Burnout! - Weekly Recommendations 11/04 – 17/04
Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
It would appear that a new Burnout game is in the works. Early last week the Australian Classification Board’s website revealed that a Burnout Crash is under development in the UK – home of series creator Criterion Games.
Due to its name, it is widely speculated that it will see a return to the crash-based gameplay of earlier Burnouts – requiring the player to cause a high speed pile-up whilst attempting to cause as much monetary damage as possible. It has also been suggested that it could be a downloadable title, intended for PSN and XBLA. Criterion has neither confirmed nor denied the rumours.
I have zero interest in cars, yet this news is most definitely cause for celebration. Along with millions of other gamers, I have greatly enjoyed the series up to this point, particularly the peerless Burnout Paradise. To mark the occasion here are three excellent vehicular-based games that won me over, despite my disinterest in the subject matter.
1. Burnout Paradise – PS3, Xbox 360, PC (2008)
The seventh and most expansive of the series, Burnout Paradise is an absolute wonder - combining breakneck racing and stunts with outstanding visuals and flawless single and multiplayer. Its an open world racer set in the fictional city of Paradise city, and the only part of the experience that has become stale over the years is the high pitched tones of Axel Rose welcoming you to the city each and every time you jump in.
Paradise City is your playground, a varied landscape which includes city streets, beaches and treacherous mountain roads. Spread across this impressive expanse is a huge number of events that you can jump straight into – accessed from sets of traffic lights – ranging from straight forward races and time attacks to stunt or destruction based challenges. There is a huge roster of cars and motorbikes on offer, with a steady stream of un-lockable vehicles made available as you progress.
Burnout Paradise does away with the online lobby, using a streamlined system known as “Easy Drive” instead. This allows you to drop in and out of multiplayer sessions with ease. Once you are in Paradise City there is no need to come back out to switch game modes, which makes it all the more immersive. As much fun as it is exploring the city on your own, it just doesn’t compare with burning rubber with friends and using teamwork to complete the challenging stunt events.
Burnout Paradise has received a sequels worth of DLC support, and the Ultimate Box package is the best way to experience it today. On top of this, Criterion introduced a Cops & Robbers pack and even opened up an entirely new and worthwhile part of the city in the Big Surf Island DLC. BP also benefits from the option to import your own custom soundtrack, which brings the city further to life by allowing you to put your own stamp and personality on the events. I will forever equate the Prodigy, Capsule, Passion Pit and Friendly Fires with Criterion’s masterpiece.
Burnout Paradise is so much more than a racing game, being more akin to an MMORPG, only with cars in the starring role. It offers freedom never before seen in the genre as well as a near inexhaustible collection of races and challenges which will keep you coming back for more.
2. Sega Rally Championship – Sega Saturn, PC (1995)
2. Sega Rally Championship – Sega Saturn, PC (1995)
A must have for any SEGA Saturn owner, Sega Rally Championship is an arcade classic which, despite its dated visuals, remains a joy to play.
Well ahead of its time, it brought rally racing to consoles and paved the way for other successful series such as Colin McRae. Sega Rally will never be confused with a driving-sim, putting a premium on accessibility and excitement instead. There are two cars to choose from initially and races are spread across four tracks which feature very different terrain - each requiring a different approach to fully master. These stages are well designed and challenging, and you will soon come to rely upon your co-pilot’s instructions of “easy right” and “medium left”, even if he sounds like he isn’t totally sure of himself, occasionally adding a “….maybe” to his directions to keep you guessing.
Sega Rally Championship exhibits all the enviable traits of a 90s SEGA arcade game, from its bright colours to its chirpy soundtrack. Even in failure it remains tirelessly upbeat, seeing you off with a cheerful jingle of “Game Over, yeah!” A SEGA classic.
3. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit – Various (2010)
Another hit for Burnout developer Criterion Games. NFS doesn’t quite reach the heights of Burnout Paradise, but it hits many of the same notes. The frequent loading screens prevent it from being as immersive as the game to which it is often compared, but it is great fun in single or multiplayer, boasts an excellent tool to keep you competing with your friends (Autolog) and the police or racers divide results in an extended shelf life.
Although there are a number of standard races, the majority of the game sees you taking the role of either the police (the pursuer) or a racer (the pursued) as you hurtle across Seacrest County in ridiculously over-powered cars, kitted out with a variety of gadgets. If you are struggling to shake the cops, then you can try dropping a carefully placed spike strip or lining up a nitrous burst. If you are losing track of the criminal street racers then you may call in a road block or try to nail an electronic burst to momentarily disable your prey. The ensuing chaos is highly satisfying, as cars flip at high speed and crumple like steel accordions.
Multiplayer is NFS defining feature, including the social interaction system “Autolog”. Autolog is a feed which keeps you informed of friend’s times and records, ready for you to beat. It also suggests other racers who you may wish to befriend. Seeing a friend’s grinning mug and high score hovering over a race serves as constant encouragement to keep chipping away at your times. The multiplayer allows for up to eight players competing in a race or a Hot Pursuit event, where players are split into police and racers, with the cops looking to end the race by taking down the boy-racers, who in turn are battling to reach the finish line in one piece. Interceptor is a more limited version of this, with only two players squaring off.
No matter which side of the law you are on, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is an exhilarating ride, and its competitive multiplayer is the best of its kind.