Although the Burnout series is a thing of the past, its legacy lives on in Dangerous Driving. Clearly the product of a small but talented studio, this homage to eye-wateringly fast arcade racers of the past is good enough to crash its way through more polished modern racers.
For those not familiar with Dangerous Driving‘s predecessor, Burnout, (and it has been a few years since there was one) the series is all about ridiculous arcade racing and causing insane crashes — known in the game as ‘takedowns’. The series began as a fairly basic racer with few modes and fewer cars, but a dedicated fan base and support from industry giant Electronic Arts saw it grow into a popular series.
Dangerous Driving is very similar to the core of the Burnout experience — so much so, that it’s going to be difficult to write a review about it without numerous direct comparisons. It is, in fact, the creation of several of the original members of Criterion Studios, who conceived the original Burnout series. Having formed their own studio,Three Fields Entertainment, the trio have clearly invested their time and love into reinvigorating the series, albeit only spiritually.
In itself it is a barebones experience at best, with a roster of cars that feels closer to the original Burnout than the sequels that followed it. Thankfully, Dangerous Driving seems intent on paying homage to the highlights of the Burnout series and the events line up best with Burnout 2 and 3, albeit they lack my personal favourite; Crash mode.
Every other key mode is present, with shakedowns that encourage the player to engage in a straight time trial with its own set of increasingly challenging checkpoints and a medal system that makes progress possible, whilst also encouraging mastery. Then there competitive races, takedown challenges and several other modes.
Face Off is a straight head to head race with all the bells and whistles, whilst Heatwave tones down the aggressive nature of the other modes and prevents takedowns, allowing for a more straightforward race. There are then Grand Prix events that chain races, Pursuits that pit cops against robbers and then Survival and Eliminator, both of which are events that can end early if the player isn’t up to pace.
Sadly, none of these modes feature multiplayer at the time of release, so players will instead need to make do with a constantly updated online leaderboard that shows their global ranking. There is some suggestion that online multiplayer will be added later, but given the size of the development team, but we can only live in hope.
In terms of what is included, the selection of cars may be fairly spartan and quite generic (there are no licensed vehicles) but the wide variety of racing modes more than make up for that, as does the selection of tracks and how they are used. There are seven locations to race in, split across about thirty different tracks. I’ve read that this equates to something like 300 miles of track, but since Dangerous Driving is so insanely fast, it’s hard to really verify that.
Structurally, Dangerous Driving is very straightforward. The game splits its events based on the cars available, with the first set of races being based around sedan cars and the following classes including sports cars, Le Mans style racing cars and then a set of cars that are broadly equivalent to Formula Three. Regardless of which class you’re racing in, Dangerous Driving is insanely fast and very, very furious.
Dangerous Driving is the most blisteringly rapid game I have experienced in my lifetime. Courses are mostly wide and very open, with relatively little traffic for a game that focuses so heavily on crashing and this allows the players to build up a huge amount of boost. This system will be immediately familiar — the faster and more dangerously you drive, the more boost you’ll earn.
In broad, general terms, Dangerous Driving wants and encourages the player to run each race entirely on boost, from the very first moment they can. Driving on the wrong side of the road, forcing opponents into takedowns and drifting around corners all help. Tapping the brake button whilst turning will cause a huge drift, but there’s never a need to let off the accelerator even when doing so.
The most satisfying way to build up and maintain momentum, as well as to disrupt the opposition, is with a well timed takedown. Dangerous Driving, just like Burnout, is built around nudging opponents into other cars, barriers or other obstacles, with success indicated by a camera that snaps to the ensuing crash, delighting itself with flying sparks, wheels and associated other debris.
Whilst Dangerous Driving does feature the Heatwave mode (which disables takedowns) it remains the focus of every other event, but that doesn’t make Heatwave boring. In this mode, the player’s car simply gets faster and faster as the race continues, meaning that the risk of a huge crash becomes increasingly likely until it is simply inevitable. Whilst you might think that removing the key mechanic of Dangerous Driving would be a negative, Heatwave actually adds a welcome alternative that is unique and fun in its own right.
Although Dangerous Driving clearly represents a huge investment of time, effort and care, it does show some of the limitations of a smaller budget studio. Even if we put aside the limited range of cars, lack of multiplayer and barebones presentation, it’s also hard to ignore the lack of music (although Spotify Premium integration is included) and some of the slightly unpolished visuals.
Thankfully, the speed at which Dangerous Driving moves means that you’ll never really notice some of the scenery or detail too close up — and it’s not that it’s awful anyway. What I did begin to notice over time was that some of the crash animations and vehicle deformations are quite basic, and that some of the extended backgrounds were a bit lacking. The lack of music did bother me, however, since I’m not a Spotify subscriber (call me old if you will.)
Even with a few minor downsides, Dangerous Driving proves that love and care can triumph over a big budget and a glossy marketing campaign. It is blisteringly fast and relentlessly exciting experience that puts the player experience well above everything else. It lacks a few of the bells and whistles that you might usually expect, but with multiplayer potentially coming later and a lot of content out of the blocks, Dangerous Driving is definitely the next generation Burnout that we’ve been waiting for.