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September 5, 2007 // 11:04 pm - Criterion was on hand at EA's press event today to show off the latest and greatest version of the upcoming Burnout Paradise for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game made a splashy showing at this year's E3 and our positive impressions of the speedy, gorgeous racer haven't really changed. At today's event we had a chance to check out the online and offline challenges you'll engage in which, not surprisingly involved much fun and crashing.

The big hook to the game are the options open to players as they go online. When hopping online you'll be able to jump into a challenge match that scales according to how many people are in a game, ranging from two to eight. The challenges are fast, fun cooperative experiences that have you performing stunts, catching a set amount of air or other quick and easy tasks. Though the game isn't done, Criterion reps on hand said the plan is to have well over 100 challenges for players to try, to ensure a hefty and varied amount of challenge. Besides actively playing with friends you can send out passive challenges as you play via the "road rules" feature which gives you different timed challenges to try on every street. As you complete them your accomplishment is noted and sent out to friends via a ticker that appears at the bottom of the screen as you play.

Besides the gameplay features, Criterion reps also touched on some other enhancements since we saw the game last. The camera support in the game has been tweaked a bit to offer more functionality. Whereas the game would initially use the PlayStation Eye or Xbox Live Vision camera to snap a victory pic when you'd take a player out, the support has been beefed up to include taking a picture of you for your in game license. As you progress through the game you'll be able to take new ones to reflect your growing prowess, or ego. Another unique feature discussed was unique to the PlayStation 3 version of the game is the EZ Drive feature which lets you hop online with three quick presses of the d-pad.

The visuals in both versions of the game were pretty much what you'd expect from a Burnout title: gorgeous, detailed, and fast. The massive open world and destructible cars are a wicked evolution of the Burnout experience and rev up the hefty amount of fun already offered by the game. There really is nothing quite as satisfying as the seeing the graceful and painful crunch of your car making like an accordion when you hit a wall. The same holds true of the shower of debris that kicks up as you have close shaves with walls and other cars or slam into them head on. However the most impressive aspect of the game's visuals is the blistering sense of speed that feels, at higher levels, like you're just barely in control. That impressive rush is helped by motion blur and other special effects that help sell the insane rates of speed that you tear off at. For those looking for any performance differences between the two platforms, it looks as though you'll be hard pressed to find anything glaring. The game pops on both systems and runs very smooth, with the standard odd hitch that's to be expected in work in progress software.

Audio in the game deserves a special call out as it offerings a satisfying mix of engine roars and painful crashes. The visceral crunches and screeches coupled with the robust engine revs do a great job of sucking you into the experience, especially during the epic crashes.

Based on this brief taste of Burnout Paradise's offerings, we're anxious to get our hands on a fuller version of the game. Everything we want out of a Burnout game is in as well as a bunch of smart, fun enhancements to the experience that only add to its appeal. Fns of the series and anyone looking for tight online experience that supports smack talk and bragging with photos would do well to keep an eye out for Burnout Paradise when it ships this winter for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Burnout Paradise Updated Hands-On

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