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.