I hate racing games.

Why the hell anyone would want to simulate driving confuses me… simply because I don’t find anything exciting about driving around a track correctly. The fact that some people find tweaking every bolt in a Gran Turismo car a thrill scares me. Every racing game I’ve ever played with my friends only got entertaining when we did things that the developers didn’t want us to, like stopping in the middle of a race and speeding towards a head-on collision.

That said, I’ve always been a huge fan of Burnout. A game that REWARDS you for driving recklessly? We were made for each other.

The first game in the series for the 360, Burnout Revenge, did a fantastic job of updating the game for the next gen system.

Sure, it was basically the same game as the Xbox and PS2 version, but while so many other companies were putting out shovelware on the 360 (see Gun, King Kong, Tony Hawk… etc.) that was basically the same game with mildly improved graphics, the 360 version of Burnout Revenge got a complete overhaul. It added fantastic visuals, new levels, a more robust online mode and even some tweaks, like getting rid of the stupid "launch meter" from the original game’s crash mode.

We all knew a sequel was coming, but besides a name (Burnout Paradise) and a planned online mode not too much info had been released.

This week, it’s all coming out.

First a bunch of videos popped up online and on the 360 Marketplace like the one below, showcasing some of the fake cars used in the game. Why are they all fake? Cause no company would ever let their vehicle be destroyed in such glorious fashion, of course. Some are pretty cool, like the "Hunter Manhattan", a 50’s car complete with fins. And the crash footage looks amazing.

The game was supposed to be released earlier this year but was pushed back, and the fact that they’ve been taking so much time to finish up the game can be seen as nothing but a good sign.

But you don’t have to take my word for it (Duh duh, dah!), as a demo has arrived on the Xbox 360 Marketplace and the Playstation Store for your downloading enjoyment.

The biggest change with this sequel is the way it’s laid out. Gone are the menu screens where you pick a level. Instead what you have is a sprawling city, yours to explore at your leisure. You can find all kinds of shops, gas stations, and shortcuts on your travels around the city, or stop at a red light to take on a challenge. Of course, more races and stunts open up as you go through the game, but it’s pretty amazing to be able to go wherever you want and jump into a race with barely any loading.

Speaking of no loading, the online is phenomenal, even in this unfinished demo state (Although it only supports 4 players, as opposed to the final version’s 8). You can jump online with the push of a button and instantly jump into someone’s game. You’ve never seen online multiplayer this intuitive, I guarantee it.

When you pop online, you’ll be wherever you were in the city you were a second before, just with rivals driving around. I played for hours, just fucking around with the world with some new friends. In one game the guys and I took turns trying to crash into each other in midair when we found a place we could easily do barrel rolls off. In another, we chased each other at high speeds down the beach until we all crashed and got into a mini demolition derby.

It’s fun as all hell. It reminds me of why I play games to begin with, and it’s great to see people playing online just to enjoy themselves, rather to boost their stats or get achievements. Let’s only hope it lasts.

We didn’t even get around to trying out any of the challenges, but I imagine I’ll take a wack at it this weekend with my friends.

Old school fans of the series will have a few things to keep in mind when they try it out- namely, there’s no more Aftertouch, which let you steer your car after a crash. Course, it probably couldn’t work well online. You also can’t smash into the back of cars like the last game, so a little bit of that arcadey feel is lost. The feeling of chasing down rivals around the streets more than makes up for any shortcomings, though… there’s never been a feeling quite like it. You finally feel like you’re really in a car chase.

There are a couple of new features. There’s one called "mugshot" that uses the Xbox Live camera to
take a picture of your opponent’s face at the moment you take them
down, which is actually used to great effect. I don’t have one, but
this could possibly convince me to get one. One time playing the demo I
took down a guy something like 7 times in a row, and he kept giving me the
finger and screaming "FUCK YOU CREATURE CORNER!" which gave me much

Oh, and I can’t believe I didn’t mention the graphics yet. You won’t think anything much of them at first- they look very similar to Revenge, but wait till you see the crashes. I didn’t think anything new of them (besides screaming all kinds of expletives, of course) but my jaw dropped the first time I got a good angle on my car crashing into a bus. The cars CRUMPLE this time, in slow motion. It’s really beautiful.

My one real complaint with the game is the shitty music, but that’s always been a staple of the EA Trax line. I’m just glad I ripped some good driving music to my hard drive.

After spending a few hours with only the demo, it’s clearly apparent that this will be the next huge multiplayer game to look out for, a must-buy for any car crash fans. Burnout Paradise hits the US a week before my birthday (hint, hint) on January 22nd, with Europe getting it a few days later on the 25th. You can pre-order it through us here, but for now, maybe I’ll see you online in the demo…