Games reviews

<em>Burnout Paradise</em> and <em>Prince of Persia</em> reviewed just for you. Here's what we thought this week

The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box

PC, PS3, Xbox 360

There’s something immensely satisfying about good contact – whether it’s a high-five, a flush volley, or watching Rocky knock out Apollo Creed with that final devastating punch. The makers of Burnout know this: good contact makes gamers happy.

This simple philosophy has, in the eight years since the first instalment was released on the PS2, won the series an army of followers keen to cause ever more spectacular crashes and perform increasingly implausible stunts.

Fans were rewarded again this time last year when Burnout Paradise first appeared. The fifth game in the series, it broke from the traditional circuit-based racing model and offered punters the chance to tear around a giant city, smashing, bashing and crashing where and when they wanted.

Releasing a game like this in a Grand Theft Auto year was a wise plan too – the idea of having the option to chase missions or simply go exploring was not only more acceptable again, it was fashionable.

And now it’s back: in the year since Burnout Paradise first appeared a series of updates have been released, almost all of which have now been compiled to make a new(ish) game: Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box.

The bells and whistles added now include a multitude of glitch-fixes, a multi-player party mode, an online stunt mode and the addition of motorbikes. Unfortunately, crashing the two-wheelers is a little under-whelming.

Not only are we not treated to watching the de-saddled biker flying, Iron Man-style, towards a brutal landing, but we don’t always get to see the bikes sustaining damage or being totalled either.

In what often feels like a glitch, the cinematic, metal-crumpling crash scenes that have defined the Burnout games only kick in for some of the bike smashes, denying us the chunky, ever-so-satisfying crumpling that makes ruining the cars so much fun.

Also, as part of update process, an online store has been added offering the chance to buy yet more car options (the game already has 70), special speed-boost options and a larger map. There’s something irritatingly opportunistic about this: as humankind shambles around an apocalyptic financial wasteland, sifting through the wreckage for free content, charging people additional fees to truly complete a game just seems a little mean.

Still, paying those sums is entirely optional – and although most fans of the series will already have most of the updates included here, for first timers there’s plenty of good contact to enjoy.
Jamie Lafferty.
Available in stores

Prince Of Persia

PC, PS3, Xbox 360

It’s no secret that video games are getting easier. Once upon a time, completing most games required the luck of a lottery winner, the reflexes of a viper and the obsessive patience of Rain Man. Thankfully things have improved since then and concessions have been made in the name of, well, fun. But sometimes we think that this laudable principle has gone too far, and Prince Of Persia is a case in point.

A reboot of the POP series but retaining the 3D acrobatics, whimsical charm and bright colours of 2003’s splendid The Sands Of Time¸ this game sees a new Prince pulled into more world-saving, platform-jumping heroics, this time fending off a dark god that threatens to take over the world.

The designers have jettisoned the time-bending gameplay of the most recent games, instead introducing a sidekick character, the priestess Elika, who provides magical support in battle, unlocks new areas and – here’s the big bit – stops him from getting killed.

Yep, this time The Prince is in no danger of splattering himself on the ground after missing a particularly tricky jump, or getting pasted by the monsters he encounters. Now, whenever he is close to death, Elika intervenes in a short cut scene and pops him back at the nearest safe point.

Which is just peachy keen and Jim-Dandy – in this age of save points the idea of ending a game completely when the player’s character dies is a farcical one anyway – but it does rob the game of something.

Oh, at first everything seems fine, and it’s refreshing to not have the false penalty of impermanent ‘death’ hanging over you. But without any sense of consequence or danger, the game begins to feel rather throwaway.

Add to that a story that remains essentially static until you reach the end of the game – the result of allowing the player to choose the order in which they tackle levels – and derivative gameplay, and you end up with something that is unlikely hold your attention. Ironically, it seems, making the game impossible to lose has actually made it harder for people to complete it.

It’s a shame, because a lot of love has gone into it, both visually – the lush, watercolour-style world is one of the most enchanting we’ve seen in some time – and in terms of sparky dialogue. But all of this is laid on an un-engaging game that fails to move on from what we’ve seen in previous Prince Of Persia adventures.

That to see the true ending of the game you have to pay for a downloadable expansion pack only adds insult to injury. Or lack of injury. You get the idea. Here’s hoping they can pick things up for the next one.
James Wilkinson.
Available in stores.

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