Dec 14, 2007

Take Me Down To (Burnout) Paradise City

After my friends' weekly Halo 3 session last night, I had a chance to try out the recently-released Burnout Paradise demo. I was so impressed that I had to do a quick write-up.

For previous fans, note that I'm new to the Burnout franchise, so view my comments in that light. Criterion has created this wonderful driving sandbox. They have lovingly crafted over thirty square kilometers of city landscape for us to race through, and the implementation is truly impressive.

The demo reminds me of GTA3 (minus the violent crime of course) through the sense of free-roaming exploration I feel navigating the expansive streets of Paradise City. Note that only one section of the city is available in the demo - the red section of this map - but even this small portion of the city is huge!

The city is littered with ramps, secret shortcuts, and spectacular, subtly-hidden superjump opportunities. Add to that a positively supreme damage model and cringe-inducing, jaw-dropping slow motion crash sequences and you've got one incredibly enjoyable urban racer, my friend.

Best of all, the car control is spot-on. In a racer like Burnout Paradise, players are challenged to both precisely control one's vehicle when hurtling through oncoming traffic at Ludicrous Speed, and also to execute outrageous, stuntman-style maneuvers when drifting and skidding around tight 90-degree downtown turns. The control here is a perfect balance of fishtail-happy arcade-racer and technical driving sim, and the degree of cornering traction control via throttle is perfect for a game like this.

Note that I haven't even started playing with the built-in racing events - I've simply been careening around the city, soaking up the rubber-smoking, octane-guzzling sandbox thrillfest that is eastern Paradise City. The sense of speed this game provides needs to be experienced first-hand. I can't wait to try out all the actual racing events.

I also hear that multiple players can explore the city together in free-roaming mode via Live, and the opportunities for screaming steel mayhem stretch out tantalizingly before me.

BP is being developed by Criterion Games for EA, and is slated for a January 22nd release. If the game sounds intriguing, be sure to check out Criterion's Crash FM Podcast.

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