Why Burnout Paradise is one of the greatest games ever made

Other elements were built specifically to take advantage of the open-world. We found that we’d chase anything the game told us to, just to take advantage of the wonderful world that Criterion had built--all it would take is an arrow pointing us in the direction of a car we could wreck to unlock and we’d spend as much time as necessary chasing it down, cat-and-mouse style, going totally out of our way just to smash it.

Watch the DLC trailer to see just how much changed in Paradise City

Also of note was the post-release support Criterion gave the game. Besides improving just about every facet of the game with updates that continually made the racing stronger, it also released more post-launch DLC than any game up to that point (and nearly every game since). New areas, new vehicles, and even new vehicle types were added, including a patch that, updated the game to include motorcycles and a day/night cycle. Better yet, nearly all of this DLC was completely free of charge, adding gigabytes of new content to Burnout Paradise and giving gamers continued excuses to keep racing. Odds are this phenomenon was a test by Electronic Arts to see how much of an influence on sales free post-release DLC had, and though it likely wasn’t too big of a success for EA, it was a rousing success for gamers, who received an incredible amount of free goodies.

And though we lost traditional wrecking missions--a staple of the series--we gained “Showtime,” the new, more dynamic crash mode, which allowed us to turn any intersection into a crime scene, with dozens of cars piling up and exploding as we tumbled our wrecked metal from vehicular explosion to vehicular explosion. This, in many ways, defined the Burnout Paradise experience: Taking things that people loved and adapting them enough to the point of unrecognizability, without actually changing what made them fun.

Online functionality, too, stood out as some of the best in the genre, offering the ability to drop in or drop out of any game in progress. When in a game with friends it wasn’t about racing all the time, either--though you’d likely spend some of your time doing just that. Instead, it was like throwing a party, with the host having the ability to trigger events to put all of the players to the test to see who could drift the furthest or drive into oncoming traffic for the longest. Even after this lost its appeal, the ability to simply engage in massive games of tag were endlessly enjoyable thanks to the game’s wonderful physics and graphics, creating some of the most violent-looking wrecks we’d ever seen.

We still remember our time in Paradise City as though it was a beach town we visited as kids. Often we’ll laugh with friends about the great times we had and locations we visited, or swap stories about Showtime moments or specifically memorable crashes. Some believe that Burnout Paradise killed the Burnout series by driving it too far away from the starting line, but we believe this choice, instead, created something truly unique and amazing, and a game that absolutely deserves to be listed on our 100 best games of all time.

"Why _____ is one of the greatest games ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

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  • awesomesauce - October 30, 2012 4:36 p.m.

    Is there still online for this game, and do people still play it cause i'll consider buying since it is the newest edition of the series.
  • JarkayColt - October 12, 2012 10:18 a.m.

    I thought this game was (and still is) incredible. I never did like older racing games that funneled you down certain streets despite there seemingly being other available, yet blockaded, roads. Paradise just felt so refreshing because everybody would take their own path to the line, be it the safe main roads or some covoluted off-the-beaten-track super ramp that catapulted you into first yet could go catastrophically wrong. And that was the thing, it was exciting, just taking different paths and seeing what happened. And if you screwed up, it wasn't infuriating at all, because you got to see some stupid-crazy carnage for your trouble. I also thought the billboards were quite inventive too; they weren't just simple collectibles, they were telling you "hey, come jump of this unfinished roadway, trust me it's fine". Finding all the boards/gates/ramps really opened your eyes to some amazing stunt locations or shortcuts, and the hidden locations like the airfield and the quarry were like every aspiring barrel-roller's utopia!
  • zombi3grim - October 11, 2012 9:07 p.m.

    This game didnt really do it for me. I never asked for an open world in my racing games. I play racing games to race and crash. Not to explore. Racing is a very restrictive act, you have a set line and a set track and you stick to it and see who is faster. Its very simple. Dont get me wrong, this game was fun. It just didnt feel like Burnout to me.
  • LEGOMatrix - October 11, 2012 6:05 p.m.

    Yeah, this may be my favourite racing game ever. The only thing I would add would be the OPTION to add the tradition neon chevron road blockers from previous Burnouts to routes you created in the online multiplayer, just so you could simulate that guided-by-the-walls experience. Cannot wait for Most Wanted!
  • Corsair89 - October 11, 2012 11:14 a.m.

    Paradise was fun, but Burnout 3 was amazing.
  • gazzc - October 11, 2012 10:30 a.m.

    I have memories of Burnout 3 being the most enjoyable of the series and the one that got played the most in my house by a long way. For reasons I can't quite remember, I never really liked paradise all that much.
  • morgartjr - October 11, 2012 8:40 a.m.

    Burnout peaked with Burnout 3. They havent made a game as good as that for awhile. Crash Mode, Team crash (without all of that Hit "red" to charge up BS), the races and tracks wre all awesome. I hoped Paradise would be as good, and in SOME ways it is...but still missing lots.
  • rickybadu - October 11, 2012 7:53 a.m.

    Funny story to tell; I bought this game on sale back in 2008. I was sort of looking forward to a similar experience such as 'revenge' which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found the whole open world system initially off putting as you don't get into the action immediately. I found the whole exploration element just taking too much time. With hindsight now, it was just a case of me being so damn impatient. So I stopped playing and left it to one side o gather dust for 6 months. Six months later, feeling bored I decided to give the game another try. Taking my time, I delved into the game. Slowly minutes turned to hours, race after race opened up more of the games hidden gems; the game engines versatility, the well paced progression system, the freedom with which you could chose many paths and the pure adrenaline rush u get as you race. All these and much more truly makes this game one of the all time greats. Still, it hasn't aged one bit! In fact the engine used is far superior to EA's much touted horse shite frost bite 2 (ffs, the game moves at a blistering 60fps with all the mayhem happening on screen)! The game is so damn good, I've played it from start to end about fucking 6 times and I still come back to it for a quickie! No other racing game has sucked up so much of my time than this. It makes it all the more regrettable that criterion is focusing it effort on working on the NFs series rather than start work on a new Burnout! Shame on them an EA!
  • code_r - October 11, 2012 5:26 a.m.

    The endless DJ talk killed it. Revenge was a vastly better game.
  • christian-shaffer - October 10, 2012 11:19 p.m.

    I personally liked Midnight Club 3 DUB Edition more. In my opinion, that was one of the greatest racing games ever.
  • Viron - October 10, 2012 10:36 p.m.

    Game was awesome
  • SanosukeEiji - October 10, 2012 9:10 p.m.

    liked Burnout 3 better
  • Z-man427 - October 10, 2012 6:03 p.m.

    This and Assassin's Creed were my first Xbox 360 games. They both hold special places in my gaming heart.
  • FunkyPickle - October 10, 2012 5:01 p.m.

    I still prefer the gameplay of Burnout 3, my favorite entry in the series.
  • Wizrai - October 10, 2012 4:40 p.m.

    Always loved this game, beated it over four times... Playing it once again with Sterling during the marathon just reminded me how much I adore this game!
  • jameseverett - October 10, 2012 4:26 p.m.

    I couldn't agree with this more! It was awesome, especially the amount of feature-adding updates and free DLC (as was some of the paid DLC, like the Back to the Future car)! In fact I think I shall start playing it again soon, because I haven't done so in ages...