Driving games have been very serious affairs for quite a long time. Ever-heightened levels of processing power have led to developers trying to produce ever-more realistic driving characteristics and infinite opportunities to tweak settings to suit your own preferences.
Whilst the Gran Turismo/Forza/Project Cars titles are all very worthy and challenging, they’re not exactly aimed at casual fans who just to have some fun and wreak some virtual havoc. Clearly, someone at Electronic Arts noticed this as well and picked up the phone to Criterion Games in Guildford, who had produced a much-loved title called Burnout Paradise a decade ago.
Criterion reopened the Burnout Paradise files and set to work. The result is Burnout Paradise Remastered, which brings the original game to a new audience on the latest Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One audiences. In addition to the original game content, the Remastered version also gets nearly all of the previously-released downloadable content (DLC) and support for the latest ultra-high definition 4K screens running at 60 frames per second.
So why all the effort to resurrect a game that’s a decade old?
There are probably sounds business reasons, but for driving game fans, the only reason that matters is because Burnout Paradise remains as much laugh-out-loud driving fun as it was ten years ago.
The game’s premise is very simple. You have a large open world of roads to explore, and a succession of ever-faster cars to race and crash.
The cars are not licensed versions of your favourite Ferraris or Porsches, they are simply copies or products of the designers’ imaginations. But it matters not one bit, because the gameplay is fast and frenetic and you are having too much fun to notice.
There are various different challenges you can either choose to take on or simply ignore as you power around the streets of Paradise City, complete with the Guns N’ Roses song of the same name as the soundtrack (no, not on continuous loop. There are plenty of other rock tracks as well).
You can race against other cars from point to point, choosing whichever route you like to get to the finish line. You can perform stunt challenges, run other cars off the road, crash through billboards, hunt for hidden shortcuts and more.
It sounds quite simplistic and I completely expected the novelty to wear off after the first 20 minutes or so. But it’s surprisingly addictive, and I found myself thinking “just another ten minutes” several times as I pulled up to another set of traffic lights for “just one more” race across town.
Generally, the object in a racing game is not to crash, but Burnout Paradise is a bit different in that regard. The cars travel at rather insane speeds around the city, so you will inevitably hit something sooner rather than later. And the crashes are a visual highlight of the game – gloriously rendered in slow motion as you barrel roll across four lanes and into a concrete barrier.
If it’s merely a massive accident, rather than the complete destruction of your vehicle, you will be able to carry on with minimal loss of time (and no adverse effect on your car’s performance). If you have a really enormous shunt, you will be reset with a freshly-rehabilitated car on a nearby piece of track, but you will lose more time and may not be heading in the right direction.
So what are the downsides?
There’s no hiding that this is a ten-year-old game that’s been given a spit and polish to look sharper on modern gaming systems. The scenery and cars are not as photo-realistic as you’ll see in the latest Gran Project Forza titles.
There’s no real learning curve to speak of, so if you like driving games that present increasing difficulty and challenge as you progress, you may get bored fairly easily.
The cars are all no-name knock-offs rather than licensed models from real manufacturers. Mind you, the Grand Theft Auto games are exactly the same and that has hardly stopped them from being wildly successful.
If you don’t like ‘90s rock music, the soundtrack is probably going to grate in fairly short order. If you like GNR, Soundgarden and similar, you’ll love it.
If you like your driving games to be simulator experiences, complete with steering wheel and manual gear change setup, Burnout Paradise Remastered is not really going to be your cup of tea.
The driving experience is not realistic, nor is it designed to be. It’s super-fast, arcade-style, smash-em-up racing.
If you want to grab your controller and simply enjoy some hilarious racing and vehicular destruction without fiddling with intricate car setups and other details, Burnout Paradise Remastered is simple, fast, glorious fun.