Take Me Down To The Paradise City… Again

HIGH One of the greatest racing games is now on a handheld.

LOW That $50 price tag.

WTF Where the hell is the sequel?

This generation of consoles feels a bit oversaturated with open-world games that devolve into fetch quests, grinding for a skill tree or following different markers on a map. As such, it’s nice to be reminded of a time when simplicity was king, and this is exactly where Burnout Paradise comes in.

EA and Criterion’s classic racer originally released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 back in 2008. It was remastered in 2018 for current-gen consoles, but it wasn’t until now that the Nintendo Switch was graced with a version.

For those unfamiliar with it, Paradise was a revolutionary installment in the long-running Burnout series that changed everything by placing arcade-style mechanics into an open world. Before the exploits of Forza Horizon and its focus on social aspects and leveling up, Paradise was a simpler experience that only required the player to do one thing — move forward.

Know that this is a game that prides itself in movement and speed. Taking place in fictional Paradise City (aptly named after the Guns N’ Roses song that plays when the game starts) players are tasked with completing races around the map. That might make it seem like a hundred other racers, but what made it so special was how it forgoed traditional menu structure that interrupted the flow of driving. Instead, races are started by simply passing through specific stops, meaning that the player is never taken out of the world.

Types of races include beating times on a leaderboard, beating computer controlled cars, or chasing down target cars to add to the player’s collection.

That collection is a varied one, ranging from muscle cars, stunt racers, toy cars and even bikes, and every vehicle has different stats and strong points. If I wanted to focus on completing gnarly jumps on ramps around the city, I’d go with a car that specialized on stunts. If my road rage was particularly insatiable, an aggressive car would be my pick to wipe out other drivers on the road. In this way Paradise City feels like a different kind of sandbox — I’m not focused on completing a checklist of chores, nor am I climbing random towers on a map. I’m just driving.

That driving is accompanied with one of the greatest soundtracks ever compiled for a game. Songs like “Epic” by Faith No More invite a certain chaos that very few can replicate, while Army of Me’s “Going Through Changes” feels like the perfect track to take in the sights. Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” is also here, allowing everyone to relive that particular brand of mid-to-late ’00s nostalgia while disregarding the laws of physics.

The Switch port of Paradise includes all the DLC and almost every feature present in the remastered PS4/Xbox One ports. Thankfully, the visuals don’t look too bad on the Switch’s small screen, boasting 720p resolution (1080p docked) and a pretty consistent 60fps. The loss in graphical fidelity due to the portable nature of the platform isn’t that noticeable.

In an era full of triple-A self-seriousness and open-world games that feel like they’re little more than busy work, Criterion reminds us that we don’t all need to follow the same template. Over a decade after release, Burnout Paradise is still the king of open-world racers, proving that a  simple gameplay loop is often the most effective.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

— CJ Salcedo

Disclosures: This game is published by Electronic Arts  and developed by Criterion.  It is available on PS4, XBO, Switch and PC.  This copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player and the campaign was not completed though most of the challenges were completed. Over two hours were spent on the multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ for Mild Suggestive Themes and Mild Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a racing game in which players drive roadsters, motorcycles, and sports cars around realistic cities and open-world environments. Players compete in a variety of race/game modes (e.g., tied races, stunt events, burning routes) and often collide with objects and other vehicles; these realistic collisions may cause spark particle effects and damage to cars (e.g., cracked windshields, bumps/dings/dents). In one game mode (Road Rage), players compete to “takedown” rivals by forcing opponents to crash. Takedowns are highlighted by close-up camera angles, slow-motion effects, and flying debris. Some vehicles include paint schemes/decals depicting female models dressed in revealing outfits (e.g., large amounts of cleavage).

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is perfectly accessible. Most of the information is presented onscreen through visual cues, though the subtitles cannot be adjusted and scroll on the bottom of the screen similar to a newscast chyron.

Remappable Controls: No, the game does not offer remappable controls. There is no control diagram, but there are a few tutorials. The triggers are used to accelerate and reverse, with the face buttons allowing players to either boost, change perspective or use a handbrake. The left bumper changes music and the d-pad controls the online menu. The y-axis for the camera can be changed in the menu.

Cj Salcedo
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3 years ago

“Paradise was a revolutionary installment in the long-running Burnout series that changed everything by placing arcade-style mechanics into an open world.” Eh . . . I wouldn’t call it revolutionary. It was certainly a new approach to a racing game that created new possibilities, but it also closed the door on others, and created its own problems. I preferred the crash mechanics, and the crash missions, in the PS2 games. Paradise’s welcome additions were the new vehicles you had to hunt down through the city, that would just appear and whiz pass you when you were randomly driving around. But if you weren’t… Read more »