...But was 'Paradise' REALLY the best Burnout?

The constant talk about the upcoming Need For Speed game has gotten me contemplating about Burnout Paradise, which was a game I personally consider an underwhelming sequel, even after I beat the game and purchased all the (very cheap) DLC. Criterion's desire to streamline the entire game together certainly sounds like a good idea, but actually backfired in my gaming experience, as the game turned dull very quickly.

Burnout has always lived by 2 codes; (1) race fast, and (2) crash hard. The entire franchise lived up to those ideas up until Paradise, which doesn't feel any faster (thanks in no small part to obsessively accessing the map to find out where in the world you're supposed to go in race events) and having a straight-up lame crash mode in comparison to Burnout Takedown and Revenge.

The open world also feels too cramped. When most events end in only 1 of 8 points and most of the roads are long and winding, everything gets too familiar too quickly. An open-world racing game like Midnight Club: LA, on the other hand, can start and finish anywhere and often has an abundance of ways to get there (without requiring someone to consistently pause the game over and over again to find out how to go from start to finish). Even the latest Hot Pursuit avoided the dullness of Paradise City by arguably discouraging the player from driving the long and winding roads openly.

Getting cars felt underwhelming in 'Paradise' as well. It always felt obvious when a car was going to go speeding by, and collecting so many cars was useless if you were only going to use at most 5 of them later on. This is turn made the process of unlocking cars more often than not a distraction. I prefer the traditional racing game reward structure of giving you a car after a certain race (or objective that is isolated from other world activities) because it makes each car more fulfilling to get.

To keep this short, I personally found the previous version of Burnout more fun experiences. I know most will disagree. I just started this topic to engage in conversation about the Burnout series (and arcade games in general) and hear opinions on which Burnout was the best and why.