Good arcade-style racers have been absent in this modern age of video games for quite some time. Many of today’s popular racers are simulations or at the very least, grounded in reality. Sometimes, I don’t want to worry about specific tuning for certain courses or penalties for cutting corners, I just want to listen to some good tunes and drive. Burnout Paradise Remastered, an optimized version of the last traditional entry in Criterion Games’ racing series, brings you back to those good ol’ days of chaotic arcade racing with a new, but somewhat unimpressive, coat of paint.
The premise of Burnout Paradise Remastered is simple: explore Paradise City, compete in a variety of events, unlock new cars, and upgrade the class of your license. As bare bones as it seems, the gameplay loop is addictive. The events are very short, new cars are available to unlock frequently, moving up a class is as quick as it should be, and it feels like there is something to do on every inch of the city.
This loop would not be addictive if the driving did not feel great. Fortunately, this ten-year-old game feels as smooth as any of today’s racers. Accelerating through the city streets of Paradise City zooming past oncoming traffic is exhilarating. From drifting on the winding roads in the east to threading the needle on the highway, driving in-game is great.
My one gripe with the driving is the utilization, or the lack thereof, of the handbrake. In other racing games, I use the handbrake to hit some of the tighter turns. As such, I thought this would be the same case; it turns out it’s not. Anytime my instincts would kick in and press the handbrake button, my car would spin in circles, typically leading to a lost race. I found that using the normal brake sufficed. I know, it’s pretty silly to have a problem with the handbrake considering the arcade style of the game, but its kind of silly that its there in the first place since you’re just going to put the pedal to the metal anyways.
Every moment you are on the road feels as if it will come to a screeching halt thanks to another car, a wall, a building, or any of the many obstacles found in the world. By “feels”, I mean it definitely will come to a screeching halt. The Burnout series is not only known for its speed, but also for its destructive crashes and takedowns. Burnout Paradise is no exception.
Each of the game’s event types — race, burning route, marked man, stunt run, and road rage — will reward you taking down the opposition. Performing takedowns in a race and marked man event will aid you in filling your boost gauge. The same is true during road rage events, but you’ll be taking out cars anyways since the goal is to perform as many takedowns in a particular amount of time. The takedowns add another layer to the game’s unpredictable and adrenaline-inducing nature.
The freedom you are given during an event is nice to a certain extent. Especially during road rage and marked man types, opening the map to get from point A to point B is typically in your favor. However, this freedom is also given to you during races which became more frustrating than not. This was mostly due to the how the compass works during an event.
Essentially, the game has a recommended route it wants you to take. When that route wants you to turn onto a different road, a named street sign will pop-up above the compass from the direction it wants you to turn and moves closer to the center of the screen when the closer you approach the turn. The way the street sign inches to the center never feels indicative of the turn’s actual location. I always found myself missing the turn or going for it too early, destroying my car in the process.
In some cases, not following the recommended route was favorable. If I found myself missing a turn, I would take one of the many shortcuts found in the city jumping back into first place. It was moments like this that feel the most rewarding. Experimenting with the route and taking advantage of the many side streets and jumps to take the lead is incredibly satisfying. Even after competing in the same event twice, each event feels new due to the amount of freedom you are given.
There are plenty of activities that are integrated into Paradise City as well. The Time Road Rules challenges were what distracted me throughout my playthrough. Anytime I saw that countdown timer start, my finger was on that boost button as I attempt to make it to the end of the road by the timer’s end. This, in addition to the collect-a-thon that are the smashable billboards and gates, will keep you busy as you travel to the next event.
The cars you’ll drive in Burnout Paradise Remastered are split into three categories — speed, stunt, and aggression — each with its own unique spin on the boost mechanic. Speed boost cars are the fastest and most fragile vehicles; stunt boost cars are both fast and fairly durable; aggression boost cars are the most durable vehicles in the game.
Although certain cars are best suited to specific types of events, I found myself favoring aggression cars due to its ability to takedown cars with ease. It wasn’t until I upgraded my license to Class B did I start using speed boost cars for both race and stunt events. On paper, stunt boost cars have the best all-around stats, but I never felt I was fast enough to win a race or durable enough to survive a marked man event. Speed vehicles, although fragile, could take enough of a beating during a stunt event that made them an eligible choice.
The remastered package of Burnout Paradise includes the base game and all of its add-ons with higher resolution textures and running at a fairly steady 60 frames per second. While the content within is well worth your time, the graphical upgrade isn’t anything to get excited about. Most modern racing games are technical showpieces to show how great the graphics on your console look. In comparison, this game doesn’t compete. By no means does it look bad, it is just not up to the standards of what we are now used to.
Burnout Paradise Remastered is a breath of fresh air for the racing genre. It takes the realistic aspects of racing and throws them out the window with fast and furious driving that feels great. The sense of speed achieved as you zip through the streets of Paradise City listening to Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’ is truly astounding. It’s both frantic and fun. There are some frustrating moments and the visual upgrade isn’t as big of a leap as I would like, but there is still a lot to enjoy. After finishing a few events, you’ll wonder why the franchise has been gone for so long.