Not but one month into the New Year, and we’re already seeing some quality releases in gaming. That suits me just fine. It keeps me busy and off the streets, where I may hurt myself. Instead, I while away the hours online smashing fake cars into each other. I have to remember to obey the speed laws once I get up to get Taco Bell in the middle of a gaming run though…
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
And never is that more true than playing BURNOUT PARADISE, out now on PS3 and Xbox 360. From the wide and wild expanses of Paradise City, one can cover a lot of ground (and insurance claims) from going from the game world to the real world in quick succession.
That may be because PARADISE’s world is so real in itself. This time around, developer Criterion has crafted a fully open city, where all the events are open from the start. No qualifying races, no tests…just jump in and burnout. All you do is pull up to ANY traffic signal, hit both the gas and brake at the same time, and you’re launched into any number of events that could conceivably take you from one end of the city to the next. And Paradise City is BIG too…from Downtown and Palm Bay, to the Wind Farm up in Silver Lake and White Mountain, from the Observatory to the Country Club, Paradise City’s roads are far and wide…and full of crashes.
Yes, the series staple is here in all its hi-def glory. The crashes have never looked better, been more realistic physically and…man, if there were real people driving these cars, EVERYONE would be fucking dead. Rest assured, however, there’s no human carnage here…just CARnage (oh god did I just type that?). The camera will often zoom in through your mangled door to show that yes, no one is driving. Gee, a city FULL of automobiles that move, react to traffic, and speed around on their own. It’s like the characters from Disney/Pixar’s CARS…but everyone’s drunk.
The freedom to explore Paradise City is the game’s biggest draw, but it’s also the city’s open world feel that leads to one of it’s more bigger let downs. As I said, you can start a race at any intersection. Fail it, however, and there’s no “restart race” in the main menu. If you want to give it another try, you have to drive back to the start. After missing a turn at 250 mph and going off a jump into traffic going the opposite direction (due to the map’s illogical choice of not repositioning itself once you change direction and the compasses tiny-ness) you may not want to. Sure, this is a hindrance, but it keeps with the open world sandbox Criterion strove so hard to create. It’s fine with me, actually, because even if I do fail a race, there’s another event right at the next intersection.
Gone also is the series fan favorite Crash Mode. Instead of the complex and fun puzzles of trying to smash as many cars as possible in the limited time, you now can trigger “Showtime” at any street. This sends your car into a roll and you must maneuver it into traffic to gain more boost, which helps you nudge your car along even more. Buses offer multipliers, but there’s really not as much skill needed here as there was in past Crash modes. Again, with the open world though, fitting in separate Crash Modes would have taken the player out of the open world and into one of those pesky menu driven options they’ve been so careful to avoid here.
Even online is handled with a minimum of fuss. Just hit right on the d-pad to bring up your friends list, send an invite, or just “freeburn” online. There are 350 separate challenges online that you can compete in with friends, as well as the normal “smash into each other like a bunch of drunken idiots” kind of fun too. The more folks take you out (or you take out), the more mugshots and “smugshots” you can send back and forth with the Xbox Live vision or Playstation Eye camera peripherals. If they score a takedown on you, you can send back the hatred by flipping them off or exposing your junk. Ain’t technology grand?
Honestly though, there’s so much to love about PARADISE I can’t put it all into one small review. From finding all the billboards, super jumps and smash gates (which each net you a new car once you locate them all), to the individual burning routes (one for each car), to the new Marked Man events (where you speed to a destination while trying to not be taken out)…there’s endless fun. And the game let’s you take it all on at your own pace. Don’t want to do any races? Fine…just tool around the city and locate all the car parks and drive-thrus, which give you boost (gas stations), fix your car (repair stations) paint you up, or even allow you to switch your rides (junkyards).
While PARADISE isn’t perfect, it’s a bold step in a new direction, and after getting used to the way things are set up, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have fun. Even if it’s not right away, once you set up in your own pace, it’s a wild ride. Maybe next time they’ll include auto restarts on the races though…until then, I’m enjoying the hell out of this one.
One Gamer’s Opinion:
WE CAN BE HEROES
For Travis Touchdown, being a hero means taking out the Top Ten Assassin’s ranked above him by any means necessary. And by “any mean”, we mean savagely and with as much blood as possible. In NO MORE HEROES for the Wii, you take this video game loving, anime-shirt wearing otaku out on crazy adventures for blood, money and pussy…and yes, that’s right, I said it’s on THE WII.
In a desperate attempt to get into the panties of the head of the United Assassin’s Association, Travis takes on all comers with his light sab..er…I mean, BEAM KATANA. By holding the Wii-mote high or low, Travis will change his battle stance. Pressing the A button slashes at your foes, and after enough landed hits, a “death blow” icon appears on screen, telling you which way to swing the wii-mote to lop off the head, slice your foe in two, etc…all with the requisite fountain of blood a la KILL BILL. It’s this simple style of control that makes this title work, gameplay wise, as most other titles with a sword would have you swinging until your arms fell off. This adds a bit more precision, and is one of the finer points in this already stellar game.
What you’ll notice FIRST, however, is the game is heavy on the style. Directed by Suda 51, the genius crackpot mind behind KILLER 7, this game wears its comedy on its sleeve and doesn’t even take itself seriously. The menus are strictly 8-bit homage’s, the hero loves wrestling videos and plays with his cat in his downtime…and you save your game by taking a crap. Yeah…this is my kind of game.
Travis gets the money for the entry fee to attack each member of the UAA by doing odd jobs around town, such as gathering coconuts, moving laws and the like. You can also take on more shady work, like killing a bunch of henchmen in a certain time, or assassinating other targets not immediately on the Top Ten. These are all located around town, and while the game has the illusion of an open world sandbox, getting around isn’t easy. Or fun, for that matter.
Travis’ bike is the culprit here. It’s handles like driving a rock, and turning makes you want to punch a puppy. Plus, the game really ISN’T open…you can’t just walk into any building, just the ones selected for each job/mission. Still, I suppose it adds a bit more interactivity than just “click” and you’re there.
Back to the combat, though…this really is where the game shines. Graphically, the game has a anime feel with just tons of over the top gore…nothing horrific, just goofy blood fountains. As you slash away, you build up credits in a slot machine, and getting 3 of a kind rewards you with new attacks, such as a stock pile of explosives that clear the room, or the one hit kill ability…and all have crazy names like “Raspberry Chocolate Cake” or some such stuff.
It’s hard to describe a game like NO MORE HEROES…just as it was to pug down KILLER 7. Granted, this game has a bit more substance to go with the style… something KILLER 7 only could cover one of (and that being the style, naturally). The control with the battles is great, but on the bike is a hassle. It’s no visual stunner, but it is unique and fun. Groundbreaking no… but it’s a game that deserves to be played…if only to be seen so one could believe. Just because I love it doesn’t mean you will… not unless you have a sick sense of humor like me.
One Gamer’s Opinion:
I’ll be back again soon. On deck are reviews of DEVIL MAY CRY 4, as well as… um… KARAOKE REVOLUTION: AMERICAN IDOL ENCORE. So, yeah… look for that one soon.
THE GAME ON! RATING SYSTEM
Ratings From Greatest to Least:
Kick Ass, Right On, Okay, Eh, and Stinker (aka CRAPTACULAR)
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