Having read some reviews on Amazon and playing the dreadful demo I was pretty much put off buying this game. But then I recalled the demo of 'Revenge' being just as lacklustre and had a look at some other reviews on independant gaming sites e.g. 9/10 from gamespot. At which point I went and got it the day of the release. To put this into perspective I have 97% complete on the previous Xbox release 'Revenge' and had been waiting for this game for what seemed like eons so I am a big fan and wasn't going to be put off by a few odd people moaning about the demo. Critereon have produced a really good game here and then shot themselves in the foot with the demo. Forget the demo, the real McCoy is here and it is brilliant.
Gone are the painfully slow loading screens and equally irritating reloads and run throughs if you messed up a crash event - this is as close to seamless as it can get in terms of save/load functionality. The single player 'campaign' for want of a better term makes you work for license upgrades from learner, to C, B, A, Burnout and then Burnout Elite by doing races, takedown challenges and stunt challenges. The graphics are great as ever and the feeling of speed is unlike any other racing game.
The 'side quests' are discovery challenges like finding all the special jumps, barriers across shortcuts, car parks, drive thrus (were you can get a re-spray, swap cars, fill up your boost and fix damage) and then time challenges for each road on the map and 'show time'. Show time basically replaces the crash events in previous versions of the game allowing you to enter into a crash at any point in the game and guide your gravity defying wreck through the $ valued vehicles to try and beat preset offline records and online records.
The increase in difficulty as your license progresses is well judged and discovery of shortcuts is rewarded and integral to the game. Another integral thing, and I suppose the most fundamental change, is need for good navigation skills. The idea of a linear route with a few shortcuts has gone out of the window. All you are told for a race event is the start and end point - how you get there is up to you. However, there are a number of good features to help you navigate - road signs flash to tell you to hang a left or right as you approach junctions, your indicators blink and if you are really struggling you can skip over to a big map with the touch of a button, the game pauses and lets you think about where you need to go. You need to have some patience as you get used to this new feature but eventually you will grow to love it.
One thing which usually trips up open-world design games such as this is the time it takes and the irritation factor of having to walk (or drive in this case) around looking for events. This is definately not the case in Burnout Paradise - there are things to do on pretty much every road junction clearly colour coded and described on the large map. The time it takes to burn from one junction to another is nowhere near how long it used to take 'Revenge' to load / re-load events. those people who moaned about the lack of variety in the game obviously were only reviewing the demo - the full map has the equivalent of White Mountain, Sunshine Keys, Motor City etc. in different areas of the city.
The only downsides of this game I can think of is that most of the EA Trax are not to my taste and I actually ended up switching them off. Also some reviewers have said that the DJ Atomica voice over is irritating - I would agree but he does every now and again give useful advice - replacing the on screen tips you used to get while you were waiting for levels to load. other things that might have been nice but I can understand why they aren't there are weather/time of day effects and pedestrians. But in a driving paradise who wants people getting in the way?
To summarise I think this game could have been subtitled 'Freedom' as it removes all the tedious constraints present in previous versions of Burnout. I am an out and out Burnout fan and I am in no way disappointed, if you can't read a map stick to PGR.