Month in Review, December 2007

by Josh Burkhead

Happy New Year everyone! 2007 was huge for Xbox 360 gamers. Take a peek at the "Inside Xbox" tab of your dashboard and you'll see a 2007 recap video with Major Nelson. For those who haven't seen the video, he goes on to show the viewer over 150 retail titles that have been released just this year alone. That doesn't even include the Arcade titles.

To say that 2007 was signifigant for Xbox 360 owners would be quite an understatement, as we've seen slew of stellar titles to choose from for our entertainment. Not only have the retail titles been solid this year, for the most part, we also recieved a pretty huge update this last month that added Xvid and Divx video support as well as a nice reorganization of the dashboard. (Bring on the MKV support fellas.)

Definitely one of those titles I need to be finishing...

Now that 2008 is here and the holidays are behind us, like me you probably have quite a few games that are whimpering for some kind of attention. Chances are you'll be catching up with some games of The Orange Box, Bioshock, Mass Effect, as well as others. But don't forget about your demos!!

In October I started to pay close attention to a game that I knew was going to be here sooner or later. It was in December that we finally got the playable demo of Burnout Paradise. This series is near and dear to me as any current series out there. (For future reference it was NBA JAM, T.E., Hangtime, and Showtime (DC) that sold my virtual soul to the game gods.) And in fact, it's the Burnout series that I give credit to in getting me addicted to console racers.

One of the best.

When I read the news that the Burnout Paradise demo had been released I finished up my current bout in Assassin's Creed and made my way to the Marketplace. It was a long, drawn out evening already filled with countless soldiers lying in misery and an untrainable horse who obviously wishes to blow my cover. I let the demo download with the full intention of playing it the next day.

After my 9 hour shift of mindless "grown-up time" I came home to find myself surprisingly uninspired to start the demo. I knew what Criterion and EA did to my beloved series and I wasn't too thrilled about it. Burnout Paradise, to me anyways, is like that one crazy Aunt that you know will probably show up to the next family reunion. Every year you've seen her progress from fun and loving to paranoid and psychotic. You liked her when you were a lot younger, but since then she's been through 3 marriages and even more bags of prescription anti-depressants. To my inevitable apprehension, I started the demo. One hour later I turned off my console.

To me, EA and Criterion has taken one of my favorites and slowly taken it down the wrong road. I know they have their own opinion, but for someone like myself who's invested countless hours into the series since the beginning I'm leaving this game feeling betrayed by the one thing that can spoil any good series. Tom Cruise did it better:

Show me the MONAAAAY!

Oh, but how can I say such things? Criterion themselves said that Burnout is an ever-changing series, and that change is ineveitable right? Nearly every change they've made past Burnout 2: Point of Impact has taken the series backward.

In my humble opinion there's no better time to be had than a room full of people playing the same game and being able to hand off the controller to anyone in the room, regardless of skill level, and watch them have fun with the current game being played. You could do that in Burnout and Burnout 2. There were enough modes that anyone could pick up and play and feel as if they had a chance to not only compete, but to have a great time while doing it.

At the time, Burnout 3: Takedown was the logical next step for the series. It added a new element to the racing side of the game. But in Burnout 3 they took a simple, yet very deep Crash mode from Burnout 2 and decided to complicate it. Criterion decided to throw in icons that could be picked up while driving towards a crash junction (and oftentimes during the crash as well) as a way to challenge experienced Burnout players. Me being the hardcore Burnout nut that I was, I thought it was the greatest. Adding just another challenge to an already fun and addictive mode! At the time I didn't realize that this simple addition started to take away one of the biggest selling points to the entire Burnout franchise.


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