Players: 1-8
Price: $59.99
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Criterion
Publisher: Electronic Arts
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Website: Burnout

For those of you who love racing games but have never picked up a Burnout title before because it was too, “destruction derby,” for you, shame on you, because Burnout, especially this latest game in the slamtastic series, is every bit a racing game as Forza or Gran Turismo. It’s just more arcadey and with about a million times more RPMs added to it for good measure. Seriously, this is the fastest game I’ve ever played in my entire life, blowing F-Zero out of the water completely. So for those of you who haven’t played Burnout before, you’re in for a real treat with Paradise, which is as close to a sand-box, four wheel version of GTA as you’ll ever possibly get in a racing game.

It’s the die-hard fans of Burnout that I’m actually worried about here. Paradise, while still maintaining all the fun of jumping off of miniramps and locating obscenely obvious shortcuts, is a pretty big departure for the minimalist series. So much so, in fact, that it’s bound to either make fans true believers that Burnout Paradise really is the second coming of (deity of choice here) or the end of days as we know it for the series altogether. Personally, I love the fact that this Burnout is so open-world and free, and it leads me to believe that this is where most street oriented games will be turning to in the next few years or so.

Similar to past games, you’re tasked with smashing up cars (But good!) and racing others to some random check place to the end of the race. Simple, right? Indeed it is, but this time around, it seems like you have more options, as the vast Paradise City, so named for a terrible Guns N’ Roses song, is an open world where you start your races by halting at stop lights and finding out what challenges await you. It may sound like it wouldn’t cause much controversy to the uninitiated, but for those familiar with the game, this changes everything. In the past, the game basically gave you the option to choose whether you wanted to just smash things up or race, and this game says, why not just let the gamer decide in game what they want to do, meaning, that you can either just drive around and smash things, or, you could actually choose what missions you want to do on the fly, which makes the game much larger than smaller, something some fans might not appreciate all that much (Why fix something that’s not broken, right?).

But this game is fixed, and proof of that is in the new Showtime mode, which is basically just crash mode except it can be pulled off anytime you want by pressing the top two shoulder buttons. In this mode, you actually just start flipping across the screen, trying to nail as many different vehicles/signs, as you can to rack up your score and add even more chaos to well filled streets. Since the game’s been out, I’ve heard some say that they think it’s a little ridiculous watching your car continuously spinning all around town like some kind of katamari ball being rolled about, but I think it adds a great deal to the fun factor and really emphasizes how large Paradise City really is (You can roll around for quite some time, you know).

I also like the new radio feature, it adds a nice touch to the fact that you’re actually in a living, breathing world, heavily populated and loaded with opportunities to destroy the whole city if you’d like. And online play is fun, too. Finding people to play in Easy Drive mode is simple, and all you have to do is hit right on the D-pad to find other people to play. The modes available vary in fun (Stunt run was a little, bleh, for me, but I really love Marked Man), but similar to all past Burnout games, all the fun lies in how you make it, and there’s plenty of fun to be had if you have quick reflexes and eyes to make all the sharp turns you need to make exits and leaps that are on the map.

But that’s actually where I have a problem with the game—with the reflex part—as I find mine just aren’t fast enough to meet the demands of some of the objectives. Often times, the game is just too darn fast, and I feel that I’m missing out on a lot of the action because I’m flying down the streets at such break-neck speeds. And while I know you’re probably shaking your head and muttering, “n00b,” in my direction, it’s true, the game may be too fast for some (like me), killing the fun a bit if you can’t manage to drift your car into the tight turn you want to nail in time for a massive jump. There seems to be too much going on for my brain to possibly capture everything.

That’s small potatoes though to an overall great game and shouldn’t detract from everything Paradise has to offer. Pick it up if you haven’t already, and give it a try. Very few games can really match the speed and intensity of this game.

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