Thursday, January 24, 2008

Twisting Metal

The game of the moment is Burnout Paradise. It kills me that I'm not able to play this game right now thanks to my useless 360, and so far my only experience of the game has come from playing the demo. I can think of few instances where a demo has been so instrumental, for better or for worse, in shaping people's impressions of a game in ways that perhaps aren't accurately reflective of the finished product. It's pretty unusual, for instance, for major review outlets to comment on a game's demo in their full review, but GameSpot's review of Paradise (incidentally, the final GameSpot review by longtime staff writer Alex Navarro) wants so badly to encourage people who played the demo to give the finished game a chance that it closes with this sentence: "The demo did little to truly represent what a superbly fun racer this game can be."

I don't doubt that's true. The pacing in the demo is all wonky, because, unlike in the finished game, where you can start up a new event from every single intersection in Paradise City, in the demo, most intersections crush your hopes for excitement with the succinct phrase, "Event locked in demo," leaving you with no choice but to cruise around until you find that rare intersection that actually has a race or other event on hand.

But the demo does manage to demonstrate one area in which Paradise does not disappoint: the crashes. Oh, yes, the crashes are more beautiful than ever. And when I say beautiful, I mean just that. I hit a wall at over a hundred miles per hour and was taken aback by how realistically and beautifully the whole front end of the car just collapsed.

Sometimes I feel a little odd for finding so much aesthetic appreciation in the lovely twisting and crushing of automobiles that is such a hallmark of the Burnout series. After all, car accidents are horrifying, dreadful things, and most of us probably know people who have been injured or killed in such an occurence. All the Burnout games sidestep the grisly reality of automobile accidents by removing us fragile humans from the equation. Paradise is not a city of reckless drivers. No, it's a city of reckless cars, driving themselves around and getting into all sorts of mayhem. (Despite the presence of the Guns 'N Roses song on the soundtrack, there are no girls, pretty or otherwise, in this city.) These cars feel no pain! You don't need to worry about them!

I'll occasionally see a comment to the effect that the absence of drivers in these cars is strange, but I think it's a wise and necessary choice. The last thing I want to think about as I'm tearing down the road trying to shunt one of my competitors into a cement outcropping is the effect such actions would have on the human bodies that would be inside those vehicles. Being made to watch "Blood on the Pavement" or whatever it was called in my high school driver's ed class was more than enough of that to last me a lifetime.


Aaron said...

Sweet! Your new blog isn't blocked by those lame corporate firewalls and you get the whole thing in the feed reader.

31160618 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
31160618 said...

That's a great perspective on how a bad demo can potentially ruin the sales of a good product. Too bad I have nothing more to add, as that I'm strapped for cash in regards to videogames.

Oh yeah... Hi Caro! Your new blog looks very cool... almost zen-like in its simplicity. :)

(I removed the previous post due to spelling errors. Sorry for double-posting.)

jervo said...

Funny you mention this; I am about to write up a post about the Devil May Cry 4 demo, which has pretty much killed any anticipation I had for the regular game. Not because features are missing from the regular game, though, but because what they're showing of the game looks incredibly stupid.

Corey Chaplan said...

I don't know about paradise, the game just seams like every other one in the series set in a sand box. I'm really not at all in to multi-player aspect of games nowadays anyways. It just seams to invite all the a-holes out to ruin your good time.

Adam said...

The Burnout Paradise demo convinced me to cancel my reservation for the full game, but not for the same reasons as everyone else.

The open-world aspect hurt the speed-and-destruction nature of Burnout. Too often I found myself inadvertantly driving off-course, ruining my race or whatever stunts I was supposed to pull off.

As for the violence in Burnout, it's more than the lack of drivers that makes it acceptable; it's because the violence is so over the top that it cannot be taken seriously. This is fantasy.

This is the same reason why I took issue with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas but not any of the previous GTA games. The previous games were all about organized crime. Organized crime is bad, but it's also out of reach for most people, making it fantasy. San Andreas was no more violent than the previous games, but it put you in a street gang instead of organized crime. Anyone can join a street gang, and that made the game feel too real, and disturbing.