It's the Race events that will polarise opinion on the game though. The only way to complete an event (and in turn get one step closer to increasing your drivers licence rating) is to win it, and this soon becomes pretty tricky. The open nature of the city isn't a problem in the other event types, but in races it's all too easy to miss a turn while you're moving at an insanely high speed.
The game tries to help you out, with the on-screen compass and blinking indicator-like street name image telling you a turning is coming up, but in the heat of the moment these are nowhere near as helpful as giant flashing corner signs seen in previous Burnout games. During races on the more restricted roads, you'll often only have one route to take towards the end, so miss that one vital turn and it's effectively race over - and there's no option to quickly restart. The open nature of the city is brilliant, but the race events don't suit this set-up and I'd have preferred barriers to be put in place during these events, making for less frustration and more fun.
How well you do in each of these events also depends a lot on the class of car you're driving. You've got three types: speed, aggressor and stunt. They're pretty self explanatory but do handle and use boost very differently. The speed class cars can only boost when you've got a full boost bar, but the benefit is the ability to perform burnout chains, effectively giving you an endless boost reserve - if you're good enough to use an entire boost meter in one go.
Aggressors are the heavy duty vehicles that can take more damage before getting totalled, making them the vehicles of choice during Marked Man events. Boost for these beasts is most easily earned by taking down other drivers. And stunt vehicles can perform the best power slides and barrel rolls, can boost at any time (essential for stunt runs) and can take a bit of damage - making them something of an in-between car class.
'Aggressors are the heavy duty vehicles that can take more damage before getting totalled, making them the vehicles of choice during Marked Man events.'
As you progress you'll unlock new cars, but only the cars awarded for a licence upgrade (something which requires more and more event wins as your licence improves) and Burning Route victories are added instantly to your junk yard garage. All the rest need to be taken down first, which is both fun and slightly annoying. While you're driving around you'll often notice a car speed past, and it's these cars that are waiting to be fully unlocked. It adds an element of fun to what otherwise would have been another standard unlock system, but after a while it becomes a little tedious.
The same goes for changing your car. This has to be done by driving to a junk yard (there are five to find in the game map) and then picking the car you want. I'm all for seamless gameplay, but some things are better when done in the conventional way. The whole process always takes longer than I want and a menu would have solved the problem completely.
I don't want to give the wrong impression, as Burnout Paradise is a thrilling racing game, but Criterion has taken a backwards step in a few key areas, most notably Crash mode. In Paradise Crash mode has been replaced by Showtime - probably the most ridiculous game mode I've ever played in a racer, arcade or otherwise. Essentially Showtime makes every road in the game an event, where there's a high score to beat - both on and offline. Press two shoulder buttons together (L1 + R1 on PS3, LB + RB on 360) and you're off.
Once activated you have one goal: crash into as many cars as possible. Rather than managing your crash like in previous Burnouts (which featured some brilliant multiplier pick-ups and superb crash breakers), here you have a boost meter that determines how many ground stomps you can perform, propelling your car forwards. Hit another vehicle and your boost increases, so you can go on for ages on the busier stretches of road. The score multiplier pick-ups have been replaced by buses, which multiply your score. The problem here is that the number of buses that arrive is down to luck. Showtime is good for a laugh, but not nearly as skilful as Revenge's Crash mode.
Each and every road also has a saved fastest time for online and offline, essentially giving you a time trial for every road. It's a nice feature and something to do whenever you're driving to another traffic light triggered event, but really only comes into its own when your console is online and getting updates from everyone, including your friends.