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The current consoles allow for some truly amazing technical feats. Nowhere is this clearer than in Criterion's stunning, open-city racer Burnout Paradise. From the start you literally have the entire city at your disposal, with no load times, no menu screens and no hiccups - it's seamless. The big question then is not if what Criterion set out to do with the Burnout Paradise has been achieved, but if it was right to take it in this direction in the first place? Is Paradise still Burnout?
When I say that Burnout Paradise is a seamless experience, it really is. To start with you must create a Drivers Licence and add a photo (if you've got a webcam hooked up to your console), but from then on all you'll be seeing is game. You start with a pretty slow (relatively speaking) car and you're off, exploring Paradise City and taking part in the 120 events scattered about. You're free to do as you wish.
The structure of previous Burnout games has been replaced with a pick and choose system where you simply cruise up to some traffic lights to start the associated event, be it a Race, Road Rage, Marked Man, Stunt or Burning Route. Some are familiar, some play very differently and some are brand new.
Road Rage events see you taking down a required number of opponent cars, smashing them into walls, into oncoming traffic, into each other or however else you manage to remove their wheels. It's brilliant fun and made all the better thanks to the free-roaming city, with the carnage being taken far from the starting line.
Marked Man requires you to drive from one location to another while a pack of powerful black cars attempt to take you out, relentless in their attack - total your car and you'll be staring at failure. This mode perhaps makes best use of the open city, with your cunning often being the key to survival - shortcuts and small alleys are perfect for staying out of harm's way.
Stunt events ask you to tally up a certain number of stunt points by driving with some style. It works by utilising a combo system, so it's key to link together stunts. Whether you're simply power sliding around a bend, barrel rolling off a ramp or getting big air, your stunt combo will continue. An on-screen clock will indicate how much time you have to perform another stunt and keep the combo going, ramping up the pressure on spotting another stunt opportunity. Luckily a tap of the boost button acts as a stunt so you can use this to move between awkward areas of track.
Of all the event types it's Stunt that seems to have benefited from the city's design the most. After a while you'll be spotting ramps all over the place, getting big air off a side road or power sliding for whole roads at a time. Had we still been racing in closed streets this event type would likely reach a score limit pretty quickly, but in Paradise City you're always discovering new routes and stunt possibilities.
Burning Route events are car specific and ask you to complete a time trial. The problem is that unless you complete each route as you get into a new car, towards the end of the game you're going to have to do a lot of car swapping and repetitive driving to get back to each event.