Detached from the sprawling playground of Paradise City and complete with nine new vehicles, fifteen events, twelve roads to rule, seventy-five smashes, forty-five billboards, and fifteen mega jumps, Big Surf Island sounds big. And despite the cross-island drive taking little more than thirty brief blurry seconds, the intricate back alleys, cramped underground tunnels, and meticulously designed vertical play areas make Big Surf Island the largest and most essential update to Burnout Paradise yet.
The ski jump, a narrow runway leading into an astronomically sized jump, is a monument to that notion: bigger is better. More exhilarating than any space bound launch pad found in Paradise City, it’s a thrill that only inspires further exploration and further thrills. The emphasis on Big Surf Island being a playground is apparent from the offset; the first two unlockable cars are manufactured to be as competent floating through the air as they are weaving in and out of red and white lights, barrel rolling along a beach front, or drifting for a half mile.
This is a stunt filled playground but there’s little that can’t be found, albeit in a less exciting form, in Paradise City. Events are the customary fusion of frantic takedowns, races and marked man events and the supposedly new ‘Island Tour’ is little more than a glorified time trial, or the visitors guide to Big Surf Island.
To compensate for the islands miniature size, races are guided via checkpoints, which may or may not seem like a step backward depending on whether you enjoyed the free-to-choose-your-own-route nature of Paradise City. Most of the events are inclusive to Big Surf Island, though a few take you back into Paradise City for a brief reminder of just how similar the two locations are, chances are you probably won’t notice the transition.
The most frustrating thing here isn’t the lack of original ideas but the clunky menu screens. Launching the game and having to navigate through several requests to sign up to the EA servers, input passwords then choose your location, set of cars, and eventually your vehicle of choice is tedious. The in game menus suffer similarly meaning the once smooth navigation is now slow and cumbersome. From a developer that declared a passionate hate for loading screens, there’s a lot in the way of a game that was once so easy to pick up and play.
At 1000 points (£9.99) Criterion are asking a hefty price for what is essentially a Burnout Paradise Greatest Hits compilation; there’s nothing hugely new or different in Big Surf Island, it’s simply more of the same with added thrills. There’s three of four hours of playtime, more if you take it online, but this is an update for the Burnout elite, those who have exhausted the thrills of the quarry and the air strip, and are looking for one final adrenaline riddled ride through the best Paradise City has to offer.