Review: Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360)

Burnout Paradise reminds me of a theme park. You’ve got plenty of rides, it’s best enjoyed with friends … and the fun ends too quickly.

This is an example of a game’s biggest strength also serving as its Achilles heel. Yes, it promises and delivers unbridled freedom to players. However, it’s free-roaming concept also shortens its own lifespan. It’s the epitome of what you see is what you get. The question is, do you get enough?

You’re placed in the beautifully crafted confines of Paradise City, complete with everything from a beach to a baseball stadium to winding mountain roads. There are no tracks, only a litany of intersections that lead to race events like the Burning Route (time trial) and Road Rage (take down your enemies for the win). One new event is the Stunt Run, where you barrel roll and flatspin your way to points. Then there’s Marked Man, where you have to survive a run from one point of the map to another while avoiding attacking drivers.

Perhaps the most jarring change is the elimination of the crash event. Instead, we get Showtime mode, where you essentially turn your car into a tumbling harbinger of vehicular death. You can launch your vehicle off the ground and hurtle into oncoming traffic, causing millions in damages. It’s not nearly as grand as the old crash events, which mixed a feeling of feral power with a dash of theater showmanship.

The beauty of the Paradise City setup is that it allows you to choose your path to a better license and more cars. If you hate Stunt Run, then you can try Road Rage or Marked Man for your jollies. The city is rife with jumps, shortcuts and various landscapes, so you can explore to your heart’s content. Online play is practically seamless, as you’re able to use the D-pad to hop on with your friends while driving around.

Just one major problem all of this gets old, and it gets old fast. While you have more than 100 points of interest on the map, they’re all variations of the same handful of events. As fun as Road Rage can be, killing 15-20 cars repeatedly gets a little boring. Strangely, I also thought the game’s speed actually worked against it. I saw lots of Paradise City in a very short time, so the scenery quickly lost its luster. And you can’t play Road Rage online? Really?

I wanted to like this game, and I did … for a few days. When the mood hits, maybe I’ll come back to it. I said the same thing about Disney World. I haven’t been back in years.

Score: 7/10.