For your consideration

Since around now is the time when games writers and industry watchers begin formulating their “top x of 2008″ lists, it’s the perfect occasion to remind everyone of one of the year’s best games — one that might be forgotten because of its early release date: Burnout Paradise.. Released in January to strong reviews, Paradise offered racing fans a huge open world to race in. The technical achievement of having a giant city to race in with zero loading was marred only by some complaints that the game lacked a “retry” option after losing a race. However, since literally every street corner in the game offers something to do, I didn’t find that to be a serious flaw.

Beside the standard races, Paradise also offers a wide variety of events. Long-time Burnout fans lamented the lack of a crash mode — something I also miss — but there’s still plenty to do. In addition to the arcade racing available in the single player mode, Paradise offers an incredibly smooth online experience. With just a few taps of the D-pad, you can be racing against other people online.
As if the best arcade-style racing franchise’s leap to the current generation with a huge open world and a progressive online experience weren’t enough, the developers at Criterion supported the game well after its launch with multiple free content packs. In an era in which Need For Speed offers gamers the chance to spend real money to unlock cars they’d earn anyway in the course of progressing through the game, Criterion added new cars, a new UI, new multiplayer modes, and most significantly, the first motorcycles in the Burnout franchise…and all of it was completely free.

Of course, I doubt they did it out of the goodness of their hearts. Paradise was a game that stayed relevant throughout the entire year, and managed to get a lot of press long after most games have been forgotten. Whereas most games get all of their consumer impressions within a short launch window and then fall off the face of the internet, Paradise remained frequently discussed by the gaming press and community. New gamers were jumping into Burnout all throughout the year, and people who already owned Paradise held onto it. Why sell a game when you know you’re going to get new things to do in it for free? (The full, budget-priced DLC version of the game that arrived half a year later probably didn’t hurt, either.)

I’m not saying that Burnout Paradise merits consideration for inclusion in year-end best game wrap-ups because of its experimental marketing, but rather because the upshot of all that was a great experience for the end user. At launch, Paradise was a fantastic arcade-style racing game that would make it onto my list even if it hadn’t given me so much more afterwords. They did give me all that stuff, though, and I kept going back to it. I don’t think Burnout Paradise is the game of the year — not in a year which includes LittleBigPlanet and Mirror’s Edge and other exemplary experiences — but it deserves to be in the conversation.

19 thoughts on “For your consideration

  1. So uh… not to come off as a troll, but am I the only one thinking of Mirror’s Edge as an Emperor Has No Clothes situation? Fun as it is to mess around with time trial mode, it’s not all that impressive over all. It’s astoundingly short, a bit frustrating with the inconsistent cop AI, and the plot is, quite frankly, a throwback to the NES. Every cutscene is more or less “Sorry Faith, but your sister is in another castle!” and the police seem rather bloodthirsty considering the lack of any actual motivation. It’s not a bad game, but I wouldn’t put it up on a pedestal.

    Oh, and to everyone being roped into writing game of the year articles, you have my sympathies for the massive piles of flames you’re all sure to attract this year. Fallout 3 alone strikes me as a damned if you do damned if you don’t entry.

  2. Paradise is probably the single best reason for me to not play GTA4. The only parts of previous GTA games I’ve liked has been driving around the open city and crashing cars, and since Paradise offers exactly that, deeper than GTA, with none of the other extraneous bullshit, I have no need for GTA anymore.

  3. I didn’t miss Crash Mode much, but I really miss local multiplayer. Burnout 3/Revenge are among the very few racing games my wife likes to play with me, and with no local split-screen we haven’t been able to with this version.

  4. Mirror’s Edge, Fallout 3 and pretty much every other AAA game this year are the reason that The World Ends With You is my game of the year.

  5. I haven’t chosen a “Game of The Year”, but I would strongly consider Mirror’s Edge. Not because it’s perfect — you’re spot on with your criticisms — but because despite it’s flaws, it offered me something unique and new in a sea of sameness.

  6. Kat, I think that’s a bit unfair. The World Ends With You would have been my game of the year any year.

  7. what is the deal with this screwy 1up obsession to pimp Burnout Paradise so much? Is this some sorta Shane Bettenhausen thing?

  8. @Kat .. I’ve wanted to play The World Ends With You since about four weeks after it came out… unfortunately, it disappeared off shelves here three weeks after it came out… stupid distributors in Australia… I can still get Super Mario 64 DS.. One day I’ll give up and get it from Amazomg…

  9. I saw this article first on my LJ Friends page, and there was a “Vroooooooooom” where the picture was. In a nutshell, that’s why my wife and I loved Burnout Paradise so much. It’s vibrant, and fast, and…well, just flat-out fun. Yeah, the lack of a Crash Mode is a complaint, but I love the Stunt Mode.

    Man, I want to go home and play now.

  10. It’s actually a damn shame that Burnout Paradise has completely overshadowed Midnight Club Los Angeles, which includes every single thing Burnout’s missing (licensed cars, a human presence, customizability, easy navigation, color saturation, a retry option, a soundtrack that does not feature Avril Lavigne)- though it does lack a lot of the cool things Paradise has (batshit crazy wicked jumps, big horrific crashes, free shit galore). Pretty much anyone that likes arcade racers should own both, though MC:LA has been called Ninja Gaiden hard and it’s probably not for the easily-frustrated.

  11. I did not like the screwy physics or unfair AI in Midnight Club: LA. I also do not know Shane Betenhausen, nor am I affiliated with 1up. My reason for liking B:P: It’s just a good game!

  12. I hate racing games, but Burnout was ALMOST enough to rope me in. …And once they patch-in the ablity to restart races, it probably WILL be enough to patch me in, especially as a $30 dollar downloadable

  13. I love (love) Mirror’s Edge but I would hardly call it exemplary. That combat suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks

  14. Though I’m not all the way through it, I think Persona 4 should probably be considered. As my life has become busier, it’s become easier and easier to put even the best games I play down after a few hours. Persona 4 is the only game that’s really sucked me in and made me want to overlook its flaws. Definitely the only game where I have the patience to listen to all the dialogue.

    Yeah, it’s probably not Little Big Planet or GTA 4, but man do I love retreating into that world.

  15. Sorry for the double post. Sarcasmorator — I also bought Burnout Revenge to play with my fiancee. Guess it makes sense that non-gamers would get into a game like Burnout. Local multiplayer is a good thing.

  16. Tomm,

    The overall experience I had is what I called exemplary. I definitely agree with you on the combat. (Especially since I was led to believe that not shooting anyone was how the game was meant to be played, which makes the game much harder than it already is)

  17. I got Paradise via download, and I kept wanting to go back to it during the holiday game rush. To me it is one of the few spiritual successors to Midtown Madness, and anyone who complains about a lack of retry is not quite literally not playing the game correctly. In older Burnouts, completing certain races would unlock certain stuff, but Paradise only cares that you complete X number of races to get a license.

    I’m also glad with the fairly small roster of cars. I have no more love for OCD unlocking, and would much rather take a small fleet of arcadey cars and race them to my best ability, and since difficulty scales to my ride, I can get great mileage out of even the starter vehicles.

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