Mar 242009
It might look pretty, but if the game's as dumb as the demo is...

It might look pretty, but if the game's as dumb as the demo is...

This is a short, annoyed review of the demo of the PC game, Burnout Paradise Ultimate Box (as found on the cover disc of PC Gamer #199).

I’m not really going to review the game itself. I did get as far as playing it but what I saw didn’t help overcome what I experienced up to that point, to whit:

The installer works ok until the bit where it wants you to install EA Downloader Monkey (or something similar). It’s probably a fine piece of software, who knows. What annoys me is that it doesn’t make clear a) why you need it, and b) that you don’t need it to try the demo. I don’t need EA or anyone else clogging up my PC with shit I don’t want. 

Config part 1
Running the game produces a nice little config screen where you can set graphics options and so on. Nice, that is, except for the lack of explanation for the settings it chose. I’m to assume, I suppose, that EA knows best and these are optimum for my PC config?

Making something happen
Now onto the really good stuff. I get past the obligatory big spinning logos for whoever made and/or published the thing (they are not actually obligatory. These people have the mistaken belief that we care). The screen displays a legend along the lines of “push any button”. I push a joypad button. Nothing happens. I push a mouse button. Nothing happens. I push a few keys on the keyboard. Nothing happens. I wait a short while then assume the demo was coded by idiots, and try and call up task manager to kill it. Nothing happens. Alt-F4? Nothing happens. After some serious three finger saluting I get task manager to appear; almost immediately, the demo regains focus and something’s actually happened in the background. It’s giving me the friendly advice about not switching off the machine when the little “saving to hard drive” logo is flashing – the sort of thing I’ve only started seeing fairly recently, aimed at the sort of console owners who don’t know what a hard drive is. A port then.

Life is short
Beyond this I manage to actually start the game, or at least to kick off what is a very boring introduction with apparently no means of skipping. The time is at least 15 minutes after I began the installation process, and about 10 after I launched the thing after install.

Config part 2
After what is a very boring wait through admittedly high quality voice overs, camera fly-bys and so on, I’m finally shown a car (that’s me apparently) and told to drive to the repair shop to get it fixed. I press buttons on the joypad, keyboard, mouse. Nothing happens. I assume I need to configure controls for one or more of the above, or at least to check a list of what button does what. I press Escape. It shows me three options, none of which relates to game config stuff. I go back to the game and start pushing keyboard buttons in earnest. I manage to change the camera. I change the radio station. There is no options menu button I can find. There is no quit game option. I bring up task manager and kill the demo to look for a keymap or readme document that might help. There isn’t one.

Life is definitely too short
While I did relaunch the game and finally heard a message telling me to hold accelerate to start the engine, and eventually had success holding the “A” key… it wasn’t worth it. Anyone who complained about the control method for vehicles in GTA IV will probably love this. It’s like driving a glue gun through a big 3d city. You can hit stuff and break things and it’s very pretty, but you can also take any corner at 200mph, and it feels like… I dunno, Micro Machines or something.

To top it off, when I went to uninstall it, they made me go to control panel and add/remove programs. What a bunch of bananas. EA. It’s in the name.

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