Ahhh, remaster, remaster, remaster, remaster. A term used to describe that an old video game is going to have somewhat better graphics and improved performance that’s more suited to modern platforms. However, I’ve come to learn that when a game is remastered, I shouldn’t expect it to have been made any more accessible. With Burnout Paradise Remastered, I still got my hopes up and had them crushed up against a barrier at 180mph.
Before I move into the review on accessibility, I just want to point out that Burnout Paradise Remastered runs remarkably well on the Nintendo Switch. The graphics are top-notch and the performance is steady and brilliant. I’ve played this both docked and handheld and the system can keep up with the game as well as not being a battery hog.
It’s just a shame the game is an absolute shambles in trying to convey information to you. I’ve not played Burnout Paradise in years, and so I’d forgotten a lot of how the game plays. But it’s certainly safe to say that when I got playing, the inaccessibility came back to me in a flash. I was as confused as I recall myself being years ago, I was pressing buttons trying to figure out what the controls were. It reactivated a nostalgic memory of trying to enjoy a game and feeling as if it was my fault I couldn’t enjoy the game because of my disability.
So first up, upon booting the game for the very first time, a cutscene plays out. I had it in handheld mode, full volume, and I could hear something playing with a beat. Guess what? That was a voiceover explaining something about the game. No subtitles were present whatsoever. It gets worse.
Throughout the game, there are sections in which the subtitles appear. “But where?” I hear you cry, within a thin black strip with some awful font that acts like a news ticker, panning from the right of the screen all the way over the left. It’s incredibly small, not clear they’re subtitles, and rather frustratingly, they appear to inform you of something when you’re in the middle of driving through oncoming traffic.
And then there are the moments in which the voiceover will occur and there’s no subtitles at all. This inconsistency is such a hindrance in trying to understand what’s going on to the point I don’t know anything about the world, about the events you can race in, and about the features available. Everything I’m doing in the game is based on assumptions through visual elements and knowledge of gaming in general.
It took me a while to figure out my car engine turns off when stationary, and that I have to hold accelerate for a few seconds to start the car up. It took me a while to figure out which was the boost button, and then how the boost becomes activated. It took me far too long to realise that the signs displayed at the top act as a directional cue. It took me even longer to learn I could open an in-game menu for gameplay features such as online play.
A lot of the game’s visual cues are very bland and not at all obvious. Races have a start point and an endpoint, AI follows the fastest route to the end point, but the only thing to keep you going in the right direction are signposts that appear on the screen. If you need to take an upcoming turn, you’ll see the sign for that road appear next to your current street’s sign. With world clutter such as barriers, railings, and even parked cars, it’s easy to miss these turnings, especially at the speeds you’ll be reaching.
There’s no waypoint or trail for you to follow, which adds to the game’s immersion, but it comes with the cost of not knowing what direction you need to go in to reach the endpoint. In fact, the only waypoints you have are small checkpoint indicators and the endpoint markers that appear on the minimap.
That minimap is awful. Everything is too small to decipher what anything means, online players are signified as tiny arrows, and it doesn’t even allow you to make it a bit bigger, even if only for a moment. The only good thing the minimap does is remain fixed, which helps with when you need to determine what direction to go in. If a marker is shown to the north-east, then you know to keep your arrow facing in that…general direction and just hoping the roads lead you there.
The bigger map available through pressing the minus button isn’t any better. You can’t set markers and it’s confusing to navigate through the choices. The main menu is just as confusing with no options outside of time-of-day and general audio levels.
And then there’s an in-game menu you can access with the right d-pad. This allows you to do some online game searching, invite your friends, and when in online freeroam —known as freeburn— you can set some rules or mini-games. When you do apply some freeburn events there’s important information tucked away in the ticker, subtitle section that basically explains the event.
I don’t want to slam Burnout Paradise Remastered all that much because at the end of the day, it is a remaster from ye’ olde days of 2008. So let me touch on some things it does well. The vibration feels fluid and with varying strengths that resonate through the Joy-Cons. The on-screen visual cues that indicate some events splash over the screen with big text and animated flames without getting in your way of the road. Races are usually illustrated on the map with an icon, but in the game’s world you’ll see banners hung over junctions.
Smashable billboards stand out more than other generic billboards. In fact, they are big and red. The boost indicator clearly displays how much boost you have left, and with select cars, there are three levels of boost to switch between, each one coming with its own color as well as reason for use.
Another great thing is that you don’t really need to hear anything to understand what’s going on. The narration seems to just be adding some tips and story elements from what I heard, which isn’t at all needed. The game is mostly focused on driving, fast. Sure, the crushing sound of your vehicle folding in over itself is pleasing, but it’s not needed. You’re also so focused on what’s ahead that other elements to warn you of nearby cars would only distract. And the boost is loud and punchy, but also accompanied by the flames erupting from your exhaust.
One reason the game becomes visually unappealing is when you’re moving at such a fast speed and need to look to UI elements that are spread quite far apart. It could have also had some form of in-world marker for online free roam so you can easily locate your friends. I’d jumped online in Burnout Paradise Remastered with Christy, who has penned a visually impaired review.
It took a while for me to even see her player marker because it was too small and blended into the map. But eventually we were able to find one another and drive around before starting some events. She beat me by the way. Twice. Awful defeat. Oh, and to point out, there didn’t appear to be any form of quick chat option, which led us to communicating through Discord text just to talk.
Burnout Paradise Remastered is a fantastic remaster that works brilliantly in regards to performance on the Nintendo Switch. However, the game carries over a lot of its inaccessible design from 2008 and only improves in the graphics and performance field. No improvements to how information is conveyed have been applied, and this makes for a lot of frustrating crashes when you’re trying to read necessary UI while driving at over 200mph.
It’s boggling that Criterion didn’t just make a new installment, or do a remake of the title. Once again, this is another game to add to my list of games that didn’t work all too well in being ported to the Switch because accessibility wasn’t a part of the initial game’s development. A lot of Burnout Paradise Remastered is focused so heavily on immersing the information into the game’s world that it becomes lost when speed becomes the focus of the gameplay.
If you’re after a fun racing game just to smash things up with no ideal understanding of what’s going on, then you’ll want to nab Burnout Paradise Remastered on the Nintendo Switch. However, if you want a similar experience to Burnout with a lot more accessible information displayed on your screen, give Asphalt 9 Legends a try.
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