Arcade racing games haven’t exactly been plentiful in recent years – nor has EA shown the slightest bit of interest in reviving the best of them all It’s impossible to play or talk about Dangerous Driving without comparing it to Criterion’s seminal Burnout 3: Takedown. This is by design, of course, as developer Three Fields Entertainment–a small indie studio comprised of former Criterion alum–set out to create a spiritual successor to the dormant racer; latching onto the groundbreaking Burnout 3 as a clear and popular focal point.
Dangerous Driving follows developer Three Fields Entertainment’s own Danger Zone 2, its excellent revival of Burnout’s most memorable section: Crash mode. Dangerous Driving resurrects the rest of the Burnout modes, including races, face-offs, eliminations, burning lap (now called Shakedown), and most notably Road Rage mode. It feels as crunchy and sadistic as ever to strafe the bumper of the car just ahead of you at 150mph, especially knowing you’ll send it slamming into the guard rail in a fiery explosion and be rewarded for it. Later versions of Road Rage races – you get at least one in each of the six vehicle-specific campaigns – add welcome and challenging wrinkles like requiring you to smash rivals into civilian traffic in order for your takedown to count.
This is a smart idea for an indie studio that might not have the budget to splash out on licensed music, and after finding something suitably upbeat and aggressive myself, the experience of tearing around the track and wrecking other cars was improved tenfold. Yet asking people to own a premium service just to get music in their game is a fairly excessive compromise. It’s an understandable trade-off for gaining access to popular music in a budget-priced game, but beyond the monetary requirement, it also has an effect on gameplay.
While most contemporary racing games are wary of fully embracing an arcadey style without featuring some kind of simulation element, Dangerous Driving is a full-blooded, balls-to-the-wall arcade racer. You’ll hold down the accelerator ad infinitum until your finger aches, careen around corners by either scraping across the steel guard rails or tapping the brake button to effortlessly drift around, and weave between oncoming traffic at over 200-miles-per-hour as the nitrous oxide flames spewing out of each exhaust pipe propel your car forward.
Unfortunately, the physics can be fairly wonky at times, often bringing your vehicle to a complete stop because you brushed against a wall; while other times it will shoot you straight up into the air, or force your car into a complete 90-degree turn. This can be incredibly frustrating during the latter stages of an event when one mishap is enough to send you tumbling to the back of the pack. Collision detection is also inconsistent; numerous times a head-on crash resulted in my car clipping through the floor and appearing unscathed on the other side. The face-distorting sense of speed, though, is genuinely electric, and the PS4 Pro version maintains a stable 60 frames-per-second with one notable exception: It has a tendency to hitch rather egregiously when you’re driving through tunnels.
These takedowns are reminiscent of those that debuted in Burnout 3, although the slow-motion crashes in Dangerous Driving are surprisingly underwhelming. They’re not bad, but they’re also not impactful enough–which the aforementioned issues with music contribute to–lacking in any real dynamism or metal-crunching detail.
There are exceptions to this rule, but vehicle collisions actually look a lot more violent when they occur near you in real time, with broken cars hurtling across the road in a furious cascade of fire and sparks. A wrecked car doesn’t signal the end of its lifespan either. While Dangerous Driving unabashedly riffs on Burnout, it has its own ideas, too, like persistent wrecks. Now, if you’re driving on a track with multiple laps, any takedowns that happen will leave the battered husk of that car out on the road as a smoke-billowing obstacle. This is rather ingenious, as subsequent laps gradually evolve the track until it’s veritable minefields of dead vehicles.
The problem with this–and it’s not a problem with the mechanic itself, but rather one with the game’s overall structure–is that these multi-lap events, and the most stimulating moments within them, are too few and far between. Dangerous Driving excels when you’re in the middle of the pack, trading paint with other cars, and fighting tooth and nail to move up the field. It’s here where it’s at its most exciting, and really latches onto what made Burnout 3 so brilliant in the first place. But reaching first place is relatively easy–I was taken down by the AI twice in all my time playing–and once you’re there the rubber banding isn’t aggressive enough to ever compete with your driving unless you crash. Rivals drivers will hover just behind you, waiting to capitalize on any mistakes, but there are far too many instances where you can take a leisurely drive in first place, resulting in a feeling that you’re missing out on all the action.
Online multiplayer is being added in a future update, and playing against other people might allay some of these problems. But the more I played the more I began to realize Dangerous Driving lacks that magic spark the Burnout games had in abundance. That kinetic energy, palpable sense of danger, and the heart-racing thrill that something could and would go wrong at any moment. The AI was aggressive–competitive–and the satisfaction of taking them down was born of more than just getting to watch their car crumple against the nearest brick wall. The tracks were inventive, too, more interesting in their environments, and full of diverging paths and risky shortcuts.
As a long-time Burnout devotee, I’m very glad Dangerous Driving got made. It is a wonderful complement to Danger Zone 2; together, they are basically Burnout 6 and the world is better off for it. That said, a drawn-out campaign and less-fun secondary events create a little too much drag on its standalone fun.
Dangerous Driving nails the basic feeling of driving a car in Burnout, but the lack of small details quickly begin to add up and peel away at everything that doesn’t feel quite right. I went back and played Burnout 3 again and it quickly alleviated all of those fears with a rapid combustion of thrilling vehicular mayhem. The potential was there for Dangerous Driving to latch onto that magic, and there are brief moments when it feels like you’re playing a brand new Burnout. But the truth is, I’d rather play a 16-year-old game than pick up its spiritual successor again, and that’s a disheartening outcome.
Video Game Dangerous Driving Review :
User Rating :
– The Good:
+ Persistent wrecks are a novel idea that impact subsequent laps in interesting ways
+ Captures the arcadey driving mechanics of Burnout 3
– The Bad:
+ Multiple factors contribute to most events feeling dull and lifeless
+ Track design is bland with little differentiating them from one another
Mark : 6
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