The fast-moving Burnout series is crashing its way around a much larger area in Burnout Paradise. And the resulting product, which is still in a pre-alpha state, is already looking like it could end up being a pretty amazing game.
The game takes place in Paradise City, and it’s an open world that you can explore. The main idea is that, unlike many other open world racing games, the world of Burnout Paradise is actually worth driving. That means you’ll always be finding races, which you start by rolling up to a stop light and burning your tires to attract other racers. You’ll also find crash junctions, ramps to jump off of, fences or other obstacles to bash through, as well as, of course, lots and lots of traffic. Traffic checking, the system from the previous game that lets you slam into traffic as long as it’s heading in the same direction as you, is also in place in Paradise.
Because the game now allows you to change directions, the game has a very grabby E-brake that lets you change direction very quickly. Along with seeking out jumps and other little things in the world, another recent addition to the series is a little side game called power parking, which sounds like it will pop up any time you find two cars parked close together on the side of the road. The idea is that you need to whip your car around using the E-brake and slide right into the parking space between the two cars.
Crashing is actually quite a bit different in this game. If you crash, but not so badly as to end up on your roof or lose your wheels, it’ll get you back into the game and racing again pretty quickly. But any serious crash cuts to a different camera angle that gives you a slow-motion look at a devastating crash. The cars crumple up and blast apart in unique and exciting ways that look extremely impressive.
In addition to the single-player mode, the game has some unique-looking online features for up to eight players. Players can join your game completely seamlessly after receiving an invite. Rather than cut to a menu or a loading screen, the game simply informs you that a player has joined, the player drops into the world, and you go on driving. While you can treat the world as a lobby and just jump into set races or other multiplayer events, driving around the city without starting a game lets you just sort of mess around, crashing into stuff together. Crashing is where the game’s camera support comes into play. When a player is taken out, a window pops up and gives you a couple of seconds to quickly pose for a snapshot that’s then sent to the player that took you out. The game will save many of these mug shots as you rack them up in online play. It’s a crazy feature that appears to add a lot of personality to the proceedings because quickly mugging for the camera seems like it’ll lead to some funny moments.
As you race around online, the game keeps track of things like how long you can drive in oncoming traffic, your longest drift, and so on. This data is also stored for each different road in the game. This allows for a different set of multiplayer challenges called road rules. For each road in the game, different statistics are kept, such as the fastest time, longest drift, and so on. These stats form a friends-only leaderboard for that road, and you can continually fight against your friends for dominance of each road, even if you aren’t online at the same time.
While the PlayStation 3 version being shown at E3 was marked as a pre-alpha version of the game, it already had a lot of the interesting nuances and features that you’d expect from a final product. The design choices that brought the game to an open city seem to be paying off quite well. With plenty of time left for Criterion to work on adding new features and refining existing ones, it’s easy to be excited about Burnout’s new direction. Both versions of the game are scheduled to hit stores later this year.