Having thrown a great deal of time into Burnout Paradise Remastered over the weekend, I can say it’s a decent remaster. It’s not the best one ever put together, but it brings the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 original up to current standards.
Burnout Paradise Remastered runs at 1080p on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with 4K resolution support for PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. It’s still 60fps like the original iteration, but the textures don’t feel like a huge improvement, outside of a change in some billboards. It includes all of the downloadable content available for the original release, including Big Surf Island, Cops and Robbers, and Burnout Bikes.
If you have Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box on PC, I’d say there’s not much you’re getting out of this new release except the platform. The biggest change is a removal of the soft filter over the original game, which added a weird shimmer and isn’t present in the Remastered edition. Overall, the image quality is cleaner here. It doesn’t feel like enough for the $20 premium though: Ultimate Box on Steam is $19.99, while Remastered is $39.99 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Burnout Paradise Remastered is a weird gateway into nostalgia; those opening chords of Guns N’ Roses “Paradise City” transport me back to 2008 when I first picked up a controller to play Burnout Paradise. It was the latest Burnout, leaving behind the linear tracks and courses of the previous entries for that shiny new open-world that every publisher was jumping in on. (Rockstar had been doing it for years with the Midnight Club games.) Burnout Paradise was new, with online lobbies and the ability to stop at any traffic light in the city to take part in one of the many events. It was probably ahead of its time.
Racing around the city in Burnout Paradise isn’t just a measure of your reflexes and handling, it also illustrates of your understanding of Paradise City itself. You need to get from point A to point B before anyone else and part of making that happen is knowing the shortcuts, jumps, and hidden entrances on every street and back alley. As you complete events, you learn more about Paradise City in an organic way; taking those lessons to heart is what separates being good from being great.
Held up against today’s modern racers, there’s nothing else quite like Burnout Paradise Remastered. The arcade racer is all but dead these days. After Burnout Paradise, the genre tried to stay relevant in 2010 with Bizarre Creations’ Blur and Black Rock Studio’s Split/Second, both of which underperformed and marked the death of their respective studios. Evolution Studios took its last shot in 2011 with MotorStorm: Apocalypse on PlayStation 3. For the most part, publishers left behind the arcade racer to focus on more realistic racers.
Even the best modern entry into the concept, Forza Horizon, lacks the hard edge and wild abandon of this era of arcade racers. If you put Forza Horizon and Burnout Paradise side-by-side, you see the connective tissue in terms of open-world racing, but they’re very different games. Forza Horizon is the good, upstanding kid; licensed cars, bright colors, and a damage model that only goes so far. Forza Horizon wants to get in the dirt occasionally, but just to show that it can.
Burnout Paradise is grit and rock. It’s about racing around a corner above 100mph, checking an opponent so they spin out and crash, catching that sick jump, and boosting across the finish line. The unlicensed cars are colorful, but the city itself is rendered in green and grey. It feels old and lived-in, an analog for the car-loving city of Detroit, Michigan, while still holding onto a bit of that Los Angeles attitude.
Burnout Paradise has just enough of the modern era of racing design to fit into 2018 as an alternative. It makes logical sense to remaster to it. The problem is it’s not the best Burnout game.
We Have to Go Back!
Burnout Paradise retains enough of the identity of what made Burnout great—the intense speed and the crashing—but it’s a very different style of game. The previous Burnouts are completely linear racers, giving players a track or single event in which to prove themselves. Whether that was a standard race, a Grand Prix, a crash-heavy Eliminator race, the last-man standing Road Rage, or the classic Burning Lap, previous Burnouts were about picking an event and retrying it until you had it down. (You couldn’t retry in Paradise originally, thought Criterion added the option later.) Of course, there were also the series-signature Crash courses, where you had to steer a bouncing, careening wreck into traffic to cause maximum damage.
Fans are a bit divided on which title is the best Burnout between the two entries that preceded Burnout Paradise: Burnout Revenge and Burnout 3: Takedown. The latter tends to get the edge over Revenge, though I enjoy the latter a bit more because of the full inclusion of Traffic Checking. (The ability to launch random traffic out of your way to make space or wreck other racers.)
Where both games excel over Burnout Paradise is in their focus. Since there’s no open-world to explore, Revenge and Takedown are distilled down to just their events. Every event is tailored to specific tracks, which players choose via either game’s Crash Nav menu. These older Burnout games have a purity that’s sometimes lost in modern racers. You don’t need to know about this extra shortcut or facet of the open-world map. The course is right there in front of you; learn it, get better, and beat it next time.
The tracks are crafted for maximum racing action, each turn built for a drift, open sprint, or crash-heavy pile-up. In Paradise, there are specific events, but you don’t always get the feeling that the race course was built solely for the race, because every “course” has to intersect with others in a cohesive whole. Paradise feels like they built the city and then tried to figure out where certain race types might fit. Takedown and Revenge feel like the events belong in their respective locations.
There’s something awesome about beating your best time in a Burning Lap by a few seconds or powersliding around a corner that had been giving you trouble just a few weeks ago. Burnout Paradise has you learning and mastering the overall city, but previous Burnout games have you learning the tracks themselves. They each had a fingerprint, a specific feeling they were trying to impart upon the player. You had favorites wanted to stick with and tracks you simply tried to avoid.
The lack of open-world meant these tracks were allowed to be more varied; since Criterion didn’t have to worry about the city feeling like a cohesive whole, they were allowed to get more inventive. Takedown and Revenge have courses in various fictional locations in North America, Europe, and Asia, giving players unique flavors to their racing. It feels like you’re traveling the world, rather than being stuck in a single city, which for all its expanse can feel a bit familiar after a while.
Takedown and Revenge feel better as arcade racers because they’re just about racing or crashing. Paradise is a great game, but it’s also trying to appease another master by offering open-world exploration. Paradise wants you to collect things. It wants you to hunt for Smashes, Billboards, and Jumps, with a pause menu counter that keeps track of it all. Takedown and Revenge skip most of that. You race and crash to unlock better vehicles to race and crash in. No mess in your way.
That’s something that’s sometimes missing in modern racers. I love cruising around in Burnout Paradise and Forza Horizon, just messing around, enjoying the soundtrack, and taking in the vibe. But sometimes I just want to race in a track built just for racing. Sometimes I want to get my demolition derby on in a course built for crazy destruction. I just want to pick the race I want to do instead of dealing with the open-world busywork of driving there.
Which Burnout would I have remastered? Revenge saw a release on Xbox 360, so that probably would be the easier game to remaster, but I think fans would probably prefer a remaster of Burnout 3: Takedown. More folks see it as the highpoint of the franchise and it doesn’t sit that far behind Revenge in terms of overall content. It’s got a ton of cars, a nice spread of locations, and one of the best soundtracks overall. A remaster of Burnout 3: Takedown might take more work, but I feel the reward would pay off in the end, providing an arcade experience we just don’t get anymore.
Burnout Paradise Remastered is pretty good, if a bit pricey, but Burnout 3: Takedown was the game that Electronic Arts should’ve remastered. And someone out there really needs to bring back that classic Burnout experience, even if it’s under a different name.
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