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The Dark Side of Paradise: New Burnout DLC impressions September 18, 2008

Posted by Mike in Console, Games, Impressions.

New offline and online events, a full 24 hour day/night cycle, the addition of motorbikes, and all this for free – it sounds great on paper. And indeed, the latest downloadable content in Burnout Paradise makes quite the first impression, with the novelty of the bikes and their different handling opening up a genuinely new feel to racing through Paradise City.

But while the content is sizeable, there are problems. For one thing, night is NIGHT. Come midnight in the game it’s so dark – pitch-black in places, with only your bike’s weedy headlights pointing out landmarks in the gloom – that you’re forced to rely on the mini-map in the corner of the screen more than ever. This lack of visibility makes perfect sense when racing on the country roads at the west edge of the map, but the near-darkness at the very heart of Paradise City itself (other than the flashing lights that indicate jump positions) somehow just looks lifeless and wrong, and makes night-time racing extremely difficult. The night cycle can’t have been accounted for in the initial design of the game, otherwise Criterion would have put twinkling lights in a number of the buildings to help guide your way, and the lack of some sort of tweaking to make the darkness less of a hindrance is frustrating. Those country roads are rather pretty at night, though, and the day/night cycle is tweakable through a number of settings. These include (among others) a 24 minute cycle, a local time setting tied to your real-world location, and the ability to permanently set the game time to a chosen point. I recommend sunset.

The motorbikes’ lack of boost is an interesting design decision. It arguably makes the racing more “pure” (although the speed differential between the two types of bike initially available will likely make one of them comparatively useless in competitive online play), but Burnout without boost just doesn’t feel like Burnout. The lack of any crash animations at all for a big shunt is disappointing too, but whether this is due to technical constraints or because having riders fly off the bikes would invalidate the game’s age rating is unknown.

All this doesn’t mean that the content is without merit – far from it. Having a new driving license to work for increases the breadth of the single player game (although I have yet to find any races against AI opposition, which is an interesting oversight), and while difficult, the Midnight Runs use their new checkpoint system to great effect. The Freeburn challenges are as compelling an example of social online gaming as you can find on Xbox Live at the moment, and the addition of all new Road Rules leaderboards for bikes for both day and night will reinvigorate those particular bragging rights. Online interaction between bikes brings an extra dimension to a now overly-familiar game world, too.

It seems churlish to complain about a free update – and certainly this DLC is remarkably generous – but given how long it has been in development, the various design foibles are more than curious. Paradise it may be, but this game definitely still has a dark side.



1. Helen - October 12, 2008

My name is Helen, and I’m part of a group called DS:London. You may have heard of us, we are a group who meet up in central London every month or so for a drink and to play DS with each other.
On the 27th of this month we are organising an event ; an attempt to break the world record of the most number of people playing DS in one room simultaneously. We’re aiming to assemble about 500 folks (although we have room for more ^^). I was wondering if you could possibly help us publicise it via your forum? It should be awfully good fun, and something your readers (plus, maybe even yourself?) would enjoy ❤
Kind Regards

2. Helen - October 12, 2008

gah I meant to say blog, lawl

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