Thursday, July 12

Burnout Paradise: Design Boost

Cue overused cool song from Kill Bill

For the first time in the series, Burnout is free-roam. Previously, Burnout has always been about racing around predetermined tracks, like in most racing games. But now, Burnout is breaking out of its shell, with 30 miles of road to explore. However, Paradise is certainly not the first racing game to be free-roaming. Need for Speed: Underground 2 was also free-roaming, as was its sequel Most Wanted, not to mention the completely franchise unrelated Simpsons Hit and Run. There may be more I'm remembering at the moment too. But that's all besides the point. Because this is Burnout, one of the best racing series of the last generation, and extremely popular since its reinvention in Takedown. Burnout is being reinvented once more, and all the while retaining and amping-up the awesomeness from previous iterations.Its just another day for Bob and Bill until a rampant car careening through the air causes massive damage to both vehicles.

Taking Burnout free-roam requires several changes to the series staple. Even so, most everything, in so far as I know, is coming back. This includes traffic checking. As long as its not a bus, players can hit same-way traffic from behind, careening them through the air. I actually didn't expect this to return, considering the new free-roam approach, but I trust Criterion and it will probably work great. Boost still fills in the same way it has since Takedown, by near-missing, driving towards oncoming traffic, jumping, and a bunch of other ways. Pretty much, as long as players are driving they can boost.
Bringing a racing game into an open world isn't as simple as making an endless, branching, track. Besides, that's not Criterion's style. Paradise is a fully-realized world filled with roads and jumps and cars and anything else you'd find in a city. There a big difference between a free-roaming world and a linear track. And that difference is the freedom of movement. In most racing games, past Burnouts included, cars drive forward, and stay that way. There is no need to drastically shift direction or reverse. Paradise takes this into account with the introduction of an E-Brake. Players are now able to pull the E-Brake to switch direction with a quick spinning slide. This may seem like a small addition, but in fact it is beyond necessary. The world in Paradise has been designed from all angles. As opposed to linear tracks, now players will need to and want to shift direction. And therefore it is necessary to give them the ability to do so at any given moment: hence the E-Brake. Simple, yet clever in that Criterion adapted to the new format by designing driving in cooperation the free-roaming aspect. Another cool feature of the E-Brake slide is a sort of mini-game called Power Parking. Gamespot elaborates:
another recent addition to the series is a little side game called power parking, which sounds like it will pop up any time you find two cars parked close together on the side of the road. The idea is that you need to whip your car around using the E-brake and slide right into the parking space between the two cars.
Sounds pretty sweet to me. Already, Criterion seems to be packing Burnout Paradise with a ton of stuff to do, and all of it in a seamless fashion. Crash has been changed a bit too. Unless the crash is serious, your car will not cut into aftertouch, but will instead keep on going, retaining the famage from the collision. Considering the number of crashes players are bound to start in Paradise, this seems to me very wise. Triggering dramatic crash slow effects and camera angles ever 10 seconds would break up the action too much. Only when the car is guaranteed to be totaled will the dramatic crash effects kick in.Burnout Paradise looks really, really fun. In a way, Criterion is bringing emergent gameplay into the racing world. With little seamless minigames to play like the Power Park, instant online play, individual road records, and awesome driving craziness quite simply makes for a boat load of fun.

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