Two reasons why every fan of the Burnout series should be buying a copy of Burnout Paradise:
1) It's Burnout
2) The open world/exploration stuff actually works.
Somehow I managed to rack up fifteen hours of play between getting home on Friday and going to bed last night. In the same timeframe, I went to the pub, to a birthday party, to band practice and fixed a PC for someone. No wonder I was so strung out at the end of it all.
Seriously though, Paradise is awesome. I've unlocked something like 40% of the game and only had a small taster of the online stuff but I'm pretty sure this is the best Burnout yet. That Criterion managed to cram Paradise City full of things to do and see really helps carry the game along. Even when you're not in a race, you'll never be short of a car to unlock, a jump to nail, a time to beat and cars to smash.
One of my favourite features has to be Road Rules. Every stretch of road in the city is named, and has online friends leaderboards for both best time (time taken to travel from one end of the street to the other) and biggest Showtime score (like Crash mode in earlier Burnouts only freeform, think Katamari with cars). When you hold both the best time and Showtime score for a road, the roadsign turns gold and you "own" that road. Until one of your friends comes along and bests a time or a score. The gobsmacking thing is, even if you're playing offline (whilst connected to Live), the game notifies you when a friend has set a new record and on which road. Cue fist-in-the-air "you're not getting away with that, sir!", and off you go to try and win your road back. Glorious.
And so, to other less gamey news. As mentioned earlier, we had a band practice this weekend. On a Sunday. This is not right, surely! Playing guitar whilst it's still light outside? Madness. But yeah, it was the first of hopefully many bi-weekly Sunday practices. That allows for an average of six practices a month rather than the usual four.
We're wasting no time in using the extra hours - jamming on a great new song that stemmed from a riff that I had written and naturally bloomed into a full-on metal monster. It's the first song that we've written entirely with the four of us in one room with our instruments, and it shows. In a good way. With Spud able to come up with beats there and then, rather than following along to an EZ Drummer track, the song already has a really fluid feel to it. In a nutshell, when we eventually arrange to play another gig we're going to have some material that will blow away our regulars at the very least.
That's me done for now. Have a rockin' week. And buy Burnout. And if you don't have a 360 to play it on, buy one of those too.