Burnout Paradise: Ultimate Box Review
A great arcade racer, Burnout Paradise makes it's debut on the PC with a wild crash accompanied by rock music
Right off the top of your head, how many great arcade racing games can you name for our favourite platform, the PC? The truth is not many. Sure we have our Need for Speed series, which has been transformed over the years from a leading PC racing title to yet another console port. The next closest thing that comes to mind is Flatout, and that series can be fun, in an over-the-top kind of way, but the shaky racing mechanics and repetitive tracks often drag it down. Meanwhile, consoles rejoice with their GT series, and many other offbeat racing arcades. One of the more noticeable arcade racers over the past few years has been Burnout, a long running series across all major consoles (and even PSP). The series is about arcade racing from start to the finish line, with the selling point of emphasizing as many frantic, multi-car crashes as possible. It was pure arcade fun with great sense of speed and satisfaction of slamming your opponents into walls to watch them fly many feet in the air as you drive away. But apparently, the fun didn’t wish to make an appearance on the PC, at least until now. With Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box, the owners of the PC platform can finally experience their first game in the series, and it’s well worth checking out if you’re an arcade racing fan.
When it was released last year on 360 and PS3, Burnout Paradise received much critical praise and even won racing GOTY at some publications. And finally roughly a year later, the PC users can now check out what is among the most fun arcade racers on the PC. The title Ultimate Box is not just used to distinguish the PC version from the consoles’, it also means that in the package, you will receive all the DLC content that has appeared on the consoles over the past year, which makes the game an even better value. In Paradise, you are given a free city to roam in, something along the lines of recent Need for Speed games. You start out with a low-stats car, and as you win races you will unlock better cars – there is no car modification in Paradise, the most you can do is change the paint by visiting your garage or one of the paint shops. Paradise is purely a performance-based game, meaning there is no money system in place and the only way to progress and win better cars is to race and win.
All cars are fairly imaginative, however it’s disappointing that there are no licensed cars at all in the game. The inspiration can be clearly seen, though, so if you forget everything for a second, many cars will appear as licensed and well-designed. Each car has 3 stats: Speed, Boost and Strength. They are self-explanatory. The more Speed levels you have, the faster your car will go, the more boost you have – the longer you’ll be able to keep your nitro going; the strength allows you to take and give more damage before crashing. A certain balance of these 3 stats will put your cars into one of three categories – Race cars, Stunt cars and Demolition cars. Race cars usually have a good speed/boost rating and their nitro has a special tweak to it – you must wait a certain time before your boost is ready, but once you activate it and don’t let go, it will continuously refill and can get you going fast past the opposition. Stunt cars have a good boost/strength rating, and are the best choice for performing stunts off rooftops. The nitro for stunt cars refills as you do jumps and takedowns, and has an incremental multiplier if you can keep your stunts linking up. The Demolition cars usually have a high strength stat, and are best used for Marked Man event types.
Speaking of events, there are tons of them. However, they also present one of the game’s worst flaws – grinding. Yes, you read correctly, Burnout Paradise is one of the few racing games where you actually feel like you are grinding through races just to get your next car or license upgrade. The big reason why the game feels so repetitive at times (even more so than circuit racing games) is because all races can be repeated for progress points (used to upgrade your license) at each level. So, you do about 5-10 races for your lower level driving license, you get your upgrade, and now you have to do 15-20 races for the next level. The issue is, all the races you’ve done for your first 5-10 are now refreshed, so you can race them again and they will now count towards the new 15-20 that you need to do. It’s tedious and kind of goes against the whole idea of exploration if you can grind the same 10-20 races around your garage, never really venturing out. That’s not to say there aren’t many other reasons to explore.