The addition of an open world to the Burnout franchise makes this a must buy for racing fans looking for something great
The first thing you may notice about Paradise is the way races are handled. It's no long the pre-race menu where you pick locations and car and go. It is now a beautiful open world where every intersection with a traffic light (and the toll booths on the expressway) are starting points for race events. You roll up to one and hit the gas and the brake at the same time. The single player events are Road Rage, take down your opponents until you achieve the target; races, the staple of the franchise which have you running from point A to point B while wrecking your opponents to clear your way; stunt runs, where you have to perform stunts and score points; Burning Routes, timed runs in specific vehicles; and Marked Man; run from point A to point B without being wrecked out by the vicious AI foes attempting to destroy you. With the patches you can now fill your garage with 75 cars. There are also several motorcycles with their own set of challenges added in a patch.
In addition to the events you can find each road has two Road Rules to be beaten. The Timed Road Rule is the record for the fastest time to drive the length of the road and then there's the Showtime Road Rule. Showtime is the next incarnation of the crash game from previous titles. Pressing L1 and R1 (or the shoulder buttons for 360 owners) starts you on Showtime. This is a controlled crash where your goal is to cause as much damage as possible. Each car you hit during the crash allows you to perform a Ground Breaker which makes your car bounce and you do have a bit of control while it bounces. The timed event starts as soon as you turn onto one end of the road. Beating both Road Rules means you now Rule that Road!
Progression is now gauged with licenses. You start out with your learner's permit and then work your way through D, C, B, A, and finally Elite license. To earn the next license you merely have to win a certain number of events (Road Rules don't count for these) and then you're rewarded the new license. When you achieve a new license all of the events reset. This means that if you prefer a certain type of event, like Road Rage, you can do the each occurrence of that event once for every level of your license. What makes the licenses unique (and fun!) is that if you have the Move Eye Camera the game will activate it and take a picture of you for your license.
Originally failing an event was frustrating. You used to have to drive back to the start of the event (often difficult because the runs can be long and events in the downtown area are often crowded) in order to restart it. Fortunately, now you can access a restart option from the Easy Drive menu and restart the event that way. It takes a lot of the sting out of losing an event.
The driving physics are excellent. There are three types of cars: Aggression, the heavy hitters perfect for Road Rage and Marked Man events and whose boost fills fastest with combative maneuvers; Stunt, the nimble cars that may not be the fastest but accelerate quickly and light enough to perform the craziest stuff off ramps with boost gauges best filled with air and spins; and finally Speed, the fastest rides on four wheels whose boost can only be used when the meter is full. With the range of vehicles you can pick the best car for each type of event and find your strengths and weaknesses.
The game features drive-throughs which allow you to repair your damaged car (this can be used during Marked Man and Road Rage events to keep from wrecking out), refill your boost (perfect for burning routes, races, and stunt runs), and paint shops (to alter your car's appearance). You also drive through Junk Yards to change vehicles. As you find them they're added to your map for your convenience.
New cars become available when you complete various events. However, since the car has to be in the junkyard in order for you to acquire it, when you complete the events to unlock the cars they can be found driving around Paradise City. Since it's driving around Paradise it can be wrecked. When you wreck it it ends up in the junk yards, then you can get it. It's a unique feature which blends beautifully with the open world presentation. Some cars don't have to be earned this way. When you complete a vehicle's Burning Route it unlocks a special variation of that vehicle. These are automatically delivered to your junkyard so you don't need to take them down on the road.
The open world presentation and non-linear progression round out the spectacular package that is Burnout Paradise. However, this game is not without its flaws. The soundtrack is completely inappropriate. The only song that fits at all is Guns 'N Roses "Paradise City" and only then it's just a good theme song because the game takes place in a place called Paradise City. The musical score has a wide range, everything from Soundgarden to Twisted Sister, Jane's Addiction, Killswitch Engage, Avril Lavigne, to several pieces of classical music including people like Bach, Brahms, Chopin, and more. None of this fits, and I find the majority of the pop music soundtrack grating and absolutely insufferable. But I enjoy smashing cars in a Road Rage to the dulcet tones of Bach's "Air on a G String".
The other weak point in the soundtrack is the inane prattle of DJ Atomica. He's supposed to relay useful information about the city and occasional hints of ways to improve your performance. However, he just won't stop and it gets to be painful. And he always adds "advice" if you lose an event, but it's usually just things like "Remember: in a race you should cross the finish line first". This doesn't help him. And you can't override the soundtrack by using your PS3 or 360's audio player to enjoy music you think is more fitting.
With the exception of the painful soundtrack this game is excellent. However, I can't recommend it. "Why the hell not!?" you ask after this glowing review. Because Criterion and EA released Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box which includes the Paradise Island DLC as well as the Cops and Robbers online mode (the cop cars can be used in offline single player, too). This is obviously a better buy.
Author's Note: I didn't review the online modes because I don't really play them. I have my reasons.