Back in the glory days of the Playstation 2, there were two specific racing games that held my attention quite a bit. One was Need for Speed: Underground, the gritty racer that brought us into the world of street racing, matching speed and substance all into one. The other was none other than Burnout 3: Takedown. Within this game was a particular mode called Crash, in which you focused your efforts on piling cars up in crazy crash scenarios. This mode was a fan favorite in which destruction was key, creativity was a must, and fun was a given. Now some odd 13 years later, Burnout is slowly becoming a relic of the past, with the last major release being Burnout Paradise in 2008. Since then, a fine new team has formed over at Three Fields Entertainment. Some of these folks have worked on the Burnout series, so it’s no wonder that the spirit of the series continues on in their games, such as Dangerous Golf and more recently (and the subject matter of this very review) Danger Zone. Danger Zone is essentially a full-on game of the Crash mode, which see players advance from simulation to simulation with high-scores in mind. While its PS4 launch earlier this year met some mixed reception, its more definitive Xbox One release has me feeling wholly positive and totally nostalgic.
Taking you right into the Danger Zone, players are met with 4 groupings of levels. Each level is unlocked by earning a bronze or higher medal on the latest level unlocked. There is no star system or ranking system tied into this, but rather you need to practice and perfect your current level before you get to get your wheels on the next track. Across 32 tracks, in 6 different cars, you will wreck and smash your way to leaderboard dominance. Things start simple, with common intersections and simple transitions lining your path. Gradually, as is common in many games, the difficulty and complexity of each course will raise. This is where you need to get creative and strategic, all while still embracing the recklessness and natural chaos that is bound to ensue.
Strategy wise you have a few options. Prior to each launch, you are shown a clip which takes you along the desired path, letting you get a feel for the flow of traffic. From school buses, construction vehicles, taxis and everything in between, there is a lot of variety out on the streets just waiting to be destroyed! If you can effectively watch the clip, half of the battle is done by having the knowledge of where to aim. The next part of an effective strategy comes from knowing how to play the field. There are two pick-ups scattered about each level. One of the types are money pick-ups, which boost your final score at the end of each level. There is typically two bronze pickups, two silver pickups, and one gold pick, all which give you increasingly larger bonuses. Manage to pick them all up and you score a grand slam bonus, which nets you a massively helpful $5,000,000 cash bonus.
The second pick up is the Smashbreaker icon, which gives you a slow motion mode where you have lots of control over your car in mid-air. This explosive boost is crucial to the game, as you have no control over your car post-crash unless it is during the Smashbreaker. One Smashbreaker can be earned via crashing a set amount of cars on a level, while the others can be picked up along the way. Planning your next move is important, as you need to be able know how far you can stretch an explosion and consequently your movements in order to make it to the next Smashbreaker token. Timing is important too, as you want to do as much damage as you can with a Smashbreaker while also making it to other areas in time to catch the next traffic cycle and rack up the points along the way. While the driving controls are a bit stiff, they get the job done, as does the control of the car mid air. There is the occasional bug or low ceiling that will tend to stop your momentum, causing your car to either get stuck somewhere inconvenient or stop dead in its tracks. Though a hindrance, the issues are easily ignored once you get back in the action.
The action is a riot to watch and be a part of. You don’t think right off the bat that this would be a great game for a crowd, but it absolutely is. There are a surprising amount of tense moments when going for gold (or platinum in this matter), and half the time that final score is achieved through the random chaos that comes about by your crashes. Cars go flying, trucks explode, pile-ups grow and all the while your score grows with these events. It is a blast to watch, and while the graphics are not jaw-dropping; it’s clean enough to be respectable in this modern age while simple enough to keep that silver-lining nostalgia intact. My issue with the presentation lies not in the visuals, but more so the lack of a corresponding soundtrack (also one of my underlying issues with their title Dangerous Golf). The set lists in the Burnout series were so memorable, so engaging and really added character to the overall package. As a much smaller team, a smaller budget is expected, but even some simple tracks would have went a long way. It is just too quiet at times in between all the ruckus, making it a bit dull in the downtime.
The level design gets better and better as you go, with some awesome complexity showing up in the last collection of tracks. Now I am going to assume these tracks are the ones featured in the Xbox version that were absent in the PS4 version, because they massively differ in scope. The base 3 sections are simpler in design, while these are more playful to the imagination, with multiple tiers, floating cars, and other oddities present. If more of this imaginative freedom had been shown the first time around, it may have found better success on Sony’s flagship. The same goes for the car selection, which now has variety as opposed to a single car in the original release. I would have liked to see this stretched further into the realm of customization, another feature which would have surely developed the games character along. Who knows, maybe we will get a sequel that has customizable cars in addition to a level creator (come’on ThreeFields, you know that sounds awesome.)
Danger Zone is a wild ride, a blast from the past that delivers in its Xbox One debut. I am glad I waited before picking it up on PS4, because the Xbox One version seems to outclass the first release in every way. If you are a fan of Burnout (specifically its Crash mode), there is not a doubt that you should buy this, or at least put it on your radar. It’s every bit of fun that it should be, and while it may not be a fully realized package yet, that does not mean there is not room to grow in the future. ThreeFields does a great job at keeping theirpassion for Burnout alive in projects all their own.
Final Score: 8/10
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