The grass is green and the girls are… well, there aren’t any. But by all means take me home again.
They don’t make ’em like this any more. No, really, and it’s a damn shame. Burnout Paradise represents the pinnacle of 2000s-era game design, where ludicrous speed was king and damage modelling used bleeding-edge technology to make jaws drop and eyes widen. And while things have moved on since 2008 in some respects, a little bit of spit and polish has meant that this game is still showing the competition how it’s done.
This is Burnout Paradise Remastered on Nintendo Switch but the ‘Remastered’ moniker is a little optimistic on Nintendo’s machine, at least compared to the game running on, say, Xbox Series X. In fact, play it in handheld mode and you’re actually enjoying the same resolution and frame-rate of the Xbox 360 game all those years ago. In docked mode, you get 60fps but not a particularly convincing resolution, as there are jagged edges everywhere, which are really exacerbated if you’re playing on a 4K display. In handheld mode there are some hints of sub-60fps action in busy scenes but it’s still riotously fast and arguably better-looking thanks to the smaller display making everything look mega-detailed. It’s definitely best played that way, which will please Switch Lite owners immensely.
The premise of the game is simple: Drive as fast as you can, smashing enemies off the road and generally having a riot of a time. And if you crash? Well, that’s cool too; you’re treated to still the finest crumple damage in gaming. Unlike traditional Burnout games (which haven’t appeared on Switch at all so don’t worry if you don’t know them), the road here is not just a narrow ribbon down which you hurtle at breakneck velocity. Instead, you have an entire city and surrounding hills through which you must hurtle at breakneck velocity. Ignore the traffic lights, and ignore the rules – this game actually rewards you for driving on the wrong side of the road, filling your boost bar to encourage you to go even faster.
The potential of an open world racing game was still untapped in 2008 and you can imagine the exciting brainstorming session Criterion had. You can choose whatever route you like to the finish, challenge someone by stopping at traffic lights and revving your engine, explore back alleyways for bonuses, and takedown rival cars to pick up their broken rides at the junkyard.
The car’s indicators flash to show you which way you should turn next in a race, which can be ignored entirely if you (think) you know better. The game succeeds in all of these ways and while it isn’t as ‘pure’ as Burnout 3, it’s still far simpler in its format than more modern open-world racers. It still feels like a Burnout game and that’s to be applauded.
This Remastered package doesn’t just give you that breakthrough original game, though. It also gives you the lion’s share of its DLC content too, some of which was offered as a free update, while others were paid-for, premium content. This particular lion didn’t care for the ‘unlock everything’ DLC, but you get literally everything else. That means you get motorbikes, cops vs robbers, day/night transition effects and the even more ambitiously-designed Big Surf Island. That last one is a haven for trick lovers, with interweaving routes and massive jumps around which you can chase the highest of high scores.
The variety of game modes on offer is still exemplary, from simple point-to-point races to takedown challenges where you have to smash a certain number of rival cars off the road. There are also survival runs where you’re the ‘marked man’, curated time trials for every base car model and crash challenges too.
Now, this last one is the only disappointing bit of the game, because for anyone wanting Burnout 2-style crash junctions, you’re going to be left wanting. This is a weird ‘roll your car down the road, hitting stuff as you go to keep your combo going’ kind of affair. The car destruction effects are remarkable as you get down to the engine on the chassis, but even so, this element is surprisingly boring.
Still, all of this is just the offline game, and you can take the game online seamlessly whenever you feel like it, simply by pushing the D-pad. Playing with friends is so much fun, especially when they’re right behind you and you suddenly veer off the wrong way at a right-hand bend, leaving them to slam head-on into the wall. It’s sheer joy in video game form.
The soundtrack deserves special mention, offering everything from Adam Ant to Avril Lavigne, taking in some Jane’s Addiction along the way. It sounds so good and you’ll be singing along to ‘I’ve been going through changes’ as you hurtle around the back roads and hit the ramps to leap the gorge.
The controls fit Switch nicely, though having to use the digital ZR trigger to accelerate can get a little tiring for your index finger, seeing as you’ll be accelerating for most of the time. This is not a game where you need to use the brakes – at least you need them only to kick the back out into a massive powerslide to take the corners at top speed. It feels so good.
Time has been extremely kind to Burnout Paradise. Granted, you can now see the flatness of some elements of the scenery, and the car models are juuust starting to look low-poly, but when it moves so quickly and with such fluidity, it will always be this much fun to play. It’s also worth noting that children today who weren’t born when it first came out think it’s incredibly cool and love playing it. It’s one of those special games where just controlling it is fun, whether you’re actually good at it or not.
The naysayers are missing the point of Burnout Paradise. It really is a paradise for driving in the craziest manner you can muster and you’ll never, ever forget it.
|Developer||Criterion Games and Stellar Entertainment|
|Release date||16th November 2020 (Switch)|
|Available platforms||PS4, Xbox One, PC (Steam, Origin) and Nintendo Switch|
|Version/s tested||Nintendo Switch|
|Best played with||Joy-Con and Pro Controller|
Full disclosure: We bought this game for the purposes of review. Here is our review policy.
If you’d like to read about more games for the handheld Nintendo system, why not read our ‘Seven great racing games on Nintendo Switch‘ article?