I’ve been a HUGE fan of Burnout ever since I played the third game on the Playstation 2. While I loved the racing bits, I could also really appreciate the Crash Mode levels as they provided a nice change of pace. Danger Zone brings us that mode as a standalone game, but the question is if that’s enough to keep us entertained.
Graphics & Audio
When you start Danger Zone 2, It’s immediately clear they want you to know it’s been optimized for the Xbox One X:
Yet, despite this claim it never managed to blow me away with its graphics. While the game doesn’t look “bad” by any means, I did find that screenshots never seemed to do it a lot of justice. It’s only when you see the game in (fast-paced) motion that you appreciate its charms. Compare a screenshot like this:
To a video where I’m boost-chaining from start to finish and it’s clear the latter looks a lot more impressive:
Looking at the above video, you might have noticed that sometimes cars seem to pop-in out of nowhere. It’s a technical hiccup that’ll make you feel like crashing wasn’t your own doing and it’s frustrating everytime it happens. It’s definitely having some issues shedding its budget restrictions when it comes to the overal presentation too: The starting menu where you choose which level to play is rather bland and the plain text indicating the number of special bonuses in the HUD feels like its missing something, seemingly going for a default font.
The damage models also seem to be largely the same as what we got when playing Burnout 3 (Danger Zone is made by a lot of the same devs who worked on the Criterion hit series) but besides some minor visual improvements they failed to impress me. That being said, I was aware of the first game being a spiritual successor to Burnout yet I had no interest in it after seeing every screenshot being in some kind of parking garage. It’s kind of amazing what a big change it can be to simply have a different setting. Open air and out on the road is without a doubt the direction this series could keep for future instalments.
One big bother for me, was the total asbence of music. Well, the only bit of music that plays in the entire game is when you’re asked to crash some limousines as a runner-up to the Danger Zone crash and you get near them.
Luckily the sound effects feal meaty enough when slamming cars from behind or triggering a Smashbreaker explosion and I grew particularly fond of the “burning” sound when you’re boosting. I know it should seem like a fire burning, but to me it somehow reminded me of dry leaves quickly hitting the chassis of the car when racing at eye-watering speeds. I played Danger Zone 2 with a SUBPAC on and the random bursts of exhaust fire also made this awesome little pop each time and felt gratifying throughout my playthrough.
If you bought Danger Zone 2 because you were expecting a racing game, you might be sorely disappointed. The aim of the game is to crash your car into as much traffic as possible and get the highest possible score. At the start of each level, you’ll see the amount of crashes that are required to activate your Smashbreaker: a triggered explosion that will send other cars flying and you’ll be able to steer your car in mid-air so you can hopefully aim it at another traffic lane.
Usually the best course of action is to pick up as many of the bonus items as possible though. These can be a boost pick-up needed to jump far enough over a ramp, additional smashbreakers, instant explosions or money pick-ups. Especially the latter are essential if you’re hoping to get a platinum score.
Additionally, each level will also have a specific runner-up requirement, rewarding you with a hefty sum if you manage to pull it off (and they’ll also be on your to-do list if you’re an achievement hunter!). Some example runner-ups:
- Get a x7 Boostchain going
- Smash all cars
- Get all jumps (in slow motion)
- Hit X of a specific vehicle type
The game isn’t really difficult if you’re just aiming to unlock the next level, but getting a platinum can require a few attempts. Car placements are not random and the same for every player, so you know it’s an achievable goal if you just memorise the location of every item and groups of oncoming traffic. At least this makes for a fair leaderboard scenario, but there isn’t a lot of replayability outside of getting the top score.
I did like that you start each level with the vehicle picked FOR you though. In Burnout you could usually pick from your own garage of cars and everyone seemed to end up using the same one because it was easy to handle or had a big blast radius. Taking that choice away makes it more fair and puts the focus on skill instead.
One new ability that has been introduced, is the option to guide traffic you check from behind. By pressiong the X or B button you can steer them to the left or right, making it possible to hit EVERY single car running up to the danger zone. It’s an element I’ll miss when going back to Burnout Revenge for example.
Jumps make their return and they provide some of the most exciting moments in the game, it’s pretty awesome being able to steer your car in the air in slow-motion (even though that physically impossible). Most objects (including cars) seem to fly off just a bit too easily though, lacking an appropriate sensation of weight.
It’s a shame that you’ll also fly though the game: If you’re halfway decent, you’ll be able to platinum all 32 levels (including training & bonus levels) in a little over an hour. To me, this feels like a lack of content and sadly doesn’t warrant paying the $20 asking price. Which doesn’t mean I don’t like the game, just that I felt a bit empty after watching the credits roll. I had intended to spend my entire weekend playing the game and instead was left with little more than an evening.
I had my fun with Danger Zone 2, but it was over way too quick. The graphics could use some additional polish, adding music would go a long way but the biggest improvement I could see for a sequel would simply consist out of providing a lot more content (a level designer could perhaps help keep the game alive). Ironically, the best parts of the game for me, where the bonus levels which asked you to avoid crashing and just wanted you to reach the finish as fast as possible. At the very least, Danger Zone 2 has me looking forward to playing Dangerous Driving, which will provide an experience closer to my liking.