I got a new game on Saturday. Burnout Paradise. Number one son said I would like it, and he is right. I got the PS3 version, but it is also available for Xbox 360. I've always been a big fan of Burnout games. I seem to remember getting at least the first couple and greatly enjoying them. The format of the Burnout games have been pretty much the same up until now. You work your way through a serious of increasingly difficult races of slightly different formats unlocking new challenges as you go until you either complete the game or lose interest because it gets too hard.
Guess which one I do.
Anyhoo, this format has been seriously tinkered with. There is still progression, but it is much more free form. You can drive anywhere and try anything in the huge city that is laid out in front of you. Traffic lights at junctions serve as the kicking off point for a variety of different racing missions. Win a few and your licence gets upgraded, you get a bigger car and so on. The sense of place is hugely impressive, you really do feel that you are in a genuine location. The driving is good, although with Burnout I always feel that I am flying the car rather than steering it. The crashes have to be seen to be believed. Bits come off your car and get scrunched up in a most realistic manner. And yet...
They have taken away the big green arrows. I used to like these. They told you when and where to turn. In the new game it is all about learning routes and finding shortcuts. And the driving map doesn't rotate to face the way you are going. You have to figure out orientation from a little pointer. I hate having to do that. You get some help telling you when to change direction, but it didn't do much for me. You can lose a race because you miss the turnoff. You can't easily resume a race if you get left behind. And the weather seems to always be the same. Bright sunshine and harsh shadows. The game is undoubtedly richer and more complex than it used to be, but it is also harder to figure out what to do next.
Some aspects remind me a lot of Mid Town Madness, a Microsoft game of some time back, where you had a whole city to play with and a bunch of mad drivers to take on. However, there was much more of a sense of fun about that affair, I used to love racing using buses.
Burnout Paradise is nearly a great game. If you want the impression of driving round a city the only game that gets close as far as I'm concerned is Need for Speed Most Wanted, which I reckon is much more fun (even though the graphics in Burnout are better). The network play could be great, but I've not tried it yet. It gets so much right, and is so well constructed that I really should love it more. I enjoy playing it, but I don't have the big stupid grin on my face that I get when I play some other driving games.