If only I had a dime for every time I wished that EA would do the right thing and get a team working on a new entry in the Burnout franchise. I’d have a tidy tower of coins that would easily cover the cost of at least three sets of Hot Wheels cars and some of those awesome bright orange tracks to race them on. Life would be sweet. But rather than curing me of my compulsive imaginary currency-counting habit, EA has decided to take the “next best thing” route and fire out a remaster of their 2009 title, Burnout Paradise. They’ve given the game a lick of paint and released it for three platforms, with the PlayStation 4 being the only one on which the original isn’t already playable.
It’s a puzzling choice that begs many questions, especially when the remastering process seems to feature absolutely no improvements outside of the aforementioned visual upgrades. The long and the short of the situation is that this is a slightly shinier copy of Burnout Paradise that you can play on your PlayStation 4 at the highest resolution your console can pump out. Oh, and it comes with all of the DLC released for the original game.
Those expecting anything more – and I mean absolutely anything more, for there is nothing – are in for a disappointment.
But, that isn’t to say that Burnout Paradise Remastered should be ruled out. Far from it. After all, the original game is something of a modern classic that earned high praise upon its release nine years ago and is often part of the conversation when it comes to many people’s “best arcade racer” lists.
Everybody’s Doin’ the Time
We also must consider those folks who didn’t get a chance to partake in the delights that Paradise City and Big Surf Island have to offer back on the PlayStation 3. For those people, Burnout Paradise Remastered is something of a bargain-priced treat. After all, just because it would be an understatement to say that the remastering brush has barely touched this particular canvas, it doesn’t mean the game is any the less fun. New players (or those who feel like revisiting their old haunts) will find the same hi-octane thrills and spills in a package that tears along at blistering speeds that – to this day – are unmatched by any of the competition.
For the uninitiated, Burnout Paradise plunks you down in Paradise City, a fictional world with a million and one hidden nooks and crannies to explore in your quest to obtain your Burnout Elite license. You do this by roaming the city streets, looking for events to take on. From traditional point-to-point racing to stunt events, from time trials and epic chases, there are 135 events in which to compete. There’s also a checklist containing a stack of super (or mega) jumps, 165 billboards to destroy, nearly 500 gates to smash and if that wasn’t enough, a short list of motorbike-specific challenges and a bike license to obtain. Some of the billboard locations qualify more as puzzle events than anything else, as it takes a good deal of thought to work out how to reach them, as well as a large amount of skill to execute that plan correctly. Failing that, every single street in the game has a pair of online leaderboards to try your hand at beating, with one logging the fastest times and the other keeping record of the amount of crash damage racked up in that location.
All of this is before you get online and take on a plethora of challenges or race any of your pals around the sweeping curves of Silver Lake while the opening refrain from “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne booms out of the speakers so many times that you want to cut off your ears with a rusty spoon. Ms. Lavigne’s dulcet tones aside (pretty much anything in her catalog apart from this or “Hello Kitty” would have been a better choice), the Burnout Paradise soundtrack was a pretty decent effort all round, and it remains entirely intact from the original version here.
One change that counts as a negative is the way in which the system of progression can be unwittingly butchered. Originally, you started out with only a handful of low-powered vehicles from which to choose. More powerful cars would then be unlocked along the way to give you a better chance against the increasingly tough opponents, time limits, wreck counts, and scores that stood in your way as you moved up the ranks. In Remastered, however, you get access to that same default set of cars, but also to the vast majority of the expansion vehicles right from the off. Undoubtedly, many players will pick a set of wheels that is massively overpowered, especially given high-speed tribute versions of the DeLorean from Back to the Future, KITT from Knight Rider, and Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters are available. It’s nice to have a choice, but making the wrong one early on will directly hamper a lot of people’s enjoyment as the majority of the cars on offer make it entirely possible to just waltz through three-quarters of the game without even trying. Winning a race easily after being in last place with half a mile to go (because you’ve wrecked yourself five times) isn’t nearly as thrilling as battling it out for the duration of an event and just pipping your opponent at the post. Being able to score 500,000 stunt points against a target of 10,000 or taking down 40 opponents in a Road Rage event when your goal was wreck just four are two things that don’t lend themselves to compelling and engaging gameplay, either.
So, single-player mode in Burnout Paradise Remastered should be played by the rules. Use the standard vehicles and switch up as you unlock more, but keep those fancier rides for online play, or to fool around in when you’ve beaten the campaign.
It’s a rule that sits atop a stack of other caveats and coin flips when it comes to deciding whether Burnout Paradise Remastered is a product on which it’s worth spending your money. Even at 4K, it has visual flaws (such as slightly dated texture work and some overly sharp edges) that sometimes paint it in an unfavorable light against titles designed in the current generation. But on the other hand, the game’s overall visual style works well, and at the speeds you’ll be traveling, you won’t have time to notice the finer details anyway. You’ve got the infinitely punchable DJ Atomika spinning the platters while you race. But on the other hand, those cuts he’s lining up are right on the money. Positive handling refinements that were made for the Need for Speed series by Criterion in the years after Paradise was released are not replicated here. But on the other hand, the handling model still works well enough that there’s no reason to make a fuss about that. I could go on and on.
A Hard Case That’s Tough to Beat
Burnout Paradise (and subsequently the game in its all but identical Remastered guise) is something where you’ll sit down to play a race or two and find that four hours later, you never even reached the starting line because you jumped online to beat that one challenge or tried to track down that last billboard. Maybe you even found a long, long stretch of abandoned railway track and decided to see exactly how fast you could get from one end to the other, or you went into Showtime mode to let off some steam by hurling your shiny new car into a few dozen city buses. It’s a game where “50 wins to go” appearing on screen feels almost like a reward as opposed to some Herculean task where you’ll get bored and give up. That’s all because of one thing: Burnout Paradise was a very good game and remains so to this day. The sense of speed persists, the challenge on offer – if you approach it correctly – is plentiful and rewarding, and fooling about online in Paradise City with your buddies is still a great time.
Players who ran through the game on PlayStation 3 or elsewhere will be put off by the lack of meaningful upgrades, and that’s entirely understandable. The problem is that nothing here really adds to what already existed. The saving grace is that things haven’t gone the other way, either. Burnout Paradise holds up, and if nothing else, you can now experience one of the top arcade franchises in the business on your PlayStation 4.
Burnout Paradise Remastered review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.