I’ve never really been one for the racing genre. Despite growing up the son of a mechanic, I’ve always had an almost aggressive apathy towards cars in general. There was a point where I’d try just about anything though, so long as it reviewed well. Perhaps one day I’ll document my brief time with the Gran Turismo series, when I was determined to force myself to like it simply because it was considered the best of its genre. It was an odd mindset to have, for sure. I think my intellectual curiosity got the best of me. I’m certainly a bit wiser now. I mean, DOTA is pretty popular, but I’m aware at this point that I don’t actually want to play a MOBA.
Burnout was always different, by design, of course. Due to the carnage involved, there were never real cars for me to not-recognize and very little if any work to do under the hood. You just went fast and rammed into stuff. Much the same way my uneducated brain reacted to arcadey sports, the series lent itself well to quick play sessions of little consequence, even if it meant I never really progressed very far. Burnout Paradise bridged the gap for me, still giving access to those bite-sized chunks but making them part of something bigger.
Becoming an open world game was the best thing that ever happened to the series… well, at least, conceptually. It was the also the last thing to happen to the series, since we may never see a follow-up. It’s bittersweet, really. They finally figured it out. My least favorite parts of the series had traditionally been the overly long loads and constant tutorializaton from DJ Dudebro on the radio. Paradise is certainly guilty of the latter but also sets you free to do your thing within a few minutes. As with most open worlds, it never really cares to tell you what that thing is going to be, which tends to be the primary frustration with others of the genre. Too often, there’s the ever-present anxiety from staring at that map, full of icons representing all of the things left to do. Paradise, for whatever reason, lacks the sense of urgency to ever make you feel that way. I mean, it’s in the name. You’re in Paradise. This may as well be a vacation. Don’t worry about collecting feathers or whatever. Do it at your pace. Or don’t, it’s cool.
Perhaps it feels weird to attribute such a mellow voice to a game about violently unsafe driving, but Burnout was always about embracing the complete absurdity of it all. There are no repercussions. Your car can endure comical amounts of damage before wrecking, and if it does? You’re back on the road in a few seconds. It is, in the purest sense, a toy. The same way your G.I. Joe action figure has no memory of his epic fall off of the monkey bars, your ersatz-Porsche is none the wiser after getting T-boned in a horrible crash, content to simply speed towards the next billboard or gate. For that reason, it may be the perfect driving game, suitable for a few minutes or several hours, always inching a little bit closer to the next unlock, no matter what it is you choose to do with that time. Well, unless you’re like me and spend most of that time doing donuts in the middle of intersections.
Don’t judge me. Burnout doesn’t.