Maybe it’s something about Renderware. It must be, right? 500 Agility Orbs in the Renderware-powered Crackdown, daring you to allow anything else in the game to rival those humming green treats for sheer narrative appeal. And in Burnout Paradise, another Renderware joint, 400 yellow crash gates. They’re shortcuts ostensibly but, given the way they scatter on the wind in your wake, I suspect people would happily charge through them even if they lead to nowhere more exciting than a small out-of-hours pharmacy. 400 yellow gates, twinkling their lurid twinkle and lending a throbbing emergency-yellow shape to the wild city looping and tumbling around you. And 120 billboards to smash through. And 50 super jumps to super jump. And ten multi-storeys…
Coming back to it after all these years, peeling out of the auto shop, mentally buckling in, physically shunting through the best worst soundtrack ever constructed in order to find the best worst song of them all – Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend – and then heading for the hills, for the wind farm, for the docks, for the first, hundredth, thousandth time? Doing all of this on instinct alone, it is so clear, so thrillingly clear, that you have found yourself at the centre of something very special. Burnout Paradise is one of the most energising driving games ever created, one of the purest zone games in years, and one of the most thoughtful and surprising and integrated takes on what makes an open-worlder tick and what keeps an open-world feeling connected, readable, and coherent. And hilariously – hilariously! – it’s not even the best Burnout.
In fact, at times, Paradise is barely Burnout at all. It ditches the chevrons, for Pete’s sake! It ditches those glowing gutter guards that appeared alongside the tracks you raced down meaning that you never really had to worry about steering very much when you were pushing your way into infamy in Takedown or Revenge. Instead, you can get lost on races in Paradise! You can take a wrong turn and suddenly drop from 1/8 to 8/8 like the Pope himself hitting a holy air pocket. (I don’t know why I’ve brought the pope into this; maybe all that talk of Paradise, maybe it’s just that Criterion has a way of making its players feel special.)
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