Last Rant on Videogames: Burn Into Glory

Despite what my compatriots may say about the matter, I enjoy racing games.  I've always gotten a lot of enjoyment out of them, especially when they feed my compulsion to fully complete a game by giving me plenty of unlockables.  My first exposure to the genre, other than F-Zero and Super Mario Kart, was Cruisin' USA.  It's a bit clunky by today's standards, but the old arcade cabinets with pedals and gear shifters were, and still are, incredibly fun.  Enough so, in fact, that one of my first N64 games was Cruisin'.

However, as the tone was set by these more arcade-styled games, I grew to substantially prefer such games to the arguably more realistic racers.  I'm still a fan of Mario Kart in its many incarnations, and the most realistic one I've played for longer than a few hours is NFS: Most Wanted.

There is one of these games, in particular, that I have gotten way more use out of than I think the developers anticipated.  I think they hoped for it, though.  That game is Burnout 3: Takedown.  If you watched that video just now, that's a pretty good portrayal of the game.

Basically, you race and brawl across various routes that are geographically themed.  The twist here, as most racing games seem to have one, is that you can cause your opponents to wreck.  Gloriously.  The game rewards you heavily for it, too.  In order to reach top speed in any vehicle, you need boost.  You get it by taking risks while driving.  Driving into oncoming traffic? Boost!  Almost hitting a civilian? Boost!  Driving like an aggressive asshole behind your opponent? Boost!

You might begin to see a theme.

It's a ton of fun, puts you right back in the action when you crash, offers several game modes that capitalize on the chaotic mayhem inherent in the game's engine, and has hours of content.  If you like driving really fast, crashing, and seeing massive wrecks caused by your own hand, you'll love this game.  It also has a pretty killer soundtrack of high energy songs to fuel your rampages.  The one I mentioned 2 weeks ago is one I was introduced to by this game.

As I mentioned last week, though I got a new computer.  I also picked up the Ubisoft Humble Bundle.  One of the games in it was a sequel to this, my favorite of all racing games.  I'm talking about Burnout: Paradise.

Take everything (well, almost everything, but I'll get to that) I just said about Burnout 3.  Imagine it in a large, sprawling city similar to L.A. or Hollywood.  Big highway overpasses, crowded urban areas, a mountainous area surprisingly devoid of population.  Toss in a couple of abandoned areas full of debris for flavor and things to jump off of.  Then, imagine you can drive around this city at will, exploring its nooks and crannies, learning the shortcuts, finding all the hidden goodies.  Then, add races and road rages similar in style to the original at every intersection.  It brings a tear to my eye.

I've heard a lot of negativity about this game, but at the low price of about $4 (the average of what I paid for all the games in the aforementioned bundle), I could take the risk.

Not only was I not disappointed, I was quite pleasantly surprised.

It's a damned solid game.  It helps me scratch my exploration itch by making sure there's plenty of collectibles to find in the city, and it incentivizes learning the terrain so that you can more ably cream your foes.

There are also several types of boost collection in this game.  The old style from Burnout 3 is called aggression; you gain some boost by taking risks, but a huge amount and a higher max from taking down an opponent.  Stunt gives you more for, unsurprisingly, doing stunts; jumping off of stuff, awesome spins, and crazy drifts all count towards your total in this category.  Speed is the trickiest.  You have a shortish bar that fills doing any of the normal crazy stuff you would only do in a videogame.  Once you get it full, you must use it all or be forced to fill it again.  If you manage this feat, you have accomplished what the game calls a Burnout.  If you've filled your gauge while doing this, you get to keep boosting and can chain these together.  On vehicles that have this, you often do really well until that one tight turn.

One of the new, at least to me, ways to play is in a stunt mode.  Cars with stunt boost, obviously, excel at this type of event.  You have to accrue some number of points by engaging in reckless driving.  Certain activities, like ruining one of the game's billboards or staying airborne for long periods of time, add multipliers to your current run, which lasts until you crash or do nothing interesting for a while.  I mentioned a bit ago that there are abandoned areas full of debris.  One such spot is reminiscent of an old air yard and has some suspended cement tubes you can do flying barrel rolls through.  It's pretty sweet.

In addition to a small army of secret places to find and billboards to smash, you also unlock new cars.  The method of doing so is, thus far, twofold.  One is to upgrade your license, which is accomplished by just beating a certain number of unique events.  The other happens when you finish certain events.  You are informed that a rival in the new car will be driving around town.  Occasionally, the AI will deem you worthy to see them.  What then?  What else?  You take them down and drive off with their wreck.

There are, I think, about 35 cars you get in these manners.  Almost all of them also have unlockable upgraded forms that can only be achieved by finishing a solo race in that car.  It's enough to make my inner completionist twitch compulsively.

The game does have a few downsides.  The largest of them is that the ability to restart a race, while extant, is so obscured that it almost might as well not exist.  Additionally, the soundtrack is a bit lacking compared to its predecessor.  They did add a handful of classical tracks, though, which are fun to burn to.  If you don't like the music (I'm starting to get sick of it after about 15 hours or so), you can always turn it off and play something else.  It's a pain, but at least it's an option.

So, would I recommend this game?  Yes.  Very.  Also Burnout 3, but they're very similar.  We've mentioned a few times recently in our sequel binging that if you aren't done with a game yet, even though the game has finished, you might just go play a sequel.  This definitely falls into that category, but I would claim Paradise as the superior model.  Also, it's a bit old now, so it's fairly cheap even when it's not in a Humble Bundle, and available on a variety of platforms.

Keep burnin'!