Burnout Paradise was first unveiled in January of last year, garnering critical acclaim whilst reinventing the popular Burnout series. Built from the ground up, Paradise was a free-flowing racing title, where players roamed around the fictional Paradise City (a la Grand Theft Auto) finding races, completing challenges and upgrading their racing licences to the coveted Criterion Class. Periodically, downloadable content was released, boasting the addition of motorbikes, night-time and trophies among others.
Now in 2009, Burnout Paradise – The Ultimate Box has been released, a pack consolidating the Paradise series, combining the original Burnout Paradise with the aforementioned downloadable content, as well as the all-new premium Burnout Party Pack, adding the offline multiplayer that the Burnout series was once well known for to Burnout Paradise.
The key difference between Burnout Paradise and The Ultimate Box is the previously mentioned addition of offline multiplayer. Up to eight players can partake in the all new party mode, in which players can create a custom line-up of challenges across three categories: Stunt, Skill and Speed.
Stunt mode specifies a certain stunt to be completed, while Speed challenges players to complete various challenges in the fastest possible time. Skill combines the previous two modes and also challenges players to complete various tasks with special conditions, like speeding through train tunnels without using the brakes or travelling the furthest unscathed through oncoming traffic.
Whilst enjoyable, the offline multiplayer lacks any real depth and the challenges quickly become tiresome. Challenges are quickly repeated and inconsistent scoring across challenges fails to create a consistently competitive environment whilst playing.
The single player follows a similar style to Grand Theft Auto in an open world environment. Paradise City is at your disposal to roam around, allowing you to find races and earn points to improve your licence and increase your arsenal of cars. The races remain on the streets of Paradise City, bringing numerous extra factors into play, like other motorists and following the route via GPS. Your computer-controlled opponents’ difficulty increases gradually, up-skilling appropriately in line with the player.
One of the interesting factors throughout the single player mode is the numerous secret routes to be found. A variety of different ramps, all with different and unpredictable outcomes, are scattered throughout the city, with some serving as invaluable shortcuts. In no time at all, players will be flipping, spinning and rolling off the ramps, among other spectacular moves only the Burnout series could deliver, but we won’t spoil any secrets here!
Paradise City itself is stunning; superbly designed, aesthetically superior and best of all, enormous. On the east side of town, races challenge players to navigate the labyrinth of streets, whilst the west side is about flying round country roads at top speed. Most importantly, there are always new things to be discovered, be it a new route, shortcut or something else to obliterate.
Presentation is one of the real strengths of this title. Graphically, the racing looks and feels exactly how it should, with a smooth frame rate regardless of the considerable amount of on-screen activity. The cars are modelled superbly with striking detail and look fantastic, especially in slow-motion replays of spectacular crashes.
The Ultimate Box is clearly not aimed at previous Burnout Paradise owners, but seeks instead to target a new market that the previous instalment failed to capture. Whilst the offline multiplayer is a solid addition, it seems a bit of a stretch to think that this alone will entice those new to the series to purchase, as it just doesn’t do enough. While The Ultimate Box is still the solid arcade racer Burnout Paradise was last year, the addition of offline multiplayer feels slightly tardy and doesn’t do enough to make a year-old game worth $100.