Downloadable content for console games has gotten out of hand. Not only are we increasingly being expected to pay for extras that seem like they should have been included in the box, but a lot of the extra content is being made available on the same day as the games arrive in stores. I have no idea how much money these premium downloads make for the companies involved, but given that the trend doesn't appear to be going anywhere I'm assuming that enough of you are buying them to make it worth their while. I'm not here to write an editorial on which types of DLC I do or don't have a problem with, though, nor to chastise you for sending games companies the wrong message with your dollars. Nope, I'm here to ask a favor: Please, don't any of you tell anyone even remotely involved with UK-based developer Criterion about this premium DLC thing--those guys have been pumping out worthwhile updates for Burnout Paradise for months now, and they've never charged a penny for any of them.
Because the much-publicized "Bikes Pack" for Burnout Paradise is being given away for free this week, it's not something that we feel the need to review. It's a significant enough new feature for an old enough game, though, that we felt compelled to give you some kind of heads-up on it in case you either missed the game when it was released in January or have been looking for an excuse to get back into it. For what it's worth, I fall into the latter camp. So, I've spent a couple of days with a pre-release version of the update, and while it's not everything that I hoped it would be I've certainly had a lot of fun with it.
The update adds four bikes to Burnout Paradise's sizeable collection of four-wheelers, though only two of them are available from the outset. I managed to unlock a third by completing 50 percent of the update's new content, but the fourth is still eluding me as I write this with a completion percentage of 78. Bike-specific content in the update includes 128 Road Rule events and 38 Burning Rides, both divided equally between daytime and (the all-new) nighttime. There are also 70 new Freeburn Challenges to complete online with friends, and stat-tracking for your longest wheelie and longest jump on a bike.
Climbing onto a bike in Paradise City for the first time, you'll certainly be impressed by their speed and acceleration, even if you've spent time behind the wheel of the game's fastest cars. It won't take long for you to notice that the bikes don't support any kind of boost mechanic, though, so while near misses and the like are still dutifully noted on-screen, there's really no reason to try for them. The first time you crash you'll also notice that the glorious vehicular deformation and destruction upon which the Burnout series was practically built is nowhere to be seen when you're on a bike. Most of the time when you crash you'll just instantly reappear on the road as if nothing happened, and on the rare occasions when you get to watch the collision play out the rider vanishes without a trace at the point of impact and the bike gets thrown around without ever taking any significant visible damage. Neither of those things would even be worth mentioning, except that, you know, this is Burnout!
You also can't destroy billboards or smash through shortcut barriers when you're on a bike, because there aren't any. Enough with all of the negativity, though. You can still perform super jumps, you get a second license to take goofy photos for, and crucially, racing from one side of the city to the other on a bike is a very different challenge on two wheels than it is on four. Traffic is generally much easier to avoid, for example, but cornering at speed can be difficult if you don't take something resembling a good racing line. When all's said and done, the Bikes Pack plays more like a conventional racing game than Burnout Paradise normally does. That's no bad thing if you're in the market for a super-fast arcade bike racer that costs absolutely nothing (who isn't?), but it's not quite the "Burnout on bikes" that I was expecting.