One year ago, EA released "Burnout: Paradise." How does the game hold up one year later?
Game: "Burnout: Paradise"
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Criterion Games
Release Date: 1/22/08
What it was about: The technologically ambitious developers at Criterion Games decided to create the ultimate open-world racing game, re-writing the core rules of their own franchise. In the process, they began in January 2008 what was essentially an ongoing conversation with their fans as they expanded and adapted the game throughout the calendar year.
What was cool about it: "Burnout Paradise" was arguably the first console game built for the Facebook generation. It is a never-lonely game that, even when played solo, streams notification after notification of how one's friends have been performing in the game. Every time the player turns onto another road of the massive Paradise City, the fastest time raced by someone on your friends' list is displayed on the screen -- unless you rule the road. Every time you start flipping your car in the damage-tallying Showtime mode, the top destruction score earned by your friends pops up. The front-end of the game was redesigned after the game's release to look like a Facebook newsfeed. The game's developers were so forward-thinking about connectivity that they didn't even require players to enter lobbies to begin multiplayer games; instead, they just let players tap a button and enter a shared Freeburn mode.
What wasn’t so great: Many, many people didn't like the game's lack of a restart option for failed races. Most races in the game are rally races, sending players far to the other side of the game's map. If the player didn't win the race, they'd have to drive all the way back to the beginning or, more likely, just try a different path. Criterion is finally relenting on this one, adding a restart option in next month's free update.
Features I neglected: Ironically enough (regular readers will appreciate this), I loved this game but never… finished it.
Why I got it twice: I played a lot of "Burnout Paradise" in its original form as a disc release. I ran it on the PS3, which, I understood, was the platform Criterion led its development on. But open-world games like this one are best played on a regular basis and that makes them perfect for being saved on a hard drive. So, in September, I bought the downloadable PS3 version and started the game from scratch.
How long I played the downloadable version: 3 hours, 28 minutes, 55 seconds
When I last played it: October 15, 2008 (I had been playing it on a daily basis, for a few races a day before playing whatever disc game I was playing those days -- "Lego Batman," I think.)
Great moments in "Burnout Paradise"-based journalism: This is one of the games N'Gai and I argued about in a Vs Mode.
Worth tracking down? Yes. It is my favorite racing game of 2008 and one that is about to get a major infusion of free and paid content in February.