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Burnout Paradise
Score: 100%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Criterion
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Racing/ Free-Roaming/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
I was excited to get Burnout: Paradise in my hot little hands. I was amped from the second I selected the disc on my PS3's menu and the Burnout License Plate filled the screen while Guns and Roses' song, "Paradise City" filled the room. Luckily, Burnout: Paradise didn't disappoint...

Burnout: Paradise is a very, very pretty game. From the detail in the environment to the lighting effects, Paradise is the best looking Burnout game yet - and the games in the Burnout series have always looked pretty good.

Burnout: Paradise conforms to the First Law of Racing Games, clearly choosing destructible vehicles over licensing. This was undoubtedly a wise choice, given the mass vehicular destruction that is showcased in this game. Fans of the series won't be surprised by this, as the Burnout games of the past likewise chose rampant destruction over using real car licenses.

The sound effects are well done, from the revving of engines and the squealing of tires to the tinkling crash of glass shattering onto the pavement in slow-motion after particularly gruesome crashes. And, while the sound effects are nice, they are matched by the selection of music. EA Trax is in full-effect in Burnout: Paradise, with a wide selection of gas-pumping songs that are perfect for sinking the pedal to the metal and taking an opponent down at tops speeds. Additionally, there are several classical tunes which are used in the screen-saver mode along with a slow black and white fly-over to produce a somewhat eerie view of Paradise City. Of course, if you prefer to listen to the calming classical music while racing at unsafe speeds or while trying to take out half of the city in one carefully orchestrated wreck, simply make the appropriate adjustments in EA Trax and you're ready to rock... um, or whatever.

Fun. Fun, fun-fun, fun fun. Mind you, this game is a solid mix of unsafe speed, uncalled-for violence, unbelievable mayhem and fudged physics. The exact balance, however, depends on how you play.

Personally, I found that there's nothing more fun than blowin' things up. Nothing is quite as satisfying a a big 'splosion... unless that's more 'splosions, one after another. That's why, when I see a couple of buses lined up, it's Showtime! What's Showtime, you ask? Showtime is a mode in Burnout: Paradise that is all about taking as much out with you as you possibly can. Most of the physics in Paradise are fairly realistic; Showtime throws that out the window to not only allow your car to blow up again and again, but to allow you to control the direction in which your slowly disintegrating heap of wreck moves, letting you smash into yet more cars, collecting points and building up your explosion meter, letting you blow up more times. This is not the puzzle-oriented mode found in an earlier Burnout game, but it has many of the same elements, and is very addictive. Showtime lacks the preset puzzle element of wreck mode from the earlier Burnout game, losing the ability to develop strategies specific to a certain puzzle. Instead, however, you can launch into Showtime mode at any point, once you've played enough to unlock the mode. So, if you're in the middle of a race or some event and it's not going too good for you, or if you simply see a place with a lot of traffic, you can launch into the Showtime mode by simply pressing the (L1) and (R1) buttons at the same time. You can switch to Showtime mode at any time, but doing so quits any current event you're competing in.

There are several different types of events to compete in, as well as "bananas" to pick up along the way. What are bananas? You know... bananas or coins or hidden statues or medals or treasures... that element in a game that you're supposed to search to find them and "collect them all." Burnout: Paradise has two things that really fit this category: "Smashes" and Billboards. "Smashes" are areas that have barriers to keep people out of them, such as side roads, alleys, construction areas and parking garages. Not only are there a finite number of these to find and break through, but smashing through these barriers reveals some shortcuts and passthroughs that can prove useful in later races. Billboards are just that: billboards - specifically, billboards withe "Burnout" written on them. There are a finite number of these and your mission is to find them and crash through every one of them. Mind you, just like in real life, these are simply sitting on the ground waiting for you to drive through them, and it will take a combination of strategy, speed and accurate driving to launch your car through some of these billboards. You'll have to be really good to smash through all of them.

There are other features that are "banana-esque," but they aren't things that you can only "collect" once each. Specifically, there are Super Jumps, which consist of ramps and, often, construction sites or bridges that are out, and which offer set-ups for some really awesome jumps. The game provides the setting, but it's up to you to nail the jump. Finally, there's Power Parking. This, much like the Super Jumps, feels like something right out of the latest action film. All you have to do is use your handbrake to throw your car into a spin, coming to rest between two parked cars - preferably without causing any damage. Sound easy? No, I didn't think so.

I know that I've already said a lot about the gameplay, but I haven't even gotten to the events yet. The "normal" (if you can even try to call it that) racing events in Paradise City include: Races, Road Rage, Marked Man and Burning Route. Races are your typical start and finish or point-to-point route races, except of course that you are highly encouraged to take down your opponents in the most heinous ways possible in order to make it to the finish line first. Road Rage does away with the need to get somewhere in particular and focuses on your ability to take out a certain number of opponents before a time limit expires or your car does - whichever comes first. Marked Man makes you the most popular car in Paradise City, which is, unfortunately, not a good thing; you have to try to make it to the finish line in one piece, while other drivers try to take you out. With extreme prejudice. Stunt Run is a race in which you are trying to get style points for drifting, boosting, making Super Jumps, smashing billboards and performing barrel rolls - preferably chaining these moves together. Finally, there's Burning Route. Each Burning Route event is made specifically for a certain vehicle and you must use that vehicle to participate. What's more - win a Burning Route race and you'll be awarded a new vehicle.

In addition to the single player games, you can play online in 2 - 8 player games. You can freestyle in "Freeburn Online," or play in different challenges and races. What's more, if you and your friends have EyeToy USB cameras, you can set them up and they will take mugshots when you get taken down. You can share these mugshots with your friends online.

The great thing about Burnout: Paradise when it comes to difficulty is that there is something to do, regardless of your skill level. The "bananas" discussed above and the Showtime mode, along with the various types of races means that there's something to do, something to explore and some way to have fun for pretty much everyone.

If you find that you're having problems with the difficulty, you may want to listen more carefully to the DJ announcer, DJ Atomica. He's pretty good about giving tips on how to do things and just good advice, in general.

Also, there are four drive-thrus you'll want to familiarize yourself with on the map: Gas Stations, Auto Repair shops, Paint Shops and Junkyards. Gas Stations refill your boost, so you'll want to drive through one if you are low and need some more. Auto Repair shops are your friend - especially when playing Road Rage or Marked Man events. Paint shops are more just for looks, but can make your set of wheels look really fly. The Junkyards are where you can go to switch between cars. Any car you have available will be waiting for you at any of the Junkyards. Finding more Junkyards will give you the ability to switch between your cars without having to travel as much.

Game Mechanics:
Burnout: Paradise works on several levels. The graphics are very good, as are the sound effects and the music selections. I would have to say that the overall production is very nice, indeed. The action in the single player events is fun and there are enough different types of vehicles and events, that it is possible to find a selection of vehicles and events that you can excel in without having to be good at everything. For those who like destruction more than the racing aspects, there are collectibles and a Showtime feature to attend to your needs. In addition to very solid single player action, the online play is very fun and didn't seem to suffer from lag - something which often plagues racing games.

The physics are handled pretty realistically during the normal gameplay, but jumping into Showtime makes influencing the physics a major gameplay element, so while it's not realistic, it makes sense.

The only complaint I can see someone having with Burnout: Paradise would be minor difference between Paradise and previous games in the series or the fact that the vehicles aren't licensed, real-world vehicles. I think that the game mechanics in Paradise are finely tuned, making it the best game yet in the Burnout series, and I completely understand the lack of vehicle licensing with this much destruction. Burnout: Paradise definitely gets my "buy" recommendation if you're into racing games of mass destruction.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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