by Matthew Thompson
(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I compiled the list in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)
Back when this last generation of consoles began, I had never tried playing games online and to be honest I never thought I would. I just didn’t see the appeal of playing with people I didn’t know. But that all changed a few years later. It was actually through my blog and some forums that I met some other gamers that made me want to venture into the world of online multiplayer.
Burnout Paradise wasn’t the first game I played online. I believe that was the underrated Crash Commando or maybe LittleBigPlanet, but it was the first game I really got into in a big way. Freeburning with my online buddies became something I looked forward to whenever we could manage to cobble together a game night. There were cooperative challenges to conquer, stunt competitions to master, and races to be had. Nights always seemed to end with one final giant lap around the city. So often so that anything else felt wrong. And we didn’t have to be involved in an event to be having fun. One memory that makes me chuckle a little looking back is how in between events things just devolved into everyone trying to take each other down and find themselves on the plus side of their various revenge tallies. Not even the sitting duck that was the leader of the freeburn was immune while he sifted through menus trying to set up our next competition. I don’t find myself playing online as much as I used to. It’s just hard to make the time and I still prefer to spend most of the gaming time I do have on singleplayer affairs. But when I think back on all the adventures and experiences I have had in the online space, many of my favorite memories are still from Burnout Paradise and I think that will remain true many years from now.
But freeburning wouldn’t have been such a blast if the core game wasn’t so great itself. Paradise City packed a plethora of activities to engage in which made it so you were never bored while trying to attain your next license. The sense of speed was incredible and crashes had a sense of beauty they probably shouldn’t have. With everything moving so fast, it was easy to miss turns and find yourself on the wrong path. But as I became more familiar with the layout of the city, the freedom of the game’s open-world began to show its advantages adding an almost puzzle-like element to finding the best way to zoom through the game’s race modes. And exploring Paradise City was just as fun as besting its races. Searching for secret areas and finding gates to smash was always a good way to waste some time around town, but I personally loved finding the game’s many jumps and looking for big air.
Burnout Paradise also represented DLC done right. With this generation of consoles’ greater online integration came some bad side effects. Games were shipped unfinished just to be patched later. The rise of online stores and downloadable content paved the way for publishers to nickel and dime us. For the most part though, Criterion used this power for good. Free updates added all kinds of new content including motorbikes with their own challenges and modes along with a day/night cycle. They also packed some value into their DLC. My favorite, Big Surf Island, represented a huge playground designed for stunts with all kinds of creative design elements. And this came over a year after the initial release showing the kind of sustained support the studio gave to the title.
I think I will always remember Burnout Paradise most for all the multiplayer fun it gave me and for getting me into online modes in a bigger way. But it was an excellent arcade racer online or off. Whether darting around the labyrinth of skyscrapers downtown or drifting through the winding curves up on the mountain sides, my time spent in Paradise City was always a blast and one I won’t soon forget.
A few more things:
- Due to being a big part of my custom soundtrack for Burnout Paradise, listening to Paper Route’s Absence actually makes me think of this game.
- I believe I was one trophy away from the platinum in this for years before I finally got it. It was that damn PlayStation Eye trophy. I think one of the first things I did when I got the Eye with my Move bundle was polish off that platinum.
- Clue for #24: This game features a weapon that reminds me a lot of one of my all-time favorites in gaming.