It's both a story as ancient as human nature itself and a completely natural aspect of having a teenage daughter: the moments where there is a meeting of the minds between father and child become ever rarer. Her interests began diverging from the father's once she discovered where her own interests lie, and when those interests turn to boys and the incessant talking with her girl friends (primarily about boys, it would seem), there simply aren't that many mutual points of interest. That said, there will still be those unexpected times when the child will say something at exactly the moment you least expect it.
The most recent of these moments for me was just a few days ago when we were driving down the street and saw a huge mound of dirt piled up just a few feet away from the edge of a warehouse building. We both saw it at the same time, and we both said exactly the same thing: “Hey, we could use that as a ramp to jump over that building!” At first glance, that almost certainly seems like an odd reaction, but you have to understand that we had both spent the last few evenings playing Electronic Art's Burnout Paradise. While it seems that there are an ever decreasing number of things that we agree on, we both hold the same high opinion of Burnout Paradise, albeit by using different words. I say “it rocks,” while she says “it's sick-nasty.” No matter what lingo we use, we both found it to be quite fun and rather addictive. And, as related above, quite able to influence your driving habits in a particularly insidious and quite possibly detrimental way.
Quite possibly the most pertinent point about Burnout Paradise is that there is exactly no point to it. Sure, there are various goals and attainments possibly in the game, but if you choose to ignore all of that structure you are quite free to play the game in any way you'd like. There's not pressure whatsoever to complete anything at all unless you choose to. There are no cops in Paradise City, therefore there are no rules of the road. Speed limits? Those are for prudes. One way streets? I scoff at them. The only way is MY way. Right-of-way? Same story: My way is the right way. Well, if another car wants to fight for my piece of the road, he can. I wouldn't recommend it though, because I am ruthless. There are absolutely zero consequences to wrecking my car in even the most spectacular way, so I do. Often. So, you know, bring it!
If you prefer a more goal oriented style of play, Burnout Paradise has plenty to offer. Even if you roll with the style of simply driving around creating mayhem, there are goals to measure your progress. There are yellow barriers blocking short cuts and alleys, and while destroying these barriers is fun and easy, there is also a counter to track how many of the barriers you have destroyed. Similarly, there are also billboards placed around the city for you to destroy. Some are easy, but others take a little thought to determine how to get your vehicle into a position to destroy them. Every now and then, you will see a row of blue lights blocking a ramp or jump. Those blue lights are your signal to get yourself going as fast as possible before flying off the ramp in a Super Jump. These jumps are so spectacular that the game will pause your car in mid-flight to take a picture. I assume that these pictures are viewable in some other part of the program, but I never went looking for them. Even if they are not, the jumps are amazing and well worth performing just for the fun that's in it. They also offer the opportunity for incredible destructive wrecks if you don't land them well, and because the crash modeling is so well done it is often more fun to crash the car than to land it safely.
If your tastes run more towards fast, clean driving, Burnout Paradise has another scoring system that may appeal to you. Paradise City is a big place, having many streets and highways for you to tear around on. Many areas in the city have points between intersections that have fastest times set for them, and your challenge is to negotiate these sections faster than anyone else before you has. As you enter a section, a timer will appear on the screen to show you what the current best time is. If you beat it, you become the person that “rules” that piece of road. And again, there is a benefit to destroying your car in the most sickalicious way possible: just as you can rule a piece of road with a fast driving time, you can rule it with the best crash.While those unstructured scores are easy to do, they do have a down side. They don't do anything to improve your standing within the game. You increase your standing by upgrading your driver's license, and these upgrades come from winning events. The trigger for an event is available at every intersection. There are five types of events, ranging from head-to-head racing between two points in the city to to stunt runs. The head-to-head races require two things: a fairly decent knowledge of the city, and the ability to wreck the other cars before they wreck you. You have to know your way around the city because there are multiple routes between any two points in the city. Choose the slower route, or even worse, get lost, and you will lose the race. The other drivers are in it to win it, and they will demonstrate this by trying to knock you out of the race, especially in a Road Rage event where crashing you is their only goal. It's a fast-paced free-for-all style of racing, and the sense of speed you get from the scenery flying by just adds to the pulse-pounding action. And to add even more excitement to the events, an online mode is available to let you share the destruction with other live players.
If your car gets beat up by the other drivers or collisions with immovable objects, you can drive though a fix-it shop for instant repairs. The cars have a boost system similar to the NOX systems in those Fast and Furious cars too, and there are drive-thru fuel stations that you can use to, well, boost your boost. You can also improve your boost organically by using the abilities of the type of car your are driving. For example, you can increase the boost in an Aggression Class car by driving the way that I normally do on my morning commute. For a Speed Class car, simply driving as fast as possible will increase the boost. The boost can come in very handy towards the end of a race if you need an edge to get passed the last few cars. There are no points for finishing second, so you do whatever it takes to get yourself into first.
The graphics are very sharp and well worth taking the time to slow down now and then to just drive around sight seeing. The landscapes vary from a dense downtown area to an abandoned airport to a lakeside drive to twisting roads meandering through the local hilly area. The time of day also changes as you're driving around, and you will find that driving at night adds a whole new dimension. As you work your way through the various cars that can be unlocked, you will find that each car behaves differently, based on its weight, front wheel drive vs. rear wheel drive, and handling abilities. Because the cars behave differently, you will learn to choose the right car for the driving conditions. A big, heavy car will be painful to drive in the twisty, hilly areas of town, but work well in on the highways. For the tight quarters downtown, you might prefer a light front wheel drive import. The airport is the place to go for stunts, and car choice will be important for that as well. The cars get unlocked fairly quickly, so you will have ample opportunity to try them all. While I can't see myself ever getting bored with my fleet of cars, if it were to happen I could start over by collecting motorcycles! Yes, you can have the same crazy adventures on motorcycles. Absent the awesomely rendered crash sequences, though, which is kind of a shame. I had hoped to decapitate a rider or two, but that aspect was sadly left out of the game.
While I tend to prefer the more realistic types of racing games, I found Burnout Paradise to be a top-notch racing experience. No one will confuse it with the more sophisticated games like EA's Nascar series, but it offers a completely new (to me) racing experience where there are no rules, no consequences for driving like a complete lunatic, and hours of pure adrenaline pumping fun. And in this, one out of one teenage daughters surveyed totally agree: EA Games Burnout Paradise is sick-nasty!