I have never been a huge fan of racing games. Even back in the day when Pole Position was state of the art, I found the genre to be quite unforgiving. Typically, one small mistake ruins your chances at winning a race. I make lots of mistakes, some of them not so small, and so I never really went nuts for racing games. But when I first popped Burnout Paradise in my Xbox 360, I didn't put the controller down for over an hour.
The first thing that struck me about the game was the graphics. The city itself was well rendered, and quite beautiful. The attention to detail in the environment itself really struck me. From the billboards adverting in game radio stations, to the variety of buildings, the different types of roads, the beach... it all looks authentic. Granted, Paradise City isn't the most realistic place, but it is fun. Just driving through the city is a worthwhile experience on its own. Watching your car crash into an unrecognizable mass of metal can be a jaw dropping moment, too. Which is good, because I crashed often.
On to the events, then. You can upgrade your driver's license by taking first place in one of the many different events scattered throughout the city. Each intersection brings a new challenge for you, and there is a nice variety of events. The most basic is the Race: get to your destination before anyone else. It's first place or nothing on these, which was a bit harsh at first but I quickly got used to it. One nice thing is the game doesn't care how you get to the destination. You can use any route, or even one of the many shortcuts you'll find as you explore the city. Another event is the Stunt Run. Players are given a time period to score so many "style" points. You earn these points by jumping, drifting, and basically anything else that looks cool.
By far, my favorite was the Road Rage event. In Road Rage, you are given a target number of opponents to take down in a certain amount of time. Taking down opponents is totally fun. I found myself to be quite talented at this aspect of the game. It turns out I am practically the Tony Hawk of Road Rage. Running up close to an opponent, nudging them into the wall, or an oncoming car... it's good times. My seven year old was in awe, and I was totally surprised myself. The slower, heavier cars that I prefer are both more forgiving when it comes to steering, and also heavyweights in the Road Rage arena.
Now, let's discuss the co-op for a bit. Last weekend, the Co-Optimus staff all got together in Paradise City. This was my first experience with the game in co-op, or multiplayer, for that matter. Co-op is a bit hard to describe, but generally takes the form of simultaneous challenges. One challenge had us all working together to get five or more seconds of air time in jumps. Another asked each of us to achieve a full 360 spin off a particular cliff. These challenges had less of a co-op feel; basically, it was simultaneous individual effort, and not co-op.
A few other events were more cooperative. One had us all attempting to get 3000 feet of jumps, combined. I preferred this to the other co-op challenges, since the slowest player (yup it was me) didn't hold back the whole group. Probably the highlight of the evening was the co-op road rage events. All the players were herded to one location, and had to score fifty take downs to win. It was hilarious to see us all "working together" to crash each other into the nearest wall or building. These latter two co-op challenges were the best, for sure.
I should say something about the downloadable content for the game. There are lots of features that have been added since the game was launched, like the motorcycles. Several of the events and challenges we played were not available at the game's launch. The best content is the special cars. We downloaded the Legendary Cars pack, and it was absolutely worth it. The Time Machine is extremely fast, far quicker than any of the standard cars we unlocked. The Ghostbusters vehicle is built like a battleship, very tough and hard to take down. KITT and the General Lee are just as cool, though a bit more balanced compared to other cars. Nick bought the Toy Cars Pack's monster truck, and not only was it small and hard to hit, it was extremely durable. Watching the Time Machine get taken down by anoversized Stomper... it was hilarious.
Burnout Paradise is a good, solid game. Even to me, as a racing game n00b, it was quite enjoyable and well worth the purchase. The multiplayer is very good. In particular, some of the competitive modes like Marked Man are totally fun. Unfortunately, the co-op challenges don't really provide the same sense of working together that you'd find in Left 4 Dead or Gears of War. This is primarily due to the nature of racing games; there's only so much you can do together when you are in separate cars, after all. I wholeheartedly recommend the game for its single player and multiplayer experiences, particularly for the low price. The co-op isn't as strong, and a split-screen option is sorely needed.