I’ve really only had one surprise playing Burnout Paradise Remastered: the cars that smash into you during the Marked Man events are somehow much more ruthless and infuriating than I remembered. I started physically cringing as I tried to nurse my already wounded car into a hidden route through Paradise City and saw one of the black Hunters barreling up the street like a guided missile, moving with that unnatural quickness they all have when once they get your scent.
I’d try and duck into an alley or up a pedestrian walkway and then I’d be skidding out of control for hundreds of yards, trying in vain to get the steering to respond before I was treated to another slow-motion cutscene of my car getting practically bisected on a concrete median. It sounded like it was raining metal and glass inside my apartment for a moment, then I respawned just in time to hear a couple bars of Avril Lavigne singing “Girlfriend” before taking another automotive pile-driver.
But after a few minutes of adjustment—or more accurately, readjustment—I found my bearings within Paradise’s well-remembered maze of street grids, winding highways, and the web of secret passages strung between. Then it all came back to me, and I found my way back to that intense, laser-focused tunnel vision that Burnout Paradise so often conjures as you hit the booster and your surroundings unravel into a blur.
It was a welcome return to one of my favorite arcade racing games, but it was one without much astonishment or revelatory wonder at the quality of the remastering. It looks good on a 4K TV, but it’s obvious that developer Stellar Entertainment adopted a very conservative approach to the original textures and models. In many ways it still looks like a ten year-old game, just at a level of detail and post-processing sophistication that wasn’t achieved ten years ago.
This can’t always be a successful approach, as Microsoft discovered with the Age of Empires: Definitive Edition. Sometimes the source material just isn’t going to resonate anymore as anything other than a curiosity, and some reinvention is required. That’s not the case with Burnout Paradise Remastered—but neither does this version feel like it contains any essential improvements. It’s a modestly improved, arguably more convenient version of what I already had installed on my old gaming PC.
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With one important difference: Burnout Paradise Remastered is alive in a way the original has not been for several years. When I went back and played the original Burnout Paradise a couple years ago, it felt like the city was encased in lucite. My friends were gone, but a few personal bests remained. The records for the fastest times down the streets of Paradise City never seemed to change, and nobody was challenging anyone to rule a road.
And maybe that’s enough to justify getting back to Paradise with Burnout Paradise Remastered. A lot of us miss the days—or maybe we arrived too late and missed them altogether—when this world of stunts and races was full of friends and strangers trying to out-do one another. For the first time in years, those days have come again. Maybe that’s still worth the cost of a ticket.