Game Review: 'Burnout Paradise' Puts Speed Racing Online

Nothing gets in the way of having a smashing good time with "Burnout Paradise."

There are no magical walls or loading times within Electronic Arts' driving game, a next-generation reinvention of the "Burnout" series set on the open roads of Paradise City, a Los Angeles-like metropolis where the grass is green and the streets are busy.

(Don't worry, Guns N' Roses fans. The classic "Paradise City" is indeed in the game.)

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"Burnout Paradise" ($59.99 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) features more than 120 offline racing competitions, accessible at stoplights scattered across town.

There are standard races, time trials, stunt runs and souped-up modes such as Showtime and Marked Man, which tasks players with crossing a finish line while psycho drivers attempt to annihilate their ride.

The superfluous Showtime mode invites drivers to catapult their car through the air and crash into anything that gets in the way, leaving a mind-bending wake of destruction that will surely be pleasing to everyone who ever abused their Tonka trunks and Matchbox cars as child. Bonus points for hitting buses!

Gorgeous is an odd word to describe the highly detailed slow-motion car crashes repeatedly featured in "Burnout Paradise," but that's just why the destructive carnage is in high definition.

Windows cracking, fenders flying, tires blowing and hoods crunching are crisp at 60 frames per second.

The splendor, however, doesn't extend to any sort of a story line.

"Burnout Paradise" lacks a narrative, instead opting for an annoying DJ who instructs players between tunes from artists like LCD Soundsystem, Seether and Jane's Addiction.

Driving without a destination could lead to Boringville, but "Burnout Paradise" revs up its nonlinear format thanks to the massive driving environment of Paradise City, completely unlocked from the start.

The immense map and the city's look-alike downtown streets may confuse gamers with even the most heightened senses of direction, especially when being chased at speeds of more than 150 mph.

However, the deep multiplayer component of "Burnout Paradise" makes up for such a sharp learning curve.

With the push of just three buttons, players can seamlessly speed online to unleash their virtual road rage on other players without even having to step out of their car. Cooperative online challenges add a social aspect to "Burnout Paradise" that's almost as exhaustive as Facebook.

The pile-up is enriched with the ability to use a PlayStation Eye or Xbox Live Vision camera to capture a virtual license photo or snap opposing players' mugshots after brutal takedowns.

Sounds silly, but such a small detail within Paradise City's huge landscape makes "Burnout Paradise" feel like the most complete online racing experience out on the road today.

Four stars out of four.