I liked the original Burnout Paradise. I had a friend over 10 years ago, and we played a bunch of it passing the controller back and forth…even though it didn’t suit that quite as well as the two games that came before it.
Burnout 3: Takedown was my personal introduction to the series. After loving it to death, I went out and bought the first two. I thought Legends was a great entry on the PSP. I thought the 360 version of Revenge was the coolest-looking game I had seen at the time.
With such a rich heritage of success in the arcade racing genre, Paradise is kind of the odd man out. Criterion really went for it, not only shoving in an open world but rethinking the entire design of arcade racers in the process. Some of this stuff endured into more modern games like Forza Horizon…but a lot of it just seems eccentric at best through a present-day lens.
The designers wanted you to learn the entire map by heart. They wanted you to recognize street names. They wanted you to be able to navigate with only the barest of hints. And at launch, there wasn’t a race restart feature.
It all feels like the team was a little bit more in love with their static world of perfectly drift-able corners than they should have been. Paradise City is full of beautifully-designed racing lines…and has little personality aside from that.
It’s very fun to drive around in, but as a place it falls apart.
I downloaded the EA Access trial of the new remaster this week. When I first looked at the trailer, it didn’t really seem like the visuals were upgraded…but it turns out that’s not the case. Most of the textures have been re-done/upgraded, and the particle effect system is much more robust.
That stuff is…cool I guess?
But what I’ve really enjoyed is how meaty the sound mix is.
When I played the original game, I had a Logitech PC 5.1 system as my main gaming setup. I vaguely remember the game sounding good…but everything sounded the same level of “good” on that system. It was designed to be an in-your-face theatrical sort of experience, with little dynamic range and a lot of punch.
When I played it with my friend on the couch we just used the TV speakers.
These days, I do most of my gaming with either a headset or a nice pair of studio headphones. And oh man Paradise sounds good!
Every car has an otherworldly sound to it, with engine sounds from across the whole frequency spectrum. They sound the way cars sound when imagined by kids. They’re the perfect mix of throaty and detailed. The crashes are big and bombastic, with realistic imaging that’s spread across the whole soundstage. The music is mixed at just the right level, with full dynamics and intelligibility that’s rare for licensed music in video games.
The sound in the game made me really excited while playing the trial. I don’t think this is a totally new mix, although it might be using higher-quality audio samples than the original since there wasn’t a limit on file sizes.
It’s a perfect example of how important audio mixing is in a video game.
Of course, the original version of game is backwards compatible on the Xbox One…and also cheaper.
And Paradise is far from perfect.
The single player campaign has never been the stickiest/most engaging thing. It’s basically just a series of races spread out across the map, making the content much slower to access than it would be through a menu system. I got tired of it 10 years ago before I finished the game, even though I had a great time with it. Once you’ve seen each event type a couple of times…the variety in the game disappears, since there aren’t any new track designs to discover and you’re just racing across the map to one of the same eight spots.
And the multiplayer, while fun and revolutionary for the time…also requires a comical amount of grinding and different combinations of player counts if you want to see everything.
But there’s no denying that the game, even without its new visual overhaul, has a tremendous sense of style and fun at its core. And I don’t think I really realized how sound was such a key part of that. It also made me miss when EA was cramming licensed tracks and DJ characters into every video game.
I hope that Burnout Paradise Remastered at least leads to a new game in the franchise. The work that’s been done to the artwork places this one step above the quick cash-in that it first appeared to be…but it’s definitely not a total remake, either.
If it were $20, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat just for the audio. Maybe even at $30. But for $40…it’s tougher to say. This is a ten year old game with a ten year old design, higher resolution textures, and a really good sound mix. If you’re on a PS4, I guess there’s no easy/good way to play this game outside the new version, but on an Xbox One, you could opt for the 360 copy or just play the trial like I have. PC owners have to wait a while, because this happens in video games still for some reason?
Just make sure you plug in some headphones if you do play the game. You’re in for a treat!