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The Games Of Christmas: December 5th

The fifth door on our our incredible seasonal advent calendar doth tremble. But why should that be? What kind of machine lies behind it that would shake the very earth? Follow the hand of the one true leader of the Autobots as we discover the fifth of our games of the year…
Burnout Paradise!


This time around we catch Jim and John having a good old chinwag about the game:

Jim: Yes, this really did come out in 2009 on PC. Crazy, but true. And you know, I totally played the hell out of it, again, which is unusual for me and racing games. Usually they have to have something else going on – like I am trying to beat someone, or it’s specifically for review. But this I just too great pleasure in sampling, like a tasting menu in a restaurant.
John: Yup, me too. I can’t think of another racing game I’ve persisted with beyond discovering that I couldn’t run over the crowd or drive the wrong way down the track. Which I guess makes sense, since in Burnout I can absolutely do what I want, and if that’s to drive off at right angles to the race because I see a yellow gate on the horizon that I need to crash into, that’s fine. Although there’s no crowds to run over.
Jim: That city-inhabited by cars thing does get a spooky when you notice it, but the game is beautiful like that: the secret courses that run through the heart of the city are a delight when you discover them. It’s so *designed* for racing that you almost don’t notice it.
John: And if anything, the racing’s too easy. I mean, I of all people shouldn’t have to deliberately take a ridiculous route (perhaps along a train track) to make the race more tense. But then, I get to take a route along a train track, and the game doesn’t mind. But for me BOP (hooray!) is about smashing stuff. How about you?
Jim: Well I think I mostly enjoyed the A to B racing. Finding your way through an environment that isn’t linear, and isn’t a track. That’s why I particularly gravitated towards the bikes – in which the city is geared to even higher speeds, by not having any cars – so that I would just sprint across the landscape, and beat my best times. For you it became more hi-score-tablish, didn’t it? You were *completing* bits of it?
John: Yes, the bikes held almost no interest for me, as there was nothing to smash. For me it was about breaking every red sign and every yellow barrier, and if there was a race that took me from one area to another, it was a convenient way to get there. I would genuinely cut off any map-wide race from far in the lead if I saw a barrier I’d previously missed (often falling for the tricksy trick of an optical alignment where the gap from the previously knocked down barriers looked filled in – leading to my second policy of reversing around, knocking down each set properly on a second tour, trying to find those last few). Do I sound obsessive and crazy? Are you backing away?
Jim: A little bit, because I’ve never really had that “super-tidying-up” impulse in games, where people want to collect/smash/kill/defeat/buy everything in a given game. But I do kind of understand it: it’s the satisfaction of mastering something. I think I’m more interested in just exercising my racing skill. Moving on a bit: the other thing that I loved about Burnout was that they released the whole game as a demo. It was brave and realistic. They said “sure, it’s going to be pirated, but at least everyone gets to play some free this way”. Which I think is, perhaps, a lesson to all those open-world games that say “oh we can’t possibly do a demo.”
John: It was severely time-limited though, right?
Jim: Yeah, it was a couple of hours or so.
John: But presumably that’s easily hacked.
Jim: Yes, but it was equally easily paid for. Credit card number and the game is already installed.
John: Nevertheless, I wish they’d show a bit more love for the PC. They started off so well. But then promises of DLC have now started to be met with nothing but suspicion. Big Surf Island? Cops and Robbers? All promised this year.
Jim: Suspicion seems true of all DLC stuff though. I feel that entire area is going through severe growing pains, especially on PC. No one seems to have worked out the right model. And Burnout’s failture on PC is certainly an ugly oversight. Nevertheless, this is one of the best racing games this year. We’ll be mentioning the other ones later in our yearly awards, no doubt.
John: We may, but I doubt I’ll be having much to say. Burnout for me is the best a driving game could ever be. It’s borderline a third-person platform game.

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