“Take me down to the paradise city/Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty”. So goes the first line of “Paradise City” by Guns’n’Roses, the opening chords of which are the first thing you’ll hear when you fire up Burnout Paradise Remastered (and indeed the original Burnout Paradise). Well, we’re not sure about grass or girls, but Criterion Games and EA sure must be hoping that Burnout Paradise Remastered is pretty – heck, they must be hoping it still holds up ten years after its original release.
That’s right, it’s been ten years since the original Burnout Paradise. It might be hard to think of now, but this was a revolutionary game at the time of its release. Director Alex Ward had been playing a lot of open-world games at the time – Crackdown, Test Drive Unlimited and Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, among others – and thought the ideas those games had could be implemented into a racer. Burnout Paradise isn’t strictly speaking the “first” open-world racer, but it’s the first to focus on discovery and exploration in the same way as a standard sandbox game might.
With the currently crowded market in mind, one might expect a remastered edition of Burnout Paradise to come with added bells and whistles in order to prove its continued relevance. Burnout Paradise Remastered is absolutely not that game. The remaster comes with a fresh coat of 4K paint and a lovely, consistent 60FPS framerate, as well as all previously released DLC (the Time Savers Pack is absent, but you don’t want to cheat your way to victory anyway, do you?). Other than that, though, it’s the exact same Burnout Paradise you know and love, for better or worse.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair. Going back and revisiting old Burnout Paradise trailers will give you the shot in the arm you need to realise that the game didn’t always look this glorious. Back when it was first released, Burnout Paradise looked pretty amazing, but its non-remastered visuals haven’t aged particularly well, so the 4K update is welcome. Those of you with larger TVs will especially feel the upgrade; if you don’t already feel that your TV purchase is justified, the ridiculously high-octane, high-fidelity action of Burnout Paradise Remastered will seal the deal for you.
Since the game is virtually unchanged elsewhere, though, let’s talk about the gameplay, and whether it still holds up today. Burnout Paradise is a sandbox racer with an emphasis on exploration, unlockables and map knowledge. Sure, there are cars, and most of them go really, really fast, but this isn’t a gearhead game; none of the cars are officially licensed, Paradise City isn’t a real place (despite what Guns’n’Roses will tell you) and you won’t be tuning suspensions or allowing for torque. What you will be doing is driving incredibly fast through a city full of shortcuts, right and wrong turns and secrets to find.
Those right and wrong turns are crucial to Burnout Paradise’s appeal. This is a racing game, and all of its challenges revolve around racing – whether that be through checkpoints or against opponents. Rather unusually for a racing game, though, Burnout Paradise doesn’t feature any racing tracks. Instead, the entire city is your playground to race through. The game does provide you with a recommended route for each race challenge, but if you think you know better, feel free to ignore it completely and go where you like. As long as you cross the finish line first, Burnout Paradise really couldn’t care less how you get there (in a good way).
Of course, this being a Burnout game, it’s also quite interested in crashing. When you crash in Burnout Paradise, you’re treated to a close-up rendition of your fender bender, watching as metal crumples and other cars swerve to avoid you in super slo-mo. In 4K, this is a gloriously disastrous event; you’ll never wince quite as much as you will when you’re sideswiped by a van and drive straight into a corrugated iron fence. Crashing does interrupt the pace of the game somewhat, though; it’s meant to be a punishment for failure, but all it does is irritate after a while, since you’ll be wanting to get back into the race as quickly as possible.
Burnout Paradise Remastered remains the quintessential option for anyone looking to play a racing game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still offers ridiculous thrills. If you’re an armchair mechanic, you probably still won’t find anything of worth here; this is a tune-up rather than a complete rework. If you really enjoyed Burnout Paradise the first time round, there isn’t anything here besides the 4K lick of paint to entice you back, so you can safely skip this one. If, however, you’ve never played Burnout Paradise and you’re looking for an open-world racing game that’ll both give you a dizzying sense of speed and provide you with a relaxed Sunday-afternoon explore-a-thon, then you need to pick up this remaster pronto. Oh, won’t you please take us home?