It’s not so much the destination but the journey that makes Burnout Paradise Remastered sing like Avril Lavigne in her punk princess pomp. Glittering yellow gates beg to be smashed; crimson coloured billboards linger precariously at the end of ramps, begging to be kissed by your bonnet. And all this while you’re en route to the observatory or the wind farm for the hundred millionth time. Who cares if you’ve seen the same stretch of road umpteen times? There’s a new Showtime to beat.
It’s embarrassing that, four years into the PlayStation 4’s lifecycle, a decade old up-res should become one of the system’s best arcade racing games. Perhaps it’s an indictment of the state of the genre as a whole; maybe it’s testament to the sheer brilliance of noughties Criterion, when the Guildford-based studio was clearly supping the good stuff before owner EA did what it always does and eventually poisoned the well. Who really gives a hoot when you’ve got Road Rules to reset?
The iconic open world racer sure looks tasty on new-gen hardware, where good ol’ spit-and-polish has boosted the image quality and cleaned up the jagged edges. The titular Paradise City still has that piss-soaked tint of an early PlayStation 3 title, when bloom was the chromatic aberration of its day. But it matters little when you’re buzzing through traffic on the way to your next Freeburn Challenge, ramming any and all online competitors who cross your path purely because you can.
Whether you’re online or offline, the same rules apply: go fast and have fun. Rarely does a game make the travel between objectives so entertaining, but here you’ll find a veritable playpen of shortcuts, jumps, and hairpin bends. The structure, which sees an event embedded at every junction, is designed to let you tackle a little bit of what you fancy when you fancy it. Races have no real routes encouraging you to learn the city and its intricacies, while huge crash set-pieces can be triggered absolutely anywhere.
It’s not very “Burnout” – a complaint that’s never been far from critics’ lips since its release. And yet, the game is very much its own crazy concoction – a playground for creativity and crushed carbon fibre. Nowhere is this depiction truer than in multiplayer, when you may be tasked with getting three aerial near-misses in the western woods or accumulating 50 takedowns in the airfield for no reason whatsoever. Just pray to the Platinum Gods you can get seven people in the Wildcats baseball stadium simultaneously.
It’s reckless, ruleless, and ridiculously entertaining – the kind of pure gameplay thrill that you can lose tens of hours to without even realising. And it’s bolstered here by a seemingly never-ending slate of content owing to the much-publicised Year of Paradise – a precursor to the Games as a Service buzzword and proof that it was financially plausible long before anyone had even opened a loot crate. Want to drive a toy car? Hell yes, you do! Gee, the bikes alone bring a bevy of new content to a well-worn world.
And then there’s Big Surf Island, the colourful off-shoot that has leaps of faith so long even Evel Knievel would wince. It’s a miniature manifestation of everything that makes the main game strut, with new billboards to break and plenty of fresh orange gates to obliterate. Cops and robbers augment extra online multiplayer modes, while the Paradise Party pack condenses the core thrills and spills into a series of pass-the-controller minigames.
Our singular quibble, then? EA tax. No, not EA Trax – the title has the best worst soundtrack of all time, after all – but the eye-watering £34.99 price point that the publisher’s attached. When you consider that the PlayStation 3 edition of the Ultimate Box can be obtained for less than a bottle of Becks, the American organisation’s asking a helluva a lot for what is effectively a buffed-up re-release. It’s worth it, of course, but the sticker shock needn’t even exist.
On the title’s tenth anniversary, Burnout Paradise Remastered is a timely reminder that – like Avril Lavigne – this arcade racer can still do it better than all of its contemporaries. Seriously, there’s no other like it, so when’s it going to sink in? The only real downside is that the pricing’s stupid – what the hell is EA thinkin’?