Yeah, Still Good
Just over a month ago, Burnout Paradise Remastered was announced. A week ago, it was released. Upon hearing the announcement, a joyous amount of nostalgia washed over me in a way that I can only equate to fans of Final Fantasy VI or VII when you mention it. I don’t have the attachment to the game, the praise for it (misguided or otherwise) or the ties to it to apply its principles to my life via allegory or metaphor. Still, Burnout Paradise is not only a game I love, but may actually be among my favorite games ever. Or I was at least compelled enough to write about it.
My exposure to Burnout started with my sister, Amanda. She came to visit me in Philadelphia and, on a day where we were either waiting to do something or not doing anything, we decided to play video games. I didn’t have a ton of multiplayer games, but my roommate, Sheb, saved the day when he said, “y’all should play Burnout.” Despite my unfamiliarity with the series, Amanda immediately jumped at it. “Hell yeah, Burnout!” I don’t remember if it was Point of Impact, Takedown or Revenge, but it wasn’t long before I arrived, once again, at a realization: My sister and I have our different preferences, but she always finds a way to introduce me to the coolest things (I will say this, Amanda. You can keep Hanson. Love you!). Secondary shout out to Sheb for bringing it up, but if Amanda hadn’t expressed interest, I may have never played the games, nor would I have ever even looked towards Paradise. Thus began my re-examination of my relationship with racing games as well as my understanding of my own taste.
That particular day brought back more memories of loving racing games than I ever thought I actually played. Games like San Francisco Rush, Wave Race, Wipeout, F-Zero, even playing Daytona USA in arcades was conjured (I’m leaving out Mario Kart here because its focus is more on power-up usage than actual racing — fight me). This somehow convinced me that I liked racing games and went back to playing them, mostly via rental to avoid the financial impact. Inevitably, I arrived at Gran Turismo 4 and learned the difference between arcade and simulation variants on the genre. While both have their merits, no way am I ever devoting the necessary time to learn about cars as I’ve never been interested in them, nor was i going to attempt my own development of the necessary nuanced dexterity to excel at sim racing in general. I either took the Ricky Bobby “I wanna go fast” stance or the very young Matthew’s “let’s make hot-wheels crash a lot” point of view. Therein lies the beauty and excellence in Burnout as a series and Burnout Paradise as the crystalline, hyper-concentrated, uncut, unfiltered essence of both aforementioned ideals.
It all begins with that sunny riff that opens “Paradise City” by Guns N Roses. Are there better songs to open a video game? Sure. But accompanied by the flawlessly delivered monologue by DJ Atomika (Mark Hildreth). It’s one of those moments that I just always remember. It’s not one of the ‘moments that made a game’ or ‘moments of the year’, but there’s something boiler plate yet ultimately singular about it. Criterion could’ve used any other 80s hair metal riff and any other voice that could be deemed radio gold, but I guarantee it would NOT come off as brilliantly as DJ Atomika over “Paradise City.” Frankly, I wish I could say it’s because the song is great, but I’ve never really thought so. It’s certainly a ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ sort of thing.
Upon being dropped into Paradise one thing was immediately apparent, all the player needs to do is drive. With every intersection comes a new event that the player can choose to participate in, or just driving is an option as well. The driving being fun is the concept around which Burnout Paradise lives or dies. Not only does it live, it downright thrives vibrantly. The controls are tight, responsive and, as someone who wouldn’t invest in a racing wheel regardless, they feel great on my DualShock 4. I think my one complaint about the gameplay in general is that the cars, despite their stats, all feel made of varying strengths of tinfoil. It’s great in Road Rage events where the goal is to wreck shop on any and every other car. It creates more stakes (maybe than necessary) in Marked Man events where several armored variants of other cars have been injected with rabid AI and will hit the player’s car at ANY cost. Any. Cost. Alleviating all of this is that the game is still fun 10 years later and I’m smiling just as much now, if not more than I did then.
My favorite thing about Burnout Paradise? I can just drive around at whatever speed I want. The beauty of this open world, per se, is that events pepper the map, but it’s up to the player to choose what to do. Nothing feels urgent or even necessary, but everything is equally fun. Doing a Stunt Run, blowing off steam in Road Rage, running like the dickens in Marked Man or just racing all over Paradise City; all of them are equally fun and can be repeated at will. If you just want to avoid events for the moment, look for yellow signs on gates that signify shortcuts and bust through them or keep an eye out for blue blinking lights that mark super jumps. Of course, bust through every red billboard you see too. Even the multiplayer is fun. Zooming all over Paradise wrecking other players or just setting speed records on streets. Burnout Paradise Remastered also includes all the DLC – Big Surf Island, Cops and Robbers, Legendary Cars, et al – which is cool, because I have no recollection of playing them the first time around and cannot wait to this time.
I don’t expect Burnout Paradise Remastered to light up NPD or even have folks coming to a new found respect for it, nor do I expect my feeble attempt at writing about a game I love to really shift the needle one way or another. It’s rare that one can say what I’m about to, Thanks, EA for doing a remaster right.