published Friday, Sep 26th
It’s not often that DLC warrants a review all of it’s own, but it’s not often that DLC, or indeed a game, like this comes along. Since the game proper launched in January, Burnout: Paradise has established a solid reputation as the best hidden gem frequenting Xbox live and PSN. Shying away from the hyper competitive arenas dominated by the likes of Halo and Call of Duty, Burnout instead offers something entirely different to its fans. Inside the joyous concrete playground of the titular Paradise City, players are given the freedom to race, do a series of co-op challenges or play a variety of quickfire games- stunt runs, cat and mouse chases or just about anything else the host can think of. The result is an accessible, purely enjoyable multiplayer experience that at times, when all the players are screaming along winding mountain roads purely for the joy of driving the games’ series of preposterously amusing super cars, feels like a Sunday driving club for adrenaline junkies.
Burnout’s reputation for a unique online experience extends in to the games’ fantastic DLC offerings and this, naturally, brings us to The Point. It’s become customary for console gamers to expect to pay for their downloads these days, so it came as no small surprise to discover that Burnout would be sporting a massive series of upgrades to the core game for free, with a schedule spanning an entire year. The latest in the series, following the release of a content patch for the multiplayer modes, is the addition of Bikes to the heady roster of vehicles available. This is a first for the franchise and it’s nothing short of an absolute pleasure to find out that Criterion have pulled out all the stops for the event, making this update one of the best pieces of DLC this generation.
In short, this feels like an entirely new game as much as a mere freebie. Most developers would be content with adding the bikes to the existing game structure and letting you get on with it. Not so here: to welcome in the new rides, Criterion have included 38 single player time trial races and 70 new multiplayer co-op events to do with friends. Although this won’t take you too long to finish, especially on single player, the fact that it’s included at all, and that it’s so fun, deserves huge praise.
But more importantly, how do the bikes handle? The answer is ‘utterly brilliantly’, which is nice. Ridiculously fast, the bikes feel responsive, weighty and exhilarating to drive and, with a smaller profile on the road and reduced traffic in the streets, feel hugely empowering as you explore the city afresh, roaring through previously difficult short cuts and dangerous back roads with ease- even in the darkest hours of the game’s new and customisable day/ night cycle.
In fact, it’s arguable that the bikes make things a little too easy- for experienced players particularly the single player content is far simpler to complete than the challenge presented by the cars. All the events are time trials from A-B and the problem simply seems to be that the allocated time limits are too slack. In one instance, I finished an event with fifty seconds on the clock going spare- enough time to cover half the city in vehicles this fast. Multiplayer, however, feels more substantial with 10 tasks to complete for every different player count from 2-8. These are still quite easy, but they’re particularly well designed anyway. Criterion clearly know their city inside out, and quite possibly the driving habits of their players too so many of the challenges are cunningly designed to send you down particularly fun parts of the map to tackle on a bike- be it gently swooping mountain passes or hairpin city rat runs the team make sure you see it all and doing so with a host of other bikers on screen, racing as a pack, is pure gaming hedonism, sparking that old Paradise feel of driving for the pure pleasure of the experience alone.
Sadly, there comes a point where driving for the sake of it is all that remains of the bikes update- bar the challenges, the bikes do not come with any other kind of multiplayer game, and the single player does not include any other kind of event, either. Stunt runs and racing are conspicuous by their absence. Online players, then, will be left to their own devices. Perhaps we’ll see more modes and games in the ‘Eastwood’ update which will conclude the ‘year of paradise’ DLC extravaganza by adding a whole new island to the game. Untill then, Burnout Bikes provides a brilliant, if possibly short lived, alternative way of playing an already impressive title.