Burnout Paradise is one of those games I find myself coming back to year after year, never tiring out on its adrenaline filled gameplay formula. Few racing titles have managed to deliver levels of excitement found in Burnout ever since the series went into hibernation, and none possess the engaging open world found in Paradise. Now it has a fresh coat of paint and brings all DLC into one spot to preserve one of the best arcade racers you can currently find on the market. Burnout Paradise Remastered extensively improves all visual aspects of the original version, while retaining the exact same game experience fans have enjoyed since its release back in 2008. This is all you’d normally ask of a remastered experience, but features significantly more upgrades compared to typical obsession of the gaming industry to update almost everything it’s released in the past. Burnout Paradise is one of those few where I don’t mind spending money to get the updated experience, knowing I’m very well getting exceptional value even when I own the original game. You don’t have to be a racing game fan to enjoy the experience, and Paradise Remastered offers unparalleled open-world excitement.
Developer (remastered edition): Stellar Entertainment; Publisher: EA
Released: August 21, 2018; Reviewed on: PC
Testing specs: Core i5-6500 3.2GHz, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1070
Available via: Origin
For the first time, PC gamers get to enjoy the Big Surf Island DLC, included in the Remastered package, along with all additional cars released after the main game. I’ve always had trouble accessing any of those rides, some of which were technically included in the Ultimate Box edition, but now all DLC is ready from the get-go. If the already extensive range of standard vehicles doesn’t strike you fancy, there’s Paradise PD versions for most of them, as well as some special editions fans would remember from previous gamers. These for example, give you an opportunity to explore the open world from the very start, unrestricted by collecting cars in standard progression to keep a sense of variety. You also get a few bikes, which have their own separate events and time challenges so there’s no unfair competition between them and the more durable cars. If you’ve missed out on Burnout Paradise in the past, now is a better time than ever to pick it up. It holds up immensely well ten years down the line, and apart from the Forza Horizon series, you won’t find anything as exciting in the racing genre as the trip down to memory lane to Paradise City.
Apart from brief introduction to its gameplay mechanics, Burnout Paradise never interrupts you afterwards, with players free to engage in its open world as they see fit. There’s tons to do, and action occurs at a press of a few keys – a design even most arcade racers seemingly forgot about. A brief loading screen before an event tells you where to go, but from there on the game doesn’t bother you with directions, neither does it force your hand in case you miss a recommended turn or crash in a spectacular display of crumbling metal and glass. To start, simply pull up to one of the many intersections, press gas and brake at the same time, and then you’re off. Cars are awarded generously through the single player career, including ‘hotter’ versions of existing rides when you win ride-specific timed events, although you’re also completely free to mess around the open world if races get tiresome. Plus, exploration aids you in discovering the many shortcuts you can go through during events to shave off those crucial seconds.
Each race concludes in one of the eight end zones spread out at every compass direction of the map, which are easily memorable through distinct landmarks highlighted in the game’s intro sequence. You’re not confined to follow any specific route, free to drive to the finish line down whichever path you see fit. You can easily drop down from first to last in position rankings because of that, but this is simply a part of what makes the experience so much fun. The more you discover of the map then, you become much faster at getting to the finish line. Paradise City is far from the biggest open-world in racing, yet its compact size feels perfectly suited for the game at hand. Criterion Games cleverly made it so you don’t realize how much smaller the game’s world is compared to much of competition, yet for at least half the game you’d be surprised to keep discovering hidden pathways all over town. It speaks to the strengths of open world design when it manages to fill a small map with so much entertainment that the size becomes simply irrelevant, with players discovering new roads every time they play.
Unlike many open worlds in the racing genre that feel devoid of life or have been added in just for the sake of it, Burnout Paradise throws in a myriad of things to do outside of race events. This has remained the strongest point of its gameplay design, one to set it widely apart from the rest of competition at the time, and which allowed the experience to remain competitive with the rest of the genre in recent years. Paradise City is a playground for gamers to discover shortcuts, smash through billboards, complete super jumps and rule the city through setting the best times on each of its roadways. This wealth of content will keep you engaged for hours on end, helping locate a myriad of shortcuts scattered all around Paradise City and explore every nook and cranny available. You simply don’t find so much side content in many open-world racers these days, with 400 yellow gates, 50 bright billboards and 50 jumps to be found all across Paradise. In Remastered, you can furthermore seek these activities out from the beginning, having a sizeable fleet of rides in your garage from DLC packs, instead of having to unlock them via the traditional career. Races tend to get fairly repetitive after a certain while, so you’d much rather want to explore Paradise City at own leisure.
Racing in Burnout Paradise has an incredible feeling of momentum, as you drive through … city streets at breakneck pace, covering mile after mile within a span of a few seconds. While you initially start with slightly slower vehicles to get fully used to Burnout’s handling, which are still no slouches by any means, peak performance cars easily go so fast as to make everything around you a passing blur. This also leads to spectacular crashes, which no one besides Criterion Games has done so well in execution. A careless imprecise turn will often see your car crumble in a shower of jagged metal, shards of glass flying out in every direction. No one since Criterion has executed player mistakes in such manner, although it is of course more fun to smash your opponents into pieces instead. Hence Road Rage events are perhaps my favorite, as there’s no reason to focus on directions; simply drive around and send the opposition flying into walls, traffic or other racers. There’s even an entire mode dedicated to smashing through traffic with your car as a bouncing projectile, where you score points by hitting everything in your path, as long as the ride’s momentum keeps going.
There’s enough diversity here to prevent you from getting bored, although Paradise’s progression often literally burned me out on numerous occasions in the past. It’s a game more designed to be played in couple-hour bursts rather than a long sitting, which is obvious in the way you progress through its career. Completing events earns marks on the player’s driver license, which in turn advances through multiple categories the more you play. Each time it changes, event progression is wiped clean to make room for more of the same challenges between Races, Stunts, Marked Man and Road Rage. Burning Routes are also present – the game’s expression of time trial races; these are fixed to each individual car and are the only events to remain marked off after initial completion. Each one grants a hotter version of the same car you’ve used to complete it, adding to the already solid stable of vehicles at player disposal. The garage is a mixture of muscle cars, classics and performance-oriented exotics, with an odd van and a pickup truck thrown in for purely destructive capabilities. Expansion packs further give you a few nice oddities in form of Boost Special rides, Legendary Burnout automobiles, a fleet of Paradise PD versions and even scaled down toy models of some existing rides in the game; altogether this makes for a pretty sweet garage setup.
The remastered edition receives a few meaningful upgrades over the initial release to warrant yet another purchase, although if you’re an owner of Ultimate Box edition on PC, there isn’t a huge deal of change to find here. Burnout Paradise Remastered looks significantly crisper than ever before, with polished texture resolutions all around and consistently solid framerates. It’s aged quite well after all these years, and while Paradise simply won’t impress you with high levels of detail, most of it you don’t see as you race along at a few hundred mph. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fix any of the game’s mechanical issues at launch, with lack of improvement in all other areas apart from visuals. Burnout Paradise Remastered still has that unskippable opening cutscene, which spends around five minutes explaining the same things you already likely know, plus the menace of DJ Atomica hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still as annoying as ever, injecting commentary on absolutely everything you do throughout the game’s career. And whenever you crash, which happens a lot, be prepared to watch a repeat of unnecessarily long wreckage sequences. It’s clear the goal here was for EA to leave the experience in its original state, adding a new coat of paint to refresh the visuals and letting new players pick it up over on Xbox One and PS4, yet one gets a feeling something more could be done here. Yet I can’t complain, as I’ve perhaps come back to Paradise more often than any other title in my vast library.
With a fresh coat of paint, Burnout Paradise offers both fans and new coming players the hands down best arcade racing experience to date. While likes of Forza Horizon scream hundreds of cars at you, and their beautiful locales are undeniably worth exploring every inch of, Paradise City has that level of charm to keep me going back there over and over. It doesn’t have the polish of recent racing games, but the game’s exceptional open world design has not been replicated anywhere else to date. On Origin, it only costs $25 and comes included in the Origin access membership for those subscribed, but can also be found at discounted pricing often. Even a decade from its release, Burnout Paradise remains an over the top racing experience that’s simply not been challenged by anyone who attempts to weave in a narrative design into an arcade racer. The Remastered release, which finally grants PC gamers all DLC ever denied to the platform, has even more reasons for fans to keep coming back to over and over. I certainly will be.