Gamers are in the middle of a love/hate relationship with Criterion. Costly and often-underwhelming "premium" DLC has tarnished the goodwill earned by Burnout Paradise's free Cagney and Bikes updates. The $10 Party pack was a misstep for the series, but does Cops & Robbers steer the game back in the right direction? The answer, thankfully, is a resounding "yes."
At its core, Cops & Robbers is a simple retooling of the game's already-existing online Marked Man mode. However, some key tweaks make it a much more focused and entertaining experience. While the $10 price point will give some sticker shock, the addition of more than 30 repainted vehicles makes it an easier buy than Criterion's "Toys" and "Legendary Cars" packs.
To start a game of Cops & Robbers, players must go to (or create) an Online Freeburn session. Players that are equipped with the Cops & Robbers add-on will sport a badge next to their Gamertags. The host can use Easy Drive to start a Cops & Robbers game at any time. Those that are badge-less will remain active in the online environment, but won't be able to participate in the mode's gold-stealing antics.
It seems as though cops and robbers have the same jobs in the Burnout universe, as the differences between the two teams are exclusively cosmetic. Both teams must compete in a CTF-style race towards gold bars and return them to their bases: the country club or naval yard. Whoever touches the gold first becomes the carrier and will be slowed down. The opposing team will want to take down the vehicle and steal back the gold. With everyone converging on a single vehicle, it feels similar to Online Marked Man. However, although Cops & Robbers gives players access to the entirety of Paradise City, it doesn't have the same aimlessness of Online Marked Man. Because goals are so clearly defined, and the gold-carrier so easily identifiable, players are placed back in the action more often than in a typical Freeburn session. Competition can really heat up, especially in a full 4v4 match. Takedowns and dodging takedowns is just as fun as ever -- having the cooperation of teammates makes it even more satisfying.
There are a few issues with Cops & Robbers, though. While the concept is fun, we can see it getting stale very fast. Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of spawn points for gold. The game always begins with the gold located in the same place. Once delivered, there are less than half a dozen spawn points for players to race to. It becomes a bit too familiar, too quickly. If Criterion added a bit more variety, seasoned players will have to stay on their toes as everyone races towards a truly random location on the map.
The mode's greatest flaw, however, is the absence of boost. Regardless of what team you're on, and whether you're carrying the gold or not, you will not be able to use your vehicle's boost in Cops & Robbers. The decision to remove such a defining characteristic of the series is rather baffling. Boost plays a vital role to the strategy of the game, and to see it missing is rather disappointing. The three different Boost modes offer a risk-reward system that encourages players to drive a bit more (w)recklessly. Without Boost, Cops & Robbers feels -- dare we say it -- slow. The addition of boost would make finding gold a bit more competitive, and would also make it easier to take down a gold carrier.
In spite of its flaws, Cops & Robbers easily stands out as Criterion's best premium DLC offering to date and represents the only truly "must have" DLC for the game. If you're still going online in Burnout Paradise, you'll want to fork over the $10 asking price as it seems the online community has wholly embraced the premium add-on. Without it, you'll find yourself quite alone in the Freeburn universe.