EA not bringing back the much loved Burnout series remains one of the great mysteries of modern gaming. Yeah, they’ve got Need for Speed on the books, and while I’m a big fan of that series, it’s not the same as a full-fledged, arcade-centric Burnout release.
For those that played, and most likely loved Burnout, a big part of its appeal (until its bizarre omission from the somewhat disappointing Burnout Paradise) was the endlessly entertaining Crash mode. For many, it was the mode of choice and could lead to hours of play on a single course as you attempted the perfect run of destruction as you wilfully sent your vehicle hurtling into a busy intersection with the express aim of causing as much devastation as humanly possible.
Well, Danger Zone is basically just that – Crash mode turned into a game of its own, something that, on paper at least, has home run written all over it. Gamers have been starved of a Crash mode since Burnout Revenge (released way back in 2005), and while it’s not quite the same as a ‘proper’ Burnout sequel, with ex-Criterion developers making up the Danger Zone’s development team, it seems that all the pieces are in place for something of a spiritual successor to one of Burnout’s most enjoyable game modes.
Sadly, while this is an undeniably entertaining game, and in many respects true to the original concept, a general lack of content and a complete lack of aesthetic personality ultimately hold it back. The quality of the fundamental gameplay ensures that Danger Zone is rarely anything less than fun, but these avoidable shortcomings are undeniably disappointing.
With this being a budget, download only release, I wasn’t expecting mountains of content, but given how many Crash courses were available in the Burnout games, it is disappointing that Danger Zone only has 32 courses. In fairness, that is 12 more than the PS4 and PC releases were afforded upon the games’ original release back in May, but it’s still a relatively low number, and if you’re playing this solo and just going for standard completion (essentially a medal on each course), finishing the game is unlikely to take you all that long with only some of the multi-tiered latter courses proving especially tricky. Still, with more courses promised in the future and re-playability essential to the experience (I must have played some courses in excess of 50 times in search of that elusive Platinum award), this is a somewhat forgivable oversight.
What is less forgivable however is the games’ complete lack of visual personality. Yes, having the game set in a crash test warehouse does make sense thematically, but come on, balls to being thematic – this is a game about causing massive and totally OTT levels of destruction. This is an arcade game without the arcade – it needs colour and personality, and to end up with what is a disappointingly bland looking world really does take the sheen of what is an otherwise largely entertaining game. The same is true of the music (or complete lack thereof); I appreciate that a huge licenced playlist is unlikely, but this feels like a game that should be accompanied by loud, borderline obnoxious music, and with none to speak of, it all adds to the sense that you are playing an exciting video game in a resolutely unexciting world.
That all sounds pretty bad of course, but as I mentioned above, the gameplay really is great fun – it’s almost exactly the same as Burnout’s Crash mode and, well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a shame that you can’t pick the type of car you want to use, but honestly, whether it be the standard saloon or the super powerful F1 car, the results are much the same. The handling, which is fine, is actually of little importance, what really matters are the physics once you make that initial contact, and here, they feel great.
It probably shouldn’t be as fun as it is, but lining up that perfect impact and then watching on as the subsequent destruction unfolds really is hugely cathartic. Of course, if you want to get those medals, you’re going to have to plan your run in line with the cash tokens, and more importantly, the Smashbreaker tokens. These allow you to set off additional explosions that not only cause huge amounts of extra damage, but via the aftertouch mechanic, allow you to aim your wreck towards more tokens, more traffic and invariably, more destruction.
Some will probably bemoan the emphasis on token collection, but I think it adds some much needed depth to what could have been an otherwise frustratingly random experience. The tokens essentially turn each course into mini puzzles with success attained through a combination of planning and skilful execution, and while an element of luck is still involved, success here feels intrinsically linked to your specific actions.
The bland art design is disappointing and it could certainly do with a few more tracks, but like Burnout’s infamous Crash mode before it, Danger Zone’s collection of carefully constructed intersections delivers an addictive and brilliantly enjoyable experience. The physics feel solid, and while the emphasis on tokens won’t be for everyone, I found them to be a fine addition to the eminently entertaining core mechanics. It’s far from perfect then, but with an Xbox One X 4K update due in the near future and additional courses on the way, I suspect that Danger Zone is a game that I’ll return to for months to come.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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