Burnout Paradise Remastered review: Beautiful destruction

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Burnout is a series that’s fondly remembered by a lot of people, myself included. It’s an arcade racing game first and foremost, but its emphasis on stunts, crashes, and dangerous driving set it apart and helped it appeal to a much wider audience—it was an action game as much as a racer. Despite the series popularity, though, it’s been almost a decade since the last proper Burnout game—that being 2008’s Burnout Paradise—with EA’s focus instead turned to the flailing Need for Speed series.

Burnout Paradise Remastered is a welcome chance to revisit Criterion Games’ iconic franchise. It’s exactly what it says on the box—a graphically-enhanced version of Burnout Paradise, with nothing new to add—but given how good the source material is, I’m more than fine with that. Even a decade on, Burnout Paradise is still an excellent game, and being able to play it on modern consoles is a great thing indeed.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if this is also EA’s attempt to test the waters before bringing back Burnout in some sort of more substantial way. The games have a dedicated following, and I often see comments online lamenting the series’ dormancy, so EA might be trying to see if that’s more than just a vocal minority. Even if nothing else comes of it, Burnout Paradise Remastered still gives us another reason to return to Paradise City. I’ll take it.

Open-world racing games are dime a dozen these days, but as one of the earlier examples of the form, Burnout Paradise is a simpler approach than more modern games, and that’s to its credit. With the expanse of Paradise City available to you from the get go, you can drive when and where you want, looking for events of various sorts—races, takedown challenges, time trials, and so on. As you rack up wins, you increase your license level, with each level unlocking a new car. Winning particular events causes special cars to start driving around the city; take them out, and you can add those rides to your collection as well.

That’s it, as far as progression systems go, and in 2018, that’s a wonderfully liberating thing. There’s no story mode forced in, nor any attempt to arbitrarily gatekeep content. There are no daily challenges or mandatory multiplayer elements. Burnout Paradise simply gives you a city and lets you drive. It’s wonderful.

That doesn’t mean it’s lacking things to do, though. There are some 130 different races to take part in, and hundreds of collectibles to find in the form of billboards (which you break through, naturally), super jumps, and shortcuts. Burnout Paradise Remastered includes all DLC from the original game, too, so there’s a second island to explore, and a plenty of different cars and motorbikes to collect.

Despite all that, Burnout Paradise doesn’t feel bloated in the way that most modern open-world games do. All the different events and objectives available to you are plenty of fun in their own right, rather than feeling like filler the way so many open-world missions do. This is also a game that benefits from that open world structure the way few games do, because just cruising around the city is itself an exhilarating experience.

Burnout Paradise also makes neat use of its open world in the design of the events themselves. Every race has a specified start and end point, but how you get from A to B is up to you. The AI-controlled cars usually follow the “main” route, but if you want to go a different way—maybe a longer but less windy route, if you’re driving a speed-focused car—then you can. Some events, like the takedown challenges and stunt events, don’t even have set end points; instead, there’s simply a time limit, within which you can go wherever you want.

No Burnout game would be complete without massive, expensive crashes, and in Burnout Paradise, they take the form of Showtime events. You can start these at any time, and the goal is, simply, to cause as much destruction as possible, as measured in a dollar value for damage caused. Each road in Paradise city has a certain destruction goal to hit, if you want an objective to aim for, though the crashes themselves are usually their own reward.

Driving itself, obviously, is a highlight of Burnout Paradise. The physics are pure arcade, so expect a lot of breakneck speeds and drifting around corners without the need to worry too much about “proper” driving as you would in a simulation game. Each car has a boost meter that fills up when do dangerous or flashy moves, like driving into oncoming traffic, doing handbrake turns, getting airborne, and so on. The more of these maneuvers you pull off, the more boost you earn—so expect to spend a lot of time on the wrong side of the road.

When used, the boost meter gives you a burst of speed, though the specific mechanics of it vary depending on the type of car you’re driving. Speed-class cars can only use boost when the meter is full, but they can also chain boosts back to back with skillful driving while the boost is engaged. Stunt and Aggression vehicles can boost at any time, but have no option for chain boosts, and they get increased meter gain from stunts and aggressive moves respectively.

Burnout Paradise Remastered doesn’t do too much to mess with this formula, though its graphical upgrade is a big improvement on the original. The difference is most apparent if you put the two games side by side, but even without doing that, the quality is apparent. If I didn’t know otherwise, I would have assumed this was just a native PlayStation 4 game—not the highest-end one, but a game made for current-generation hardware nonetheless.

In short, Burnout Paradise Remastered is a must-buy for anyone who likes arcade racing games. The original was certainly a high point within the genre, and to have that on current consoles is a dream come true. And if this remaster sells well enough, EA might just see reason and set Criterion to work on a new Burnout game—and who wouldn’t want that?

Recommended

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Burnout Paradise Remastered is developed by Criterion Games and published by EA. It’s available now on PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC.

A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for this review.

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About Author

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.