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Burnout Paradise : Ultimate Box

VERDICT
The best racing game on the PC

PROS
Excellent graphics & sound; staggering number of events; over 70 vehicles

CONS
Open-world racing can be overwhelming

COMPANY
Burnout Paradise
http://www.criteriongames.com

Burnout Paradise (aka Burnout 5) is the seventh game in the Burnout video game series. Released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 early last year, the game has now made its way to Microsoft Windows PCs will a veritable mix of add-on goodies. Developed by Criterion Games, an Electronic Arts studio, Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box is a special edition that includes the Burnout Paradise game plus the previously-released Burnout Paradise Cagney and Burnout Paradise Bikes content updates, and the brand new Burnout Paradise Party content – an offline multiplayer mode that allows up to eight friends to ‘pass-the-pad’ in dozens of quick-fire challenges.

Burnout Paradise completely reinvents the Burnout series, which you’ll either love or hate. Developed from the ground up, Burnout Paradise is played in an open world that lets you drive along any roads you like – it even includes realistic day and night cycles! Records are even kept on players’ drivers licences and there are statistics such as fastest time and biggest crash for every street in the game. Unlike in previous Burnout games, Crash Mode, now called Showtime, can now be started at any time and place in the game; though Showtime mode is rather different from the usual Crash Mode. Also, for races, you may now take any route to get to the destination. Races and other events are simply started by stopping at any of the 120 traffic lights around Paradise City and applying the accelerator and brake at the same time.

Races, Marked Man events and Burning Routes can start in any location around Paradise City, but the destination is always one of eight. Road Rages and Stunt Runs have no set end destination. A race consists of at least three cars (races with just one opponent are known as ‘Duels’) and you are given a location to race to. You can take any route through the city to the location, with the aid of a flashing road names at the top of the screen when you need to turn. The first to arrive at the destination wins; there are no points or prizes awarded for placing second or third, unlike most racing games. Online races can also include checkpoints that need to be crossed before reaching the finish.

In the Marked Man event you are given a destination and at least one opponent is trying to stop you from reaching the destination by scoring takedowns against you. The idea here is to survive from start to finish in order to win (you can be part of collisions, but lose the event if you total the car). Road Rage is another cool event where you are given a target number of takedowns and a time limit. There’s also Stunt Run, where you are given a target score and must earn points by using boosts, jumps, drifts and other such stunt moves.

Burning Route requires you to use a specific car and race against the clock to a specified location. When a Burning Route is won you win an upgraded version of the vehicle you completed it with. The upgraded vehicle can boast extra boost power, more base speed or a stronger body (but usually in exchange for another category being made weaker). This event is unique in that it does not reset when you earn a new license because it’s tied to the car used to run it rather than the license level you are presently at. Burning Ride is the same as a Burning Route but for the motorcycles. However, some of these are now timed checkpoint events wherein you must ride through a set number of checkpoints before the time limit expires. These checkpoint events also do not have to end at one of the predetermined endpoints in Paradise City (they can terminate at intersections). Lastly, Midnight Ride is the same as a Burning Ride but takes place between the in-game hours of 8pm and 8am.

Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box brings many improvements to an already impressive game, and it’s easily one of the best racing games available on the PC. The game looks and sounds great, and apart from the annoyingly repetitive Guns N’ Roses titles track the music is perfect. Paradise City looks crisp and vibrant, and cars smash, pop, scrape, and deform just as you’d expect from a Burnout game – including awesome particle effects. The weather effects brought in with the Bikes pack look great, with fog, glowing night time neon, and the half-light of dusk all rendered with style. The biggest criticism is that the open ended nature of the game will appeal to some and alienate others. There is no structured challenge system in place, and as you’re free to roam the open world it’s not always obvious what you’re supposed to be doing. Still, more advanced racing fans will love this breath of fresh air.

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