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Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
 
1/23/2008 10:10:00 AM

Review: Burnout Paradise (PS3, Xbox 360)

 
Burnout Paradise
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Image Credit: EA Games
Things We Like
Take A Look Around: For the first time in Burnout franchise history, the game takes place in a open world environment. Paradise boasts over 30 square kilometers of driving space to explore. Tackle everything from the crowded streets of downtown Paradise City to the endless stretches of unpaved mountainous terrain. You can even bust into Paradise Field and rip off doughnuts on the pitcher's mound.
Calling All Challengers: The more you drive, the more events you encounter. (There are 120 total events and 75 cars to win.) Pull up to any major intersection, simultaneously hit the L2 and R2 (on the PS3), and you're off. Traditional races offer multiple routes, including hidden short cuts, to the finish line; Marked Man and Road Rage test your battle-driving skills; and as you get deeper into the game, "Burning Route" time challenges pop up when you're in the designated car.
You Da Man: Paradise's new Marked Man challenge dishes out the game's biggest adrenaline rush. Once that light turns green, get the pedal to the metal -- and fast. A string of cars will come flying in from your blind spots trying to ram you into a divider, off a bridge, or into on-coming traffic. Survive the allotted time without totaling your ride and you win. Get rammed into scrap metal and head back to the chop shop with your tailpipe between your legs.
Help Is On The Way: High-speed pit stops are never far, so neither are miraculous comebacks. When you need a quick burst of speed late in a race, fly through a gas station for a Boost refill. If your doors and hood are flapping in the wind during a battle, swing past an auto repair shop for a quick fix.
On Again, Off Again: The transition between offline and online gaming is seamless. One toggle of your controller alternates between driving alone and being surrounded by gamers. Team up with friends to take over the streets or challenge other drivers to one-on-one races. The features themselves aren't revolutionary, but the ability to effortlessly switch modes makes online play much more inviting.
Smashing Success: The crash graphics are amazing. Slow-motion wrecks include imploding windshields, flying paint chips, and demolished chassis. As your demise begins to unfold, the treble is dropped from the soundtrack music and the background goes black-and-white to ensure you concentrate solely on how badly you just screwed up.
Picture Perfect: Unlike in real life, if you're not happy with your license picture in Paradise, just re-snap it. Using either the PlayStation Eye or the Xbox Live Vision cameras, you can keep posing until you get the right shot. Break through enough challenges and you earn the Burnout Elite Driver's License, which the game calls "the ultimate accolade for any safety-unconscious motorist." (No word yet on whether LeBron James already has one of these.)
But Wait, There's More! If the 120 events don't hold you over, every street comes equipped with it's own two challenges: best time and best crash. You can set records for each both offline and online. If you're still craving more action after all of this, we suggest you slowly step away from the TV and get some fresh air.
 
Video
Check out Burnout Paradise in action:
 
Things We'd Change
Crash and Burn: Showtime Mode is a new twist on the traditional Crash Mode. And we wish they'd twist it back. At any point in the game, press the L1 and R1 buttons to trigger a crash through traffic. The more cars you smash through and flip over, the more points you earn. Unfortunately, the lack of speed and flexibility in this event render it stale after only a couple pile ups.
Stunted Growth: The roaming environment and random challenges all have the feel of a Tony Hawk game, especially Stunt Run. Unfortunately, this mode lacks the wide array of tricks that make Hawk's games so addictive. Adding stunts to the action was a bold idea, and EA gets points for creativity, but it doesn't jive with a driving game.
To Hill And Back: While we applaud the vast environment, Paradise goes overboard in the mountains. You can get lost up there for hours, and while the off-road racing and jumping are inviting, there isn't a new challenge around every corner like there is in the city. While it adds hours of gameplay, it's not like the action available downtown, and after a while you'll find yourself trying to win a virtual GPS system to escape the hills.
A Time to Reflect: The lack of a rearview mirror is a major oversight, especially in Marked Man. Instead of having a constant look at what's behind you, you have to press a button for your rear view, at which point, the view takes over the entire screen. Swapping between disorienting camera angles breaks up the flow of the driving.
Talking Heads: Paradise's in-game host, DJ Automica, has many helpful tips for you to start the game. But as with all looped video game audio, and radio DJ's in general, he grows irritating and repetitive as the game wears on. Unfortunately, unlike in your real car, you can't change the station.
 
Bottom Line
By incorporating an open, sprawling environment, Burnout Paradise will keep you busy whether you're power parking or barrel rolling. You pick the race or challenge, you decide where it takes place, and you choose when it goes down. This type of freedom is rare in racing games. We suggest you buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Gameplay Graphics Audio Online OVERALL
9 9 8 9 9
 
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