Burnout Paradise
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Yes. Yes, it is.

Yes! Burnout on the PC, and about bloody time! One of my true loves and I've been waiting patiently for years for it to grace The Platform of the Gods. It better be good...

Thankfully my love is requited and then some, as this is THE arcade racer on the PC. In fact, my love is requited and then smashed headlong into a bus whilst travelling at approximately 170 mph, after a 200ft drop from the mountains, before barrelling through 1040 degrees for a final 180 degrees lengthways flip to land back on its tyres to be driven away. Into a billboard at 130 mph, after a... you get the point. You see, the point of Burnout is to drive very, very fast indeed and smash into various things - be they bonus-granting scenery, other competitors, or a brick wall. You can also race if you want, but that's beside the point.

Burnout has been tearing up the consoles for years now, and it's one of the major series' that I always thought the PC was lacking. Now they've gone the whole hog and released it in its full, Paradise: Ultimate Box (fnar!), format - you even get the bikes add-on for naught. Can't say fairer than that, right? Well, you can because the other DLC available for the game (toy cars, legendary cars, etc.) is extortionately priced - an extra fiver for 3 cars? Hahahaha-aah, no. Never mind though, you don't need it - there are plenty of cars provided to cream around the city in.

And cream it you most certainly will. Paradise City (where the grass is churned and the girls are bikers) is wonderful – it’s huge, and full to the brim with things to see and wreck. From the sweeping mountain roads to the criss-cross intersections of Downtown, everything has been designed with racing and, more importantly, total vehicular carnage in mind. And it's gorgeous - everything is solid and shiny in the right places. The cars look fantastic and the weather cycle - with day, night, fog, etc. - gives the place a palpable atmosphere, the sun glinting off bonnets and headlights appearing through the fog. Each area of the city has been well designed architecturally with some fantastic landmarks. And, Good Lord, the draw distance! If you park up by the harbour on one side of the map, you can see the wind farms twirling in the distant mountains. Do you see GTA4? It can be done - a full city with no missing textures, no pop up, and a draw distance further than the mind can comprehend.

All this bling and it still flies like shit off a shovel - I've yet to play another racer that gives this eye-bleeding impression of speed. And it handles well, admittedly it's arcade personified - no dirty sim-like mechanics at work here - but that's exactly what you need for this type of game. Drifting round corners, wheel spins, out of control accidents - perfect, and all this feels just right with a 360 joypad. Plus you can still see what's going on - even with that horrendous motion blur that seems to infect all racing-style games, you can still see junctions, jumps and victims. As a port to the PC, it's a technological marvel.

The gameplay, though, is the true star. Raking it randomly around the city at ludicrous speeds, pulling off improbable stunts - which help fill your boost bar - is simply amazing. There's an awful lot to occupy you as well - events at every set of traffic lights, billboards to crash through, fences to smash up, stunt jumps to find - oh my giddy aunt, the list is endless.  Or you could just thrash around the place listening to classical music (I turned off all the emo tunes and just left the real music - doing a road rage event to Mozart is one of the finest things in gaming). The events on offer are races (a straight, point-to-point race with no set route); road rage (maim a set amount of competitors in a time limit); stunt run (beat a stunt score); marked man (get to a destination without getting written off); and burning laps (a time trial in a specific car). Complete enough of these and you'll upgrade your licence and also unlock other cars. These turn up driving around Paradise City and you need to crush them in order to own them. Real world economics, right there. Completing all the unique jumps or smashing all the billboards also unlocks treats. So plenty of reasons to drive like a moron, then.

The only downside to all this is that the events are furiously easy - you certainly won't struggle in any of the races once you've unlocked a relatively quick car. This does mean that you earn an endless stream of rewards, which is satisfying to a point - but I do like to feel there's some competition in a race. Most of the challenge in Burnout lies in finding all the secrets hidden around the map and it's arguably the most enjoyable aspect of the game.

Most upsetting, though, is the lack of the previous Burnout's gloriously spectacular and dangerously compulsive crash junctions. Instead these are replaced with the stupid, stupid Showtime mode. Press a button and your car suddenly flips in the air like an epileptic, and you guide it on its merry wrecking way - destroying as many cars as is humanly possible to earn as big a score as you can before the boost bar runs out. Why they thought this was a good replacement, I don't know - the game is crying out for the old crash junctions and they would've been even more spectacular than they used to be.

The multiplayer aspect is also far larger than it ever has been before - many, many online events, as well as split-screen options. I'm yet to try these modes out (I need more practice – I’m scared of the kids beating me), but I fully intend to - from what I've heard, the online racing is top drawer. And I haven't even mentioned the bikes which are simply awesome.

Just like the rest of the game - Burnout Paradise is almost too good.


The fast bikes are absolutely insane.