Burnout Paradise Remastered review: Hello old friend

Price when reviewed

On the surface of things, I’m a terrible person to receive Alphr’s copy of the Burnout Paradise Remastered code. For starters, I don’t drive. For seconds, I don’t actually like driving games, except Mario Kart – which I gather involves fewer power ups than your average commute. Short of not actually owning a PS4 or Xbox One, it’s hard to think of how I’d be less qualified.

But there’s an exception to that hard and fast rule, and that rule is Burnout Paradise. Not only did I love the game back in the summer of 2008, I actually finished it. The chance to return to Paradise City (where the grass is sparse and the girls – or boys or any pedestrians for that matter – are non-existent) was impossible to resist.

A decade later, it’s still brilliant: a driving game for people who hate driving games.

Hello old friend[gallery:1]

The best remakes actually underwhelm you a little with their graphics. “Nothing’s changed,” you think – but it’s seldom the case. The game just looks how you remember things seeming at the time, and that’s the case here. Yes, things look sharper, and it runs at a solid 60fps, but it certainly looks a little dated compared to modern titles built from the ground up for modern consoles: Forza, GT Sport and the like. Still, if you have an Xbox One X or a PS4 Pro, you’ll find things run in 4K without hitting the frame rate too much, which is a nice bonus.

The truth is that you barely notice the graphics after a little while: there’s just way too much stuff to distract you all over the place. Paradise City is essentially the menu, and you discover events organically, rather than entering them in any logical order. Every set of traffic lights has an event attached. Pull up, rev your engine and you’re off, whether it’s a race from A to B, a challenge to see how many other cars you can ram off the road, or a game of survival where the roles are reversed and every other car is looking to turn yours to scrap with you in it.

The sense of speed is still there. Things move so fast that it can seem a little overwhelming at first. Because it’s an open world, there are no courses to stick to, only a starting point and a finish line: how you get from A to B is entirely up to you. Flitting your eyes between the mini map and oncoming traffic quickly becomes second nature – but that won’t stop you totalling your car roughly ten times an hour (if my experience is anything to go by.) This doesn’t feel like other driving games: it’s hugely simplistic, and the cars feel like wheeled bricks on an ice rink, but trust me here – that’s part of its allure.[gallery:2]

Pass events, level up your licence, unlock new cars. Rinse, repeat. You’d have thought the whole thing would be over rather quickly – events are short, and you don’t have to win that many to get your A-class licence. That would be true if Paradise City weren’t so distracting just to drive around. Booting up the game for the first time in a decade, I instinctively made a beeline for the baseball stadium, and then took a right driving up into the windy mountain pass on the far side of the map. But your best intentions soon get sidetracked: 400 yellow crash barriers lure you in like a siren song, not to mention the 120 billboards to smash through and 50 super jumps to find. This may sound like it’s for completionists only, but it’s so addictive that it’s hard not to just drive around with a stupid grin on your face, watching your number slowly creep up as pieces of crash barrier fall down like confetti. Every now and then a supercar will dart in front of you: ram it off the road, and it’s added to your collection. Just like in real life.

I know what you’re wondering though, and the answer is yes: the music hasn’t changed since 2008. That means that you’re greeted by Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses, but the soundtrack darts manically from Adam and the Ants to Jane’s Addiction, via LCD Soundsystem. And this remains the only place where it’s socially acceptable to enjoy Avril Lavigne’s second best song* “Girlfriend”.

You get all the DLC here too, of course, which means that you’re not just limited to Paradise City. The holiday island, all the bikes, toy cars and even the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 is available right from the start.

Come back to Paradise City[gallery:3]

So Burnout Paradise is, as it was in 2008, a brilliantly moreish game. A thrilling sandbox where there’s always something else to distract you on your way to getting that class A licence. You should definitely revisit it, the question is whether the remaster is the best way to do that.

In truth, that’s still not exactly clear. Yes all the DLC is here, but the complete edition goes for pennies on PS3 and Xbox 360 – and the latter is backwards compatible with the Xbox One. If you only want to reminisce for a couple of hours, and revisit the city, then a pre-owned copy is the way to go if you have a PS3 or an Xbox One. Or just pick it up on PC, which is overlooked for the remaster altogether.

But for newcomers and those who want to take on the world online, this is the way to do it. Weirdly for a game that first appeared a decade ago, Burnout Paradise is a breath of fresh air: an apologetically thrilling car game that’s just as welcoming to those of use who fear driving games as those who live and breathe the genre. It’s good to be back.

*The best remains My Happy Ending, and I will fight anyone who disagrees

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