There’s no denying what Burnout Paradise did for the arcade racing genre. Years have passed, and people still crave another release. Paradise City was a huge open world that was fun to explore, with dozens of jumps that ended with a smashed billboard and “friendly” stop light-to-stop light races between friends. Criterion revolutionized a genre that was getting stale when they dropped Burnout Paradise on gamers, and they are set to inject new life into the Need for Speed brand (again) later this fall.
A Burnout game by nature involves devastating and glorious wrecks. I’ve always enjoyed the games on a small level, but they always lacked a certain something that kept me attached to Need for Speed games: real cars.
I’m not just a casual racing game player that wants easy-to-handle cars and big, slow-motion explosions. I want my 2012 Ford Mustang with a rumbling V8. I want to upgrade my mid-90’s Mazda RX-7 with a bigger turbo, racing tires and a stiffer suspension. I want to smoke that Chevy Corvette with my Mercedes-Benz CLS55, because let me be honest, I like to win in style. I want to see a digital version of the BMW M6 and flaunt that sexy ride around with my friends. Those are all things you just can’t do in Burnout Paradise.
Having familiar brands is one of the biggest seperating factors between Need for Speed: Most Wanted and what people are calling it: “Burnout Paradise 2”. Burnout Paradise had a huge list of cars, but a conversation about the game at work sounded much like this:
Me: Yeah, last night I was playing Burnout Paradise, that game is slick yo.
Co-worker: I saw that game at the store, so I should get it?
Me: Oh yeah! HUGE open world…I spent an hour driving around in the Hunter Spur smashing billboards.
Co-worker: Awe- wait…Hunter what? Like, Spy Hunter the old arcade game?
Me: No! It’s like a Dodge Magnum. You know, that funky, new station wagon?
Co-worker: *small pause* So…why didn’t they call it a Dodge Magnum?
I was originally turned off by Most Wanted. I really didn’t like the original Most Wanted, so why would I want a revamped version? After playing the multiplayer demo at E3, Most Wanted went from a “meh” title to my most anticipated fall release. Criterion obviously knows that sweet spot for arcade physics, so it not only appeals to the average Joe, but someone who really likes racing games (ie. me). I was “forced” to play with a Mustang, but oh boy, when the backend slid out around the corner I was trying not to giggle with delight. If this had been a Hunter Spur, for example, I can assure you my interest in the game would not be as high. Remember: familiarity.
Name recognition plays a big role in selling anything. When a teenager is browsing for a new game to buy sees the cover Need for Speed Most Wanted with a Porsche drifting around a corner, he is more apt to buy it than the game next to it with a fictional car gracing the cover. While it may be a spiritual successor to Burnout Paradise, Need for Speed Most Wanted will surpass it simply because it has liscensed cars. Criterion is putting the pieces in place to revive the Need for Speed brand to more than just serious players.