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Burnout Paradise Hands-on Preview December 31, 2007

Posted by farhanriaz in Games.
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Criterion doesn’t need to justify its work on EA’s Burnout series. In fact, Burnout has nearly become synonymous with driving games that concentrate more on creating vehicular havoc rather than trying to avoid it.

The original BurnoutTakedown and Point of Impact—were all great games, but it became apparent that Criterion started to reach the limits of what it could do with the old Xbox hardware. Burnout Revenge was the developer’s first foray on the Xbox 360, but this speed demon showed no signs of the typical freshman foibles that plagued some of the other teams new to MS’ latest box; a great game for sure.

If one had to dig for a shortcoming in the lineage of Burnout titles, it would have to be with the way in which its various modes are presented. And if one really wanted to dig a bit further, there are arguments to be made with how the series has gone about Live multiplay functionality.

Yeah, we have to really stretch here, due to Criterion’s impeccable reputation on the Burnout series, but, as we all know, nary a game is perfect. It’s that strive towards unreachable perfection that has pretty much made every new Burnout title greater than its predecessor. Our hands-on time with Burnout Paradise confirms this same trend and, not surprisingly, has showed us that big changes have been made this time around pertaining to the way in which events are accessed and Live functionality is presented.

You’ll instantly know that Criterion has some interesting tricks up its sleeve for Live integration and social gameplay functionality for Burnout Paradise. With a Live Vision camera connected, you can take a driver’s license photo that will be instantly linked to the gamertag signed in at the time. With this virtual license as your new calling card, you can now put a face to the thousands of potential online competitors that can interact within the confines of Paradise City.

The mugshot fun carries on into co-op events in the form of FreeBurn Challenge events. You and up to seven friends can combine efforts to attack the records already set by other FreeBurn competitors. Or, you can create your own FreeBurn contests and have the rest of the posse follow your lead.

General co-op Challenges are also pre-set in the “always online” format of Burnout Paradise. The events are all dependent on the number of players (from two to eight) and can range from simple electronic gatherings, to cumulative yardage while airborne and just about everything in between. Of course, there are gads of opportunities to go head-to-head in Burnout Paradise’s instant online architecture, including competitor-created race events, quick matches or your very own versus race routes created from dozens of start/finish/checkpoint locales strewn all about the eighteen-plus square miles of Paradise City. Take a guy down and you’ll actually get the chance to send him a super-special mugshot message of what you think about his skills as a driver. Of course, these won’t include any obscene finger gestures, now will they?

The really good news in all of the changes made to Burnout Paradise’s Live multiplay capabilities is that you’ll hardly know if you are involved locally or remotely in the action. A quick tap of the d-pad will bring up the Paradise City Live menu, which can be accessed any time during a game. From there, a Friends list can be brought up for instant Freeburn action, player/ranked matches can be searched or created, Challenges attempted, Leaderboards accessed and a cool mugshot trophy room can be perused. But you’ll never have to leave your current game to do anything online in Burnout Paradise, and you can just as easily pop back to local play if you so desire. A quit confirmation and slight pause is all that separates you from intense human interaction via Live (and Vision) and a solo session with less critical AI buddies.

The local play of Burnout Paradise will be a bit more familiar to the fans of this series, but it’s pretty easy to call the user interface and general work flow of this latest model revolutionary. You’ll have some new events—such as the Stunt Run,which is all about THawk-like tricking, but with cars instead of decks; and you’ll also get to try out the cat-and-mouse-like game of Marked Man—but the vintage bits have been salvaged as well. Again, it’s really how Criterion went about presenting the user’s chores that makes Burnout Paradise much more intriguing than its predecessors. Simply pulling the brake and accelerator at a stop light accesses the events, which progressively unlock as you tool around Paradise City. Events are made apparent on the mini map once they are accessed, which means you’ll never have to leave the gaming action to try and complete a race, takedown a foe or trick for points. You’ll have to pay close attention to the inset map and the street sign GPS system at the top of the screen to progress through the game, but hardcore race-game fans will surely see this as the beauty of Burnout Paradise; you never really quit driving.

While there is a greater emphasis on aerial tricking in Burnout Paradise than ever before, the real bread-and-butter of Criterion’s extreme racer/crasher is very much intact. A new deformation system is in place for Burnout Paradise, and it’s pretty much a sight to behold for those guys that get off on the tech stuff. How Criterion can make a faux Accord accordion is beyond us, but it sure does speak loudly and directly about its experience in digitally creating destruction. The more normal scrapes, bumps and bruises, and the more serious body-part damage, missing panels and “total loss” conditions are stunning to boot, especially when running at an unbelievable 60fps. And the best part is that you’ll have even a better lineup of pretty cars to turn ugly in Burnout Paradise, as SUVs, muscle cars and more exotic exotics have joined this ode to vehicular homicide.

Easily the best looking, most innovative and online-functional extreme racer that we have played to date, Burnout Paradise is very much poised to make an…er, impact once it finally drops.

With its exploration and social interaction emphasis mixed in with the bits from Criterion’s storied franchise that you’ve already fallen in love with, there’s already reason to believe that Burnout Paradise will be the clear-cut race leader for most of—if not all of—2008.

Look for more on Burnout Paradise as its January 22 ship date approaches.

~ from the mag TEAM XBOX

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