Played This Game:
It’s No Gran Turismo, but It’s No Driver Either
This game is far from a driving simulator. Burnout is as far from the driving simulator as Grand Theft Auto, but it isn't ridiculous (maybe a little). Burnout Paradise makes drifting very easy, sometimes a little too easy but mostly manageable. The physics are in no way realistic and there is no parts swap but each car feels and acts completely different from one another. I enjoyed Grand Theft Auto starting with the PS2 generation, mainly because it was an open-world driving game. The problem I had with Grand Theft Auto was the actual driving, everything about the driving was terrible; the vehicles stopped too suddenly, the turning was more like rotating, acceleration was illogical. For a game whose name directly involves vehicles, they sure didn't get the vehicles right but they got the theft right (and we wonder about the kids today).
Not only is the entire physics system more manageable in Burnout Paradise than most driving games but every car requires a different driving approach. Some vehicles demand that you drift like an S.O.B. or you won't get anywhere. Some cars require you to maintain traction at all costs; otherwise, you end up in a ditch or up a hill. While Burnout does not have the same level of customization of the vehicles as Gran Turismo, it does have the same care and attention to the vehicle selection. The speed, handling, and braking power aren't the only variables you feel from one car to the next, the weight and durability make a huge difference as well and you really notice it when you're smashing other cars off of the road.
This Way! No, That Way!
One part of the physics that I particularly enjoy is the crash system. In typical Burnout fashion, when you wreck your vehicle, you can control the crash to get points and glory and such. Even if you don't care about points and glory, it is still fun to cause mayhem. I had a Burnout game for PS2 that I loved just for its crash mechanism, especially the level that left you with a chance to go sailing off of a mountain... ah, good times. Burnout Paradise is great for crashing, it goes all slow motion on it like a MotoCross event. Another cool thing about the crashing is the particle effects and the debris, it is enhanced by the slow-motion effect going on.
I couldn't tell you how many times I would get tired of racing and time trialing only to get going as fast as I could to search for a collision. It is great when you spin sideways just enough to catch the corner of another vehicle, sending you flying and spinning far and fast. One of the best uses of the crash mechanic is the Take Down setup. With the Take Down challenges, you have to wreck your opponents and try to keep from being wrecked in the process. When you wreck someone, the camera follows the car that you ran off the road giving a Michael Bay-ish feel to the experience. Above all, my favorite happens to be the most simple too; head on into a wall. Your car gets squashed and shorten, your vehicle comes to a sudden stop while debris from behind it keeps flying, slow motion shows your car being destroyed bit by bit. The wall for the win.
The game is stunning. This game looks fantastic, especially for its era. The visual effect is half of the reason I like the game, the visual effect during crashes more than anything. It is impressive to me that a driving game with such high-speed cars available could remain so visually clear at such high speeds. The draw distance is astonishing to me; you have quite a while to decide how to react to what is coming. Cars don't just pop into view either, usually you get a slow fade-in of headlights, long before you can even tell there is a car coming (art imitating life). When you get going super fast, everything to your sides becomes a blur and it really helps to give you the feeling that much ass is being hauled. The game gets interesting when you get one of the cars designed specifically to go fast at speeds faster than fast, first-person view is a must.
Something I like in any game (especially a driving game) is a good background setting. Burnout gives you just about any enjoyable setting you would want to drive, all on one all-inclusive map. Beautiful mountains just past a long wide-open stretch of country, just outside the winding city roads. The sun will even make your eyes squint as you crest the hill, starting your descent back down the mountain roads. All you need is a good couch and you can easily get lost in the visual aspect of this game. I understand good and well that other games exist now with bigger maps, more cars, and better visuals, but this was back in the mid-2000s. Show some respect.
Content, All About the Content
This game is loaded, I mean unnaturally loaded. You don't get it, this game is friggin loaded. So you start with a car, you get said car fixed up (all you do is drive around the corner), and you're off to seek a challenge and challenges are everywhere. Challenges are literally everywhere, every single intersection is an event. Pull up to any intersection and it will be something like a race whether it be 1-on-1 or group, a burning route where you basically have to stay on the boost the entire run, survival where you keep from being taken out before you reach the finish, there are even time trials on pretty much all roads.
As you progress, you'll be awarded with different licenses. As you finish races and events you'll be awarded cars, some cars are awarded when you smash them off of the road, and some cars are awarded when you get your next license. Even after you go through all of that, some challenges are for specific cars which means you'll have to get every car to run every event. Each road has a best time for you to conquer, once you are out of events (which you can always redo for fun) you’ll still have a time trial on every road. Even still, once you've got all of that done there are still motorcycles to go through too. If you start to get overwhelmed with it all, just do what I do and find (or create) a good crash, mellow out with some nice relaxing slomo.
Jumps, Ramps, and More Jumps
The vast world of Paradise City is loaded with ramps and ramp-like objects that are almost mandatory to jump. Some of the best ramps and jumps are right out in the open, in the middle of a park perhaps. Some ramps are nestled away behind smash gates which are just an attempt to hook the completionists (dammit, it worked). Regardless, if you find a smash gate it is usually worth smashing, especially if you have some speed built up. The gates go flying which is always funny to me but usually, they lead you to a pretty slick jump, the bigger the jump the more satisfying the game is.
The game has this awesome mechanic where every time you hit a "Super Jump,", as long as it is enough air/hang time, the camera changes to focus on the car (movie-style) and everything goes slow motion. It is really cool because when you go sailing with a bad take-off (intentional or otherwise) or unpredictable traffic, the slow-motion makes the crash far more dramatic. The cooler the crash, the easier it is to deal with when it is accidental, the more rewarding it is when it's intentional. It gets even cooler when you make a crazy or impossible jump, everything goes Hollywood and slomo, AND you land it and keep rolling smooth. There are plenty of chances to do just that, all over the place, all over your face.
Something about the sound in this game is that if you have good speakers or subs even, give it enough volume and the tone of the cars is pretty well believable. It is really fun to have the sound blasting with this on a huge screen trying to go as fast as you can for as long as you can, enjoying the (many) crashes. I have always enjoyed driving games with good sound, I loved having my PS2 running through a subwoofer and my favorite game to showcase my sound capabilities was almost always Burnout 2 – Point of Impact. Paradise City is an improvement in the Burnout series in many ways; graphics, open worldedness, large mapedness, killer sound, etc.
A stand out point worth making note of is the way events and races are started. This game does not mess about with tons of menu and sub-menu navigation, they wanted you to drive. They made it clear that you are to stay in a car (or on a bike) at all times, you don't even step out of the car when it is being repaired or repainted. When you wish to start an event, you pull up to the according intersection and (at a full stop) press the brake and gas at the same time. I'm not sure about you, but I have a tough time being at a full halt when I am moving, let alone to hit the gas & brake at the same time during a halt (while moving). I dare say that if you are in a race, it was by no accident.
© 2017 GrahamFace