You could argue the mark of a good sandbox game is how hard it is to reach your intended goal without getting distracted along the way. By this measure, Burnout: Paradise excels. The long-running crash-happy console series makes its first appearance on PC, porting last year’s 360/PS3 island of arcade driving anarchy into our glad hands. The result is an interesting mix of themes, but one that doesn’t quite draw it all together.
Arriving on Paradise Island, the first sensation is that of being overwhelmed. While the surprisingly un-hateful radio DJ, Atomika, will pipe up with suggestions, at no point does he tell you what you should do. You’re just given complete access to the game and left to it.
As you drive across the detailed and intricate land, your minimap shows the available activities. Drive into their area and trigger them, and the game begins around you.Choose to start a race and this spawns varying numbers of opposing cars around you, and tells you where the finish line lies. Rather brilliantly, it doesn’t mark out a route. The mess of main roads, back-alleys, dirt paths, shortcuts, jumps, train tracks and subways offers many and various paths, and if you think you know a sneaky way the AI opponents don’t, go for it.
The driving is magnificent. It’s idiotically unrealistic, designed to let you enjoy yourself, rather than time everything to tedious perfection. The speeds you can reach are astonishing, and yet you feel in control. The only problem here is that while enjoyable, it’s rarely a challenge to complete an activity. Higher difficulty levels would be appreciated.
Unlocking cars represents Paradise’s only regular sense of forward progression. You gain news cars by spotting the latest charging around the island and running them off the road. They’ll then be available in one of the five junkyards. Completing activities also scores you points for your license, which will provide upgrades and make new tasks available. And that’s it for any sense of cohesion to the haphazard array of... stuff. Paradise doesn’t so much feel put together as spilt on the ground for no reason. Apart from the having-a-lot-of-fun reason.