Arcade racers have been few and far in recent years, but they are back in fashion with Gravel already out and Onrush, GRIP, and others coming soon. Can the ten year old Burnout Paradise, widely regarded as one of the classic games of the previous generation still hold it’s own?
The game runs at a silky smooth 60fps and if you have a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X then you can bump up the resolution from 1080p to 4K, but that’s about all your getting on your new console; nothing else seems to have changed. The tip top remasters have used the extra processing power available to improve effects, tweak the lighting, and improve models, but EA have seemingly chosen to do a fairly straight port, increasing texture detail, making reflections higher resolution and adding proper shadows to other cars.
That may please purists but it seems a missed opportunity, and it should be noted the original PS3 version of the game ran at a solid 60fps. Only Xbox owners who had an occasionally juddery frame rate on the 360 version get any noticeable improvement in performance.
The smoke effects from burning rubber have been tweaked but still look rather pathetic and it’s noticeable that when you do crash your car crumples and the odd wheel pops off, what is mostly happening is small black shards spurt from your vehicle like a malfunctioning firework. Playing on a modern 4K TV also reveals just how dark the game gets when night falls. You can be driving in pitch black because the residents of Paradise City don’t seem to have functioning lights in many of their buildings, although oddly the inhabitants of Big Surf island do.
You certainly get a lot of content with all eight expansions, which includes over 150 bikes and vehicles and Big Surf, an addition island to the west of the map to race around. However, game design has progressed since the game first launched and having to listen to DJ Atomica explain every single event, ever single time, becomes annoying very quickly – a skip button would have been very welcome during these monologues. Anyone new to the game will also notice the traffic is surprisingly sparse, there’s very few other vehicles on the road considering that Paradise City is a huge sprawling metropolis, and having to drive to a Junk Yard to swap vehicles is just a pain. In fact, it was a pain in 2008 as well, and people complained it and the lack of fast travel at the time.
But do you know what? Who cares. It’s Burnout Paradise and it’s still bloody great. From the moment the classic Guns N’ Roses anthem blasts out I started to smile and I only stopped grinning when I turned the game off many hours later. Racing at breakneck speed through tunnels, performing ridiculous stunts, and jumping huge gaps with flames spewing from the back of your vehicle never gets boring. I’d forgotten just how damn fast this game is. The Crash mode is still bobbins though.
The vehicles handle perfectly for an arcade racer, feeling weighty and firmly stuck to the tarmac, but can perform handbreak turns that would break the drivers neck with whiplash. Although Paradise City and the surrounding area isn’t the biggest of maps there is always something new to to discover round each corner and you can have a whale of time just putting your foot to the floor and driving where you like, smashing through gates and trying to locate all the Burnout billboards.
To unlock new vehicles you can either take down AI racers or compete in events that include races, stunt runs, and Marked Man, in which you have to race to a point on the map whilst heavily armoured vehicles try and smash you into, well, just about anything. Each time you win an event you add a point to your license; get enough points, go up a level and get some new cars. However, as all the DLC is unlocked from the start this does make the earlier stages very easy if you want them to be. In the original game you started with rather rubbish vehicles but here you can race the the fastest, toughest DLC vehicles from the start.
Alongside the races to get your drivers permit there are a huge number of challenges to achieve, online leaderboards, ranked events, road rules, and a host of trophies which ping up at pleasingly regular intervals. There’s plenty to do and that’s before you go online and team up with up to eight friends to race with. I personally couldn’t try it out on PS4 before launch, but the Xbox One’s EA Access trial had the game’s incomparable Easy Drive mode in all its glory. It’s no different to the original game, which means it’s some of the best fun you can have with eight people without getting naked.
The price of Burnout Paradise Remastered has raised a few eyebrows, so we should mention that the original game is backwards compatible on Xbox One, and of course the PC version has been available for ages, albeit without Big Surf. If your not a completist or don’t mind the lower resolution visuals on Xbox One BC, then they may a cheaper option. PlayStation 4 owners are stuck with just once choice.
It may a look a little basic compared to recent titles, but when it comes to gameplay Burnout Paradise still thrashes the competition. The racing is sublime, the stunts are spectacular, and there’s always something to do round the next corner. It has one of the best soundtracks of any game – and yes that includes Avril – it’s just a shame that some of the mechanics are dated and clunky.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4 Pro