Have You Played… Burnout Paradise?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

How have I not covered Burnout Paradise already in the HYP archives?! It’s been in my top five all-time games since its release in 2008, and remains my favourite driving game of all time. The game I’ve gone back to more than any other, apart from maybe Freecell.

Some were disappointed that Criterion’s Burnout Paradise didn’t focus on the epic crashes of the series’ previous editions, most especially Burnout 3: Takedown. And yes, it would have been an even better game of all time if it had. But forget DJ fucking Atomica, forget the way it plays that hateful GnR song every bloody time it starts (I probably didn’t have feelings about the song either way before the game came out). Focus on how it was an open-world game before they were a thing – a huge city to drive around, smashing barriers and advertising billboards.

I’m sure there’s other stuff to do in there too, races or something. But for me, it’s a game I load up once a year to smash all the yellow barriers, and drive through all the red boards, and then satisfied, continue with my life once more. It’s just a fiver on Steam now, and no, the ghastly menus are as bad as ever, and the online stuff is a complete disaster now, but who cares – just smash stuff!


  1. Pulstar says:

    No, I didn’t like it.

    • GWOP says:

      It’s not the best Burnout, but definitely the best open world racing game.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        At least tied with Driver SF??

        • Banks says:

          Driver SF is way better.

          Burnout Paradise has a great look and feel but the missions are horrible. Altough at the time, It was huge. The open world was impressive, the multiplayer was very innovative and Big surf island was fantastic.

      • epeternally says:

        I enjoyed Need for Speed: Most Wanted a lot more. It’s basically Burnout Paradise but refined. Paradise has always been too rough around the edges for me, plus not meeting my expectations for what a Burnout game is going to play like. Once it was polished and rebranded under a series where that style of gameplay actually fit, though, I did come to see the potential in it, and I think I can enjoy Paradise more now for that, though it’s still a very flawed racer.

    • Doogie2K says:

      Nor did I. Because it was open-world, it was insultingly easy to “get lost,” drive as the crow flies, and do an end-run around the rubber-band AI to finish first by like ten minutes in all the races. As a result, there wasn’t nearly as much of the vehicular violence of previous games (not to mention very few Road Rage events and no Crash Mode). Also, I will freely admit I was rubbish at the stunting, which made up a significant proportion of the game.

      In the end, I think I’d rather I’d kept my Xbox the First copy of Burnout 3 and started that over again on my 360. Curse you, final Grand Prix race I never finished!

  2. TechnicalBen says:

    The game is like Marmite. I loved it (or at least the portions I could cut out of the middle from the crusts). :D

    Never did play it’s sequel, Need For Speed. ;)

  3. Jenuall says:

    “It was an open-world game before they were a thing”

    What?! Open world was a thing long before Paradise and I’m fairly certain there was plenty of comment at the time along the lines of “Ugh, they’ve made this open world as well now?”

    Not played much of it, fairly certain I picked it up in a bundle a few years back…

    • Grant says:

      I agree. Even though this game is awesome, open-world was very ubiquitous at this point.

  4. RedViv says:

    Jansen P12 88 Special

    That is all TODAY on THIS DAY.

  5. amateurviking says:


  6. exonian says:

    I didn’t play this game until late last year and am currently in the middle of my second big playthrough of it, having moved the savegame to let me start from the beginning again.

    You know, I think it might be the best game ever. Sure, it’s not super sophisticated, but it’s packed so full of stuff to do and it’s generous with my time and it makes me grin like a loon and yeah, best of games.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Burnout Paradise is without a doubt the greatest video game I have ever played. It was a joy from beginning to end and I even liked DJ Atomika.

      So there. Criterion could have made the same game with a new map and updated graphics and I’d have put several hundred hours into that one, too.

  7. unitled says:

    Man, I’ve played it and I loved it. I believe there was a free expansion thingy that gave you an extra car and some additional music? All of the music was classical music. Watching the slow motion crashes with that playing was pure visceral bliss.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Oooo, that it was. When I found the music selection option while blundering through the menus one time, I turned off everything but the classical, and all the crashes and photo-op ramp-launch things instantly became better.

  8. Caerphoto says:

    Where the girls are green and the grass is pretty.

  9. MadMinstrel says:

    Played it. Didn’t like it very much. The driving itself was good, but everything else about the game sucked. The decision to treat the whole map as a particularly slow and cumbersome race select menu was really terrible.

    • Doogie2K says:

      Yeah, trying to find and redo a race at some indeterminate future point was beyond obnoxious, as was trying to find a specific type of event.

  10. Blackcompany says:

    I just wish we could have a quality, open world driving/racing game with solid racing wheel and possibly TrackIR support. I would spend tons of time playing such a game.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      The Crew is such a game. It’s magnificent. There is a lot of depth to the multiplayer.

  11. gunny1993 says:

    Loved this game, played the shit out of it when it fist released and I usually hate driving games because they’re probably about the most boring this you could sit down to do, honestly I was playing need for speed once and got so bored that I went and did a spreadsheet.

  12. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    Wait wait, 2008 was before open world was a thing? I think you might want to revisit that statement, since Assassin’s Creed, GTA, Drivers 1&2, Oblivion and Shen-fucking-Mue all came out prior to 08. Listed in no particular order.

    • Barberetti says:

      Not to mention NFS Underground 2 and NFS Most Wanted.

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        and I suppose Midnight Club while we’re on the subject.

    • Neutrino says:

      What about Elite? That came out quite some time ago didn’t it?

    • Wulfram says:

      Well, it was back in the happy days when not being open world was still a thing at least

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      I mean, John has obviously been playing video games for a long time, so I’m assuming this was either a brain fart or just poor wording, given that we were already at Mainstream Open World by 2008 (to add to your list, Morrowind sold quite a lot of copies on PC/Xbox in 2002/2003).

      • iainl says:

        A question of degrees, surely? Open World was mainstream enough that I regarded BP as Midtown Madness 4, but with more fun. But we were a long way off Peak Open World and the Ubification of AAA.

  13. GallonOfAlan says:

    I have by golly. On the 360 though. I wanted to stab that irritating f**king turdbag of a DJ through the face, the map was shit, it was extremely annoying having to drive the whole way back to race starts if you messed up and I was completely crap at stunt challenges but despite all this I played it for months and it remains a classic.

  14. Themadcow says:

    Burnout 2 Crash Mode >>>>>> Everything else Burnout.

    • Evil Pancakes says:

      Burnout 3 crash mode >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Burnout 2 crash mode.
      Burnout 3 is as near perfect a racing game as has ever been made. Paradise has nothing on 3.

      • Themadcow says:

        Meh, it might well have been 3 I was thinking of now I look back at the screenshots.

  15. Synesthesia says:

    I think the devs trying to make this into another paradise city is what killed the franchise. Burnout 3 was a perfect game. This one was a huge dissapointment, I miss those pass the controller modes where you had to just wreck everything. And the slow motion when you got taken down, maybe your carcass could get some revenge. What a game.

  16. Rick The Brick says:

    Ridge Racer Type 4, there´s the daily dose nostalgia!

  17. Risingson says:

    I still love it. It is one of the games that are in my comfort zone. The only downside is that the music is not varied enough.

    My nephews also love the game and burst out laughing every time they play it. It’s great that a game like this has no punishment whatsoever.

    The spanish dubbing is great as well.

    • jj2112 says:

      Yes, one of the few games with great Spanish dubbing. I’m currently playing it (I’ve had it for ages) and it’s exciting for a while but the AI’s not very good.

  18. Skeletor68 says:

    Oof, couldn’t get the hang of open-world racing. Prefer having tracks. Really liked earlier Burnouts and NFS: Underground 1 and 2.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Tracks are for people who lack imagination. There are plenty of games with tracks. This was a game where you can make up your own route.

      • iainl says:

        You could make up your own route, but with only eight endings to those routes, everything rapidly descended into getting on to a well worn path.

        Not that I didn’t enjoy it enough to 100% the 360 version including all the DLC, and then buy it again on PC.

  19. TheNavvie says:

    I got Burnout Paradise as part of a Humble Bundle a while back after playing it upon release on my brothers Xbox 360 (whatever that is). It’s a great, great game… but not quite up to Burnout 3 IMO.

  20. EhexT says:

    Also known as the worst Burnout game. The open world is an utter waste and almost everything other than the actual racing is actively hurting the thing as a racing game. The open world is an awful fiddly time consuming race select menu that also massively limits the variation in tracks and environments while adding nothing you can’t get randomly driving around in GTA 3. It was also the beginning of the waste-of-space “social features” starting to creep into racing games, which ultimately lead to the current situation, where you spend more times evading racing games shoving their social crap in your face than actually racing anything.

  21. andyhavens says:

    I was meh on this game. Too much time not doing the best stuff; races with crashing and crashing with crashing. Driving around an open world city looking for races/crashes was fun until I found the 50% of the easiest stuff to find… then it was just driving around trying to find bits and pieces I hadn’t conquered. I loved the earlier games in the series… the crash breaker mechanic just made me drool.

  22. Risingson says:

    It’s clear that the ones that love this game the most were not that much into racing but into driving…

    • PopeRatzo says:

      YES! Driving >>> Racing.

    • Cederic says:

      Maybe. I loved TDU2 for the island exploration, and just bounced hard off this. The driving physics just didn’t really work for me, and the ‘ooh, crashed through a sign’ got a bit repetitive. The actual racing wasn’t worth the effort.

  23. anHorse says:

    What’s with the nutters here claiming 3 is the best?
    If you don’t like Paradise fine but 2 is the best pure racing burnout by a mile.

    • iainl says:

      2 is the best Racing game in the series.
      3 is the best Crashing game in the series.
      Paradise is the best Driving game in the series.

      I like driving the most, so Paradise is my favourite.

  24. brucethemoose says:

    I played this on the 360 a long time ago, before I even owned a gaming PC… And I bounced off of it for reasons I can’t even remember. Which is odd, as I love open world racing games (I played the heck out of TDU), and I really liked Full Auto.

    Maybe I should give it another shot.

  25. lowprices says:

    I have, by golly, and I love it. It’s odd, because usually I’m not a fan of racing games, but Criterion’s absurdist car superheroics were right up my alley. I always felt people complaining about having to drive back to the start of a race if you lost were approaching the game in the worst possible way. If I failed a challenge it always made more sense to go and do something else. Lost a race? Try a different one nearby. Got wrecked in a Marked Man race? Try something else. Failed a stunt run? Go andoooOOOHH is that an unlockable car that just drove by?

    Lovely stuff.

  26. Simbosan says:

    I can only remember the frantic moments pressing Esc to try and get past the GNR music as quickly as possible

    • Guzzleguts says:

      Me too, until I got so sick of it that I stopped playing. I ruddy hate G&R.
      I guess I could try again with headphones plugged in, but even then I might hear it all tinny and distant. Not sure if I can risk that.

    • iainl says:

      The trick is to never turn your speakers on until you’re far enough into the game that it recognises your saved preference to have no music playing.

  27. Artificial says:

    I have and I just didn’t enjoy it that much.

    It just felt so bland. The thing I enjoyed about the early Burnout games was learning a specific course and having to race it several times to perfect my line and stuff. Due to it’s open world nature Paradise has none of this. Open world racing games just don’t do much for me.

    The handling for things like take downs just felt so light and easy too, there wasn’t really much of a challenge to it.

  28. Amake says:

    No love for Dominator? I think that’s the one where the crashes, revenge crashes and general car vs car fighting game peaked. Would only have been better if the AI opponents had some personality, names, custom vehicles or something to tell them apart so you don’t need the red arrows to tell which ones you have a grudge against.

  29. JustAchaP says:

    I have played it. Makes me want another Burnout 3

  30. Flit says:

    Yeah, the menus in this game are impressively obfuscated. Can RPS have a “top 10 worst menus in games”? This one would win!

    • Amake says:

      But then it’d lose to every one of the top 100 worst movie DVD menus. Just thinking about it made remember House of Flying Daggers, where the entire Drum Dance song plays along with a dramatic video montage before the main menu opens so you can start the movie. TWICE.

  31. Zekiel says:

    Played it. Didn’t really get it. Nothing particularly bad about it (apart from the stupid menu, obv) but it just didn’t really grab me. Possibly I just don’t really like driving games.

  32. MikoSquiz says:

    It’s a bad Burnout game because it’s open world and that doesn’t fit, and it’s a bad open-world game because it’s a Burnout and that doesn’t fit.

    In fact, it’s probably the worst Burnout and the worst open-world racing game I’ve played – which isn’t to say it’s awful, because both Burnout games and open-world racing games have that “even bad pizza is pretty good” thing going on, but it’s definitely not good pizza.

  33. Lionmaruu says:

    oh hell yeah! It is by FAR the best arcade style racing game. I love it so much that I actually bought it twice one on pc and one xbox360, and also made my friends buy it several times. but that was on the old times, when I still would buy games from EA, Activision-Blizzard and Ubisoft… Burnout Paradise still a great game I play from time to time and I hope the guys from “former criterion people” or whatever to make a new great one.