Burnout Paradise celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, and with rumours flying around relating to an Xbox One release, now feels like the perfect time to have a look back at a beloved franchise that holds a special place in many gamers’ hearts, not least mine.
Burnout Paradise released on January 22nd 2008 in the US, three days later in Europe, but a whole 16 days later in Australasia on 7th February.
In the week that was during its US release, we saw the sad passing away of Heath Ledger, Sylvester Stallone returned to our screens as Rambo, and Adele released her debut album, 19. For gaming, Burnout Paradise was the only major release that week, as January is typically a quiet month for gaming.
Paradise was the fifth main entry into the already well-established Burnout series, but this one was the first to include an open-world environment. It retained all the classic features that made Burnout stand out from other racers including Crash Mode, now updated for the 360 and called Showtime. Races and Takedown events also returned and could be activated by stopping at any intersection and revving your engine.
Paradise also featured seamless online multiplayer with a simple tap of right on the D-pad. Here you could invite players into your game and then initiate an online match using the same intersections as the single player.
It wasn’t the first Burnout game to include multiplayer though: Burnout 2: Point of Impact had online leaderboards for the Crash events but Burnout 3: Takedown had full online multiplayer.
Such is the legacy of Burnout Paradise that online servers are still active and widely used 10 years after the original release. The numbers were given a boost back in November 2016 when Paradise was added to the Xbox One backwards compatibility service, and then given away for free to Xbox Live Gold members the following month. I know my friends and I took full advantage of this influx of new players to return to Paradise City.
Yes, Burnout Paradise was set in a place with the uninspiring name of Paradise City and yes, Guns N’ Roses featured on the soundtrack. Paradise City played on the main menu such was the extensive use of that song in the game. Paradise featured plenty of other songs though in a healthy soundtrack.
Personal favourites included Killswitch Engage, Brand New, Senses Fail, Soundgarden and Airbourne, but it was by no means limited to the heavier stuff. More recent bands such as The Pigeon Detectives and Jimmy Eat World played alongside more classic songs from Adam and the Ants, Faith No More and Twisted Sister. Plus, Avril Lavigne!
Upon its release, Paradise received highly positive reviews. Critics praised its new open-world setting but for also staying true to the Burnout franchise. Other, smaller additions were highlighted including the ability to track down a vehicle driving around the city and then crash into it to own it, and the gas stations and repair shops dotted around the city were there so that the player could drive through them to refill their boost meter or repair their car back to full working order. It also drew criticism though, particularly regarding the radio host DJ Atomika. Personally, after playing hundreds of hours of SSX 3 where he also featured as the radio host, I welcomed hearing him again.
As it is the tenth anniversary of Paradise, rumours have started flying around about an Xbox One release happening around March time. Rumours like this have been around for a while, but now the rumour starts to pick up with pace as repeated sightings on Brazilian and Japanese online retailers are tentatively pushing a 16th March release. If this is true then fans will be expecting all the post-release updates and DLC to be included, such as the motorbikes and Big Surf Island. Fingers crossed that this is true and a whole new generation can get excited about Burnout. Even more fingers crossed that this leads to more Burnout in future, or a HD release of the greatest game in the series, Burnout 3.
Here’s the thing: Burnout 2 was my first experience of a Burnout game, and the last to be released in the series by Acclaim Entertainment – subsequent releases were by EA. Their first release for Burnout, Burnout 3: Takedown completely perfected the series’ mix of arcade racer and absolute carnage. Throwing the new Road Rage events in with the standard Race and Crash events made it one of the best games I ever played. It meant I skipped the fourth entry, Burnout Revenge, completely as I was still smashing cars up on Takedown.
When Paradise came out I was giddily excited to experience that rush all over again. And what I got, was a little disappointing. Paradise certainly wasn’t a bad game, and a game I would happily return to, but for me, it never came close to Takedown. But then again, few games actually have.
If the Paradise remaster rumours turn out to be true, then this would not be the first time that the rush and excitement of Burnout has tried to have been replicated.
Fast-forward six years after Paradise and the original founders of Criterion Games – the developers of every major Burnout game – had spun off to create their own studio called Three Fields Entertainment, with the overarching goal to create a spiritual successor to Burnout.
Their first attempt at this was released in June 2016 – Dangerous Golf. For anyone that played the Crash events of Burnout, the similarities were there; Dangerous Golf had the player cause as much destruction and chaos in rooms featuring thousands of destructible items, and then receive a score and ranking after their attempt. It was a fun little game, but it’s a lot better to play with a group of friends thanks to the local multiplayer than on your own.
After a brief dabble with VR at the end of 2016, Three Fields returned late last year with Danger Zone. Everyone agreed that this was it – Burnout was back. Danger Zone was the Crash mode from the Burnout games released as its own standalone title for all intents and purposes. I reviewed this game, but was ultimately disappointed once again. Danger Zone switched from ‘real-life’ junctions featured in Burnout, to an industrial man-made scenario for the crashes to occur, and it felt like the charm and random chaos had been removed as a result.
What the team at Three Fields are working on currently is unknown. It could well be the Paradise remaster?
2011 also saw Burnout Crash! release for the 360 which was an interesting spin on the Crash formula, but it was just not Burnout.
What I mean is, the Burnout franchise still comes up in conversations regarding franchises that need new entries, but what makes Burnout different is that they were very competent racers and still feel and handle well today. Take for example TimeSplitters – another franchise in dire need of a reboot – but going back to these games now is hard because they do not play as well as more recent shooters. Burnout has that long lasting appeal and the gameplay that will keep on giving.
I mention all this because there is still a real craving for Burnout there, whether that be from the original developers, but certainly from the original fans as well. We want Burnout. And if a Burnout Paradise remaster on Xbox One is what we get, then hell, we’ll take that.