Three Fields Entertainment are back with a follow up to last year’s Danger Zone which pitted a single car against traffic junctions in a simulated reality and asked for maximum carnage to be created. It was the distilled essence of Burnout’s crash mode with all the trappings of the racing elements discarded so the focus was completely on smashing hunks of metal together at high speed. It worked well and reminded us of what could have been if Criterion had continued. 13 months later and the team are knocking it up a gear by taking out the simulated junctions, putting in real world locations, and bringing on board a wide variety of vehicles – but does it still evoke the longing for a fully fleshed out game?
It’s the most noticeable change to the presentation… sky. No longer confined to the virtual reality of the crash centre of the first game, the menu sits the camera along a straight, clear piece of tarmac that beckons those who want to race down it. Of course, there’s not far to go before the road ends and chaos begins, but the sunny, bright world is a significant change. Options are limited at the start, there’s the tutorial or one of three regions to head into – everything else is locked behind progression. Starting the tutorial teaches the basics of control and the fundamentals of how the game works, whilst hitting the first region begins the action.
This time around it’s not just the crash junctions that matter for scoring, how you get there and what you do on the way counts as well. Boosting, traffic checking and jumping all wind up the score meter to give a small but useful start towards the target. Achieve the set objective on the run up for the level and there’s a bonus in it for you too. Crucially, it’s in the run up that the Burnout pedigree shines through because in some scenarios it’s quite a distance from start to end, and with a timer ticking down and your foot to the floor it’s reminiscent of the first two games in the series where a single knock into traffic can mean retrying the stage. It’s also exhilarating threading the screaming beasts through tiny gaps and drifting them around hairpin bends, and really does cause an ache in the heart that could only be soothed by a new Burnout title. But I digress…
We’re here for crashing, that’s the point of the game. Get to the Danger Zone (the only part of the level where you can crash and start the insurance bill mounting up) and trigger the mayhem in whatever way possible. Building a smashbreaker detonates the car at the push of a button, but is only active once you’ve crashed first. Hitting instant explosives or just driving head on into traffic will do the job too. Then it’s time to use your skill to rack up the score. Once airborne the car can be guided in whichever direction is needed as long as there’s momentum to get it there. Using the crash aftertouch helps hit floating cash pickups or other goodies, or lets you drop between highway sections, and extends the time the crash goes on for, letting you hope that more vehicles are going to join in. End up stationery for a period and the time counts down to zero to give you a tally of the devastation and throw your score onto the global leaderboard.
Points mean prizes as always and there are four score targets to aim for: bronze, silver, gold and platinum; then there’s the run up bonus as well. Hit all objectives and that’s the level fully complete, though you only need to achieve a bronze to open up the next one in the region. Finish a region and it’s straight on to the next one. With 29 stages in all, and 3 bonus ones too, there’s enough to get you into the game and leave you wanting more. A lot more. Danger Zone 2 does unfortunately seem to be over very quickly, especially if you’ve picked up the main skills playing the first game. It’s worth heading back into the levels to see exactly where you’ve been crashing though. Pelting through at full throttle means the scenery whips past, yet pause and there are some familiar signs on hand. Anyone who’s been across the M62 or down the M6 might picture this game as just a typical day in motorway travel, especially as they both feature, but blasting past the LAX entrance makes a welcome change.
Because it’s over so quickly, Danger Zone 2 seems a bit on the high priced side – £15 for about 90 mins of game play is VR pricing territory. The replayability is there if you’re a scoreboard hound or just want to best your friends, but the incentive to 100% each level isn’t quite there. Some of the more challenging ones end up giving the highest scores on the first runs which removes the reason to go back to them, and the easier looking junctions only take a couple of tries to work out the right lines. At least reloading is quick if you make a mistake. There are some good cars to drive, the handling is nicely twitchy, and the visuals are excellent when you’re flying through the air with barrels and car parts scattering all around. The racing elements demand more time that you don’t really get with them, and it’s definitely a “just one more go” title. Yet, it feels like it’s a stop gap to build additional funding for the next game, and whilst that’s no bad thing, it would have been nice to get a little bit more value for money.
Danger Zone 2 is out now on PS4 and Xbox One for around £15, and Dangerous Driving from Three Fields Entertainment will follow later this year.