When I was a kid, I had a friend who really, really loved Guns ‘n’ Roses. So much so, after he went to see them live he almost exclusively wore a vile tour t-shirt he bought. It featured a terrible drawing of a half-nude, partially dismembered zombie lady with enormous boobs who’d been tied to a pole for some reason.
It was, as the description hopefully imparts, utterly repellent. Yet, he wore it everywhere – even once to a wedding reception. In fact, it would only have been marginally more offensive if it had been a cartoon of Hitler kicking Gandhi in the teeth while simultaneously wiping his bum on the Turin shroud.
However, it also happened to have a verse of the song ‘Paradise City’ on it (the t-shirt, not the Turin shroud). This turned out to be a godsend, as my friends and I finally got this guy to stop wearing it by repeatedly singing “’Take me down to Welwyn Garden City’, ‘I haven’t got a car’ ‘Oh that’s a pity!’” at him.
Despite that being a rubbishly innocuous jibe, we soon discovered our dissing his favourite band made him inexplicably furious. Of course, as we were teenagers and thus terrible human beings we all found this hilarious, so we kept it up until he eventually crumbled and wore something less grim to stop the mockery.
The moral of that story though? Never take yourself too seriously when you’re not doing (or wearing) something remotely serious in the first place. And that, ladies and/or gents, is kinda why Burnout Paradise: Remastered is long overdue and so very much appreciated.
Driving games, see, have for reasons unknown been divided into 2 categories with almost no deviation from type for what feels like the best part of a decade - which would be about right, given BP:R originally came out 10 years ago.
On the one hand, you have your sim-heavy efforts. You know the sort: games where you have 9 billion real-world car variants recreated in such detail it took 20 programmers over 6 months to create the 3D key fob models. Yes, you can probably tweak everything upwards of the wattage of the bulb that illuminates the glove compartment to your liking, but these games are as follows: boring.
On the other hand, you have your ‘Fast & Furious’ knock-offs. Stupid, brash games with some mindless plot (usually about an undercover cop, or a heist, or an undercover cop reluctantly pulling off a heist) and lots of missions, tasks and plot-regurgitating cutscenes. These games are also this: boring.
Both categories have something in common though: their clinical and cynical po-facedness. It’s all about the most cars rendered most accurately, or the most races, or the most perfectly recreated city street.
At some point, developers seem to have forgotten gaming is best when it’s sheer escapism, and further when it doesn’t try and force you to empathise and bond with a bunch of tedious ‘cool’ characters who have all the depth of a sheet of A4.
Where’s the fun? Where’s the messing about mid-race with your mates just for the heck of it? Where’s the speed that makes your eyes water? Where’s blowing up a lorry with a flaming wreck, then being back underway in a race seconds later? I’ll tell you where it is: in this game, thank criminy.
Turns out Burnout Paradise wasn’t just ahead of its time with its fusion of old-school arcade action and an open world. It was effectively the end of time, as it’s still one of the best interpretations of how to do it. All the good stuff, none of the faff. And this version is the best interpretation of that interpretation, so to speak.
The main game is here of course, with polished-up graphics (not a full rework like Shadow of the Colossus, but still perfectly adequate given the speed you’ll be looking at them shift) and all the DLC – and that’s a lot. And, of course, online play, offline play and an absolute ton of stuff to do, find and set records for.
Yes, it’s simple: drive fast, take your opponents out, and win. But the driving action Criterion made their name with is still absolutely spot on, and at the top levels the sensation of speed is phenomenal. Most of all, it’s pure, absolute fun.
Sure, all the cars may be made up. But for the 99.999% of us who mercifully aren’t hungerpunching manbaby J. Clarkson, this makes no difference whatsoever. I couldn’t tell you with any confidence whether the handling or interior of a Ferrari XP-9Fx track edition was realistic in a game or not, because I’m never, ever going to drive one. For all I know it could be the inside of a bus.
Similarly, and just as pointlessly, why insist on bolting a crappy story onto a driving game?
In a mindless popcorn film it might work as a loose device to hold together stunt sequences, but a driving game should be first and foremost about driving – I couldn’t care less whether ‘Mendoza’ has ‘disrespected your crew’ so revenge now needs to be taken via a series of ever-more lurid street races. If you’re so fussed about bloody Mendoza, you’ve got a car. Run his cat over or something.
I only have 2 reservations, really: a brand new, proper Burnout game would of course be even better, and it’s not the holy grail that would be a full beans ground-up remake of the greatest driving game of all time (obviously that’s Burnout 3: Takedown – and no, that’s not up for debate).
But: the fact a 10-year-old game feels like a breath of fresh air shows that the driving game genre is in desperate need of a kick up the trunk (or, as we call it in the UK of course, the ‘car anus’).
It may have been up on bricks in a shed since 2008, but with barely more than a new paint job Burnout Paradise roars back past the current bunch of limp pretenders to the racing throne.
Horrrsseepowerrrrrrr!!! (That’s what Clarkson says when he’s aroused by Hammond or May, right?)
Super Bad Advice
SCORE: 95 RON Unleaded out of 99 RON Unleaded.