Burnout Paradise is a fantastic game, and thanks to Criterion's regular free updates, it's one with considerable longevity. The next major update is called the Bikes Pack and is due out next month. There's also a PC version of the game being released early next year. Both are major events for developer Criterion--as both the bikes and PC version are firsts in the Burnout series. They were both shown off at the Leipzig Games Convention this year, where EA's booth featured four PCs running advanced code of the game.
The PC setup at the EA booth was magnificent, with three monitors being fed simultaneously using a box from manufacturer Matrox. While the images from the side monitors were slightly stretched, the added viewing angle really made it easier to take down enemies. The PC version will also support the same camera functionality as console versions, meaning you'll be able to use any USB webcam to capture images for your licenses and online takedowns. As for other PC features, the development team claims that it might tweak the single-player progression slightly, but it still has to finalise the details.
We wasted no time in trying out one of the four bikes that were on offer at the Leipzig EA booth. The first bike is a tutorial model that will be used to teach you the handling and speed differences of the new two-wheeled vehicles. When you start to complete some of the new events, you'll be able to unlock the other three bikes, including the top-end model, which will be the overall fastest vehicle in the game.
The bikes are fundamentally different from the cars in Burnout. First of all, their standard speed is higher than most cars, so bikes will be unable to boost. They're also much more fragile than cars, and although the cars crash frequently in Burnout, the bikes are susceptible to crashing even if you turn too sharply. Criterion's answer to the problem is to reduce the amount of crash replays that you see for bikes, so if you crash into a wall, you'll respawn immediately without any waiting around. While you won't see the riders flying through the air, on the bike, they're well animated and will shift their weight around as you ride. There are also some really cool weight-based tricks you can pull, from standard wheelies to back-wheel donuts that can be performed by pulling diagonally back on the analogue stick while accelerating. Criterion promises there'll be loads of things you can do on the bikes, but it wants players to find them out for themselves.
There are both male and female riders from which to choose. While your choice will have no performance effect, it will change the decals on their bike and leathers. The other thing that we got to see was the new day and night cycle. The time of day will change not only the density of traffic, but also the races in which you have to compete. We took part in a couple of nighttime time-trial runs, which were made much easier thanks to the sparsity of other vehicles on the road.
The PC version of Burnout Paradise is set for release in January 2009, while the bikes update will hit the consoles in September. We can't wait to take them online.