Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Review - Burnout Paradise: Ultimate Box

  • Game: Burnout Paradise - Ultimate Box
  • Format: Xbox 360
  • Other Formats: PS3, PC
  • Developer: Criterion Games
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Genre: Racing, Sandbox
Early 2008 saw the arrival of Criterion’s Burnout Paradise – a balls-to-the-wall, adrenaline-fuelled arcade racer that scrapped the menus for a free-roaming city with which to confound and annoy you. Upon lending yourself to the city for a few hours however, you soon found that navigating the twisty-turny streets like a twisty-turny thing became second nature, so fans of the game should feel right at home with the expansions as they are set once again in this ‘paradise’.

Wayne has already covered the core game and it’s assets in his review way back when, so I won’t go treading on his street-racing tippy toes… too much. The Ultimate Box contains the main Burnout Paradise game, with the inclusion of all the current updates and the free Burnout Bikes, in conjunction with the Party Pack – a pay-for add-on for offline multiplayer. From the offset you can see the transformation in the front-end menus as you are given the option to select ‘Burnout Bikes’ and the old favourite ‘Robotically-Controlled Driverless Cars’. As well as this, EA have jumped in with their big ‘online stick of internetz’ and offered the gift of a bulletin board detailing updates to the Burnout community and a nice little calendar detailing events to look out for – all while Paradise City loads.

Naturally, ever being the social stud that I am, I delved into the single-player Burnout Bikes as my first port of call, choosing the needlessly busty female rider in a fetching pink suit to tear some asphalt. What you notice from the word ‘go’ is the intense speed that is available to you from the off. The bikes pack a punch and it certainly gets the adrenaline flowing. It’s been a while Burnout, I’ve missed you like a fat kid misses cake. The good news is that the bikes handle very differently to their four-wheeled counterparts and it definitely feels fresh, even if you do miss boosting. You see, apparently the bikes go fast enough as it is, so there is no need for them to ever boost, making the ‘A’ button redundant in this mode. While perhaps leveling the playing field from wavy mounds to a smooth camber for those new to the genre, it does however render the tricks and stunts rather pointless as they only endanger your race rather than giving any sort of reward.

One of the biggest letdowns with the bikes mode that became immediately apparent is the lack of any sort of ‘oomf’ to the crashes. Instead of hurtling your twin-airbag parading avatar several miles into a particularly painfully placed lamp-post as your bike crumples to the size and texture of an Oxo Cube, you are left staring at an invincible vehicle sliding carelessly along the floor with your magical rider having teleported off-screen out of harm’s way. For a series that parades itself on sweet-ass crash physics, this came somewhat as a shock when all I wanted to see was some humorous ragdolls thrown into traffic when I ballsed up for the umpteenth time.

Overall, Burnout Bikes is exactly what Criterion says it is – an add-on. There are nice little touches - such as half the events on the map being available at night and the other half being available during the day – but the mode as a whole is weaker as a stand-alone game when compared to the majesty of Burnout Cars; especially when you can drive the Delorean (for a small fee of Microsoft Points). Each event seems more like a lonely time trial rather than a ‘race’ and you’ll find yourself coming back to the screeching tires of the four-wheeled exemplars soon enough.

Here we see 'Jez' driving up the brown slope

A quick flex of my thumb and forefinger to twist the volume up on my speakers instantaneously created a crowd of friends to huddle into my room – and so we come to the Burnout Party Pack. A mode for up to eight players sees you and your acquaintances passing the controller around and taking it in turns to beat each other’s score. For some reason the menu aesthetics have been completely revamped for this addition and the game suddenly looks even more colourful than before, resembling a scene from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and very aptly setting a ‘party’ atmosphere without killing-off small children in every scene. From the player-naming menu thingy, you are given the option of how many rounds you and your chums would like to compete in, from one to eight in three categories. ‘Speed’, being the obvious from a racing game; ‘Stunt’, having you rather unimaginatively clamouring through the air over an object; and ‘Skill’ seeing you showboating in any way possible to garner enough points to rub in the unsuspecting face of your compadres like the streaker at a sleepover.

Out of these modes, ‘Stunt’ is probably the weakest, as it just requires either a pass or fail attempt and, unlike the other two modes, completely trashing the expected score will get you no further than just getting by with the requirements. A problem that I find with the party pack is not so much a qualm with the formula, but that fact that I cannot choose a specific event to replay at my whim. A particular favourite of mine involved power-sliding round a monument for as long as possible, but as far as I can tell, this will only come up randomly out of the ‘Skill’ category for a round. While not a structural weakness in the building that is Party Pack, it would be nice to have a supporting beam or two in the form of extra options. As expansions go though, the Party Pack delivers a wealth of content that’s more perfect for playing with friends than naked Twister.

Overall, the Ultimate Box is exactly what it says on the tin. You take an updated version of an already great game, add in a couple expansions as well as a great little party mode, stick them into a bowl, and mix the funk out of them. What do you have? An updated version of Burnout Paradise with a couple of expansions and a great little party mode… in a bowl.

Single Player Score – 9
Multiplayer Score - 9

Discuss this article on the forum.