Multiplayer Memories — Burnout Paradise
With this console generation coming to an end it’s hard not to get nostalgic about what has made these past several years so memorable. So, we’re looking back at what titles have been the highlights, especially when it comes to gaming with friends.
Danny Lilley reflects over one of this generations most unique and enjoyable multiplayer experiences. Nope, it’s not an entry from the hugely popular Call of Duty, FIFA or Battlefield franchises, but 2008’s Burnout Paradise from Guildford-based Criterion Games.
When compared to more traditional racing games Burnout Paradise didn’t offer any huge advancement in terms of conventional gameplay. Thankfully, though Paradise is by no means a traditional racing game.
Yes, the handling was tight, providing a satisfying feel when cornering at extreme speeds (with what felt like unlimited drifting). Yes, the ante could be upped even further with your boost ability, gained by performing tricks, takedowns and dangerous driving. Paradise offered what felt like a refinement in traditional controls rather than a revolution, adding the usual layer of Burnout danger-filled flair.
The open-world of Paradise City truly gave the 2008 racer its memorable mind-share. Numerous environments, including city streets, mountain trails, airfields, huge jumps and hidden shortcuts, did away with the need for a makeshift race track. Turning an entire city into a living and diverse world full of traffic, ready to ruin your perfect race line, is the order of the day here.
But beyond the impressive open-world environment, it was the truly seamless and innovative multiplayer that gave Burnout Paradise its staying power.
Released relatively early for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Burnout Paradise’s memorable multiplayer not only allowed players to jump into a multiplayer lobby, accommodating up-to eight people, but at the push of a button, also pick-up exactly where they left off in the open world of Paradise City. This level of continuity and flow was refreshing to say the least.
Once joining friends seemingly anything was possible. Unlike online racers that had come before, Paradise didn’t restrict players to simply one race after another in a linear fashion. Instead it gave them a myriad of options. Want to chase one another around the massive open world and crash into each other? You can do that. Fancy taking on some of the numerous challenges, such as all meeting on a roof then jumping a certain distance? You can do that too.
You could of course set-up races and any other events found in the single player and the thrill would be multiplied. Marked man becomes a game of cat and mouse where one racer is pursued by friends as they desperately try to make them crash. Even more hectic is the online road rage where players are split into two teams and have to takeout each other within a time-limit.
What makes these modes even more amusing, should you have a camera attached, was the ‘mugshot’ that automatically takes a picture of any player that gets taken out or wins a race to show off the always comical reactions. While it may only be a small touch, it’s something human that adds a lot to the games social and fun appeal.
Developers Criterion Games were leaders when it came to updating the game experience post-launch, with extra downloadable content and patches bringing a day-night cycle, motorbikes and numerous extra events. Certainly nothing to scoff at for free.
Premium content was later added with local ‘pass the controller’ multiplayer through the Party Pack, a Cops and Robbers Pack featuring police liveries for all cars, and a Capture the Flag style mode. Finally the Big Surf Island pack saw an entirely new area added to the game map, complete with its own set of challenges and vertical gameplay.
Various downloadable vehicles were made available too, including homages to Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Knight Rider and Starsky and Hutch. Such additions show the great level of commitment Criterion Games gave to their title, something that hasn’t really been repeated in the same way since.
Burnout Paradise managed to make messing around with friends online so effortless, casual and endlessly entertaining. Many hours could be lost driving, drifting, jumping and crashing your way around the exquisite experience that Criterion Games crafted.
Although many were hoping that Criterion’s 2012 take on Need for Speed: Most Wanted would be a spiritual successor to Burnout Paradise, it just didn’t quite live up to that expectation, despite coming remarkably close. It was missing that sense of carefree foolhardiness that made just messing around in multiplayer just so much fun.
Do you have any fond memories of Burnout Paradise multiplayer or perhaps a different game gets your online juices flowing? Let us know in the comments below.