Many gamers are incredibly grateful for Criterion's exceptional handling of DLC for Burnout Paradise. Over the course of the last year, Criterion has added a day/night system to its game, new online multiplayer modes, and motorcycles -- all for the price of nothing. However, it looks like the free ride is over, and today's update marks the first "premium" downloadable content for the game. The Party pack adds a new offline multiplayer experience to the game, but is it worth it?
Unfortunately, we'd say no. At $9.99 (800), the Party pack is not a very cheap add-on (it's half the price of the full game!). At such a steep price, we'd expect a bit more than a simple retooling of menus. There's no added content in the Party pack: you will not see any new parts of Paradise City, nor will you unlock any new vehicles. The challenges featured in the Party pack are, quite frankly, not very different from what's already available in Online Freeburn.
Starting a Party event in Burnout Paradise is very easy. In fact, the entire experience is quite intuitive. When booting the game, a new menu appears, giving players the choice of jumping into the new Party mode, or returning to the traditional game screen. The Party menu has just two menus: first, the number of players must be decided. All the action happens with one controller, and up to eight players can participate. You can input your name and take a picture with the Eye/Vision camera as well.
The second step is to determine how many events players will take part in. You can have a short one-round event, or add up to eight. You can have the game choose random events, or you can choose a category for each round. While you can choose a category like "speed" or "skill," there's no way of choosing a specific event or challenge -- the game will still randomly select challenges from within those broad categories.
Once the Party is started, the computer chooses a random player to go first. That player grabs the controller and must fulfill the challenge that appears on the screen. Some challenges involve going from point A to B in the shortest amount of time, while others involve collecting as much air time as possible. While the contestant is playing, all other players must simply sit and watch -- there's no way to interfere or affect the gameplay in any way.
It's disappointing that Party mode is just a pass-the-controller, single-player experience that lacks the competitive spirit of a true party game. The challenges are also a bit too standard, perhaps. Seeing eight people complete the same "smash 3 billboards" challenge is not very exciting. There are a few interesting challenges, such as one in which your controls are reversed, but the lack of any crash-based challenges really dampens the Party pack's potential.
At the end of each round, players are scored and whoever manages to win the most points wins the Party. It's a rather unsurprising affair, with no real sense of accomplishment for the winner. The UI for the Party mode features a lot of color, but the random noisemaker sound effects somehow manage to make the experience that much more lifeless. (ProTip: We recommend bringing your own soundtrack. The in-game soundtrack for Paradise isn't particularly thrilling. PS3 owners will be able to import custom playlists from the Party menu.)
Burnout Paradise Party is a disappointment. If anything, the pack merely serves as a way of giving Criterion a monetary donation, as a thanks for all the hard work they have put into the game so far. We don't see many finding enjoyment out of the expansion, although Trophy/Gamerscore whores will find that the Party pack offers some of the easiest achievements ever created. Perhaps that alone will justify the costly price of admission.