Arcade racers had their heyday long before the Burnout series came along, but few games are as iconic. Not only did it stake a claim to what the term arcade racer really meant, it put in place new ideas and elements that have informed the genre ever since. The overriding idea, to drive like someone whose car is filled with wasps that are on fire, was successful enough to warrant sequels, but it wasn’t until the third outing for it all to finally come together, introducing the most important aspect of arcade racers for a generation: the takedown.
Dangerous Driving isn’t so much a spiritual successor as the missing link between Burnout 3: Takedown and Burnout Revenge, and if Three Fields Entertainment were allowed to slap the words Burnout on the front of the packaging then you’d likely never know the difference. This is an arcade racer that takes the Burnout franchise, builds it afresh on top of Unreal Engine 4 and unleashes it on what is probably a wholly expecting public. It definitely works.
It’s fast. You’ve probably forgotten the terror that the original Burnout instilled in you as you raced at a speed that’s just within human capabilities, but Dangerous Driving will instantly remind you. With a low-slung chase camera, and a penchant for lens flare that would bring a tear to Michael Bay’s eye, it’s not even just the speed that will get to you as you find yourself caught in yet another spectacular crash. While that’s not always going to be the best thing for either your blood pressure or your position on the leaderboard it never feels particularly unfair.
Fairly swiftly I found that my reactions improved, and that I was starting to find some kind of preternatural awareness about what was going to be around each corner. I don’t think that Dangerous Driving helped to awaken any latent ESP, but it did dig down and pull out years of forgotten reactions that the original Burnout games probably helped to instil.
Racing is the central pole around which Dangerous Driving is propped, but as with its inspiration there’s other things to be thinking about as well. First and foremost is the takedown, the elegant art of slamming into your opponents in an effort to force them off the road in as brutal and as crushing way possible. Over the years plenty of games have cribbed the idea from Burnout 3’s notebook, but few have ever really got the same sense of weight and impact as Criterion’s racer. That’s no longer the case and Dangerous Driving is the closest we’re liable to get to a new Burnout in that regard.
That’s not to say that Dangerous Driving is slavishly beholden to the legacy of its older sibling, and it introduces its own wrinkle into the formula in the shape of persistent wreckage. As you cause chaos by tearing into the other drivers at the beginning of a race, you’ll find that the following laps are made all the more difficult by the smoking remnants of your actions. It’s a brilliant addition and for all the simplicity of it you’ll wonder why it’s not something we’ve seen before, as it alters the way you tackle everything after lap one.
You’ll often need to change your racing line, and you’ll be racking your brain trying to work out whether the next corner was the one where you plunged a red saloon into the barrier. There are of course frustrations – the loss of speed from crashing into anything in Dangerous Driving feels like the biggest comedown since that stag-do in Amsterdam – but when you’re the one that put them there, you’ve really only got yourself to blame.
It’s fitting that permanent wreckage is Dangerous Driving’s defining feature when destruction has been at the heart of Three Fields output for the last few years. It’s a little bit of a disappointment that there’s no further crash zone shenanigans within the Dangerous Driving package, though pre-orders include Danger Zone 2, and I’d love to see an ultimate package that hoovers everything up under one roof.
Dangerous Driving isn’t short on its own content by any stretch though, and there’s plenty of different race formats to sink into across six car classes. They are admittedly ones that any Burnout player will instantly recognise, from Heatwave which sees you chaining multiple boosts together to Road Rage, where the only requirement is to smash every car you can off the road, but the familiarity doesn’t make them any less fun.
The fact that it beds down so firmly into a beloved formula may rankle with some people, but the heady mix of driving on the wrong side of the road – though it’s the “right” side of the road if you’re in the UK or a handful of other places – just missing other cars, and slamming into other racers at insane speeds has rarely felt as welcome as it does here. There’s none of the traffic checking which was introduced with Burnout Revenge, and that helps to dial everything back to being slightly more about skill. It’s like this is an alternate history of the Burnout franchise, and this is the one where Marty gets a pick-up truck and then uses it to ram Biff Tannen off the road. Skillfully.
If you’re playing on PS4 Pro or Xbox One X you’re treated to a generally consistent 60fps, while the other consoles hit 30fps. There are some occasional performance hiccups along the way, with a very solid frame skip in one particular tunnel, and a spot of pop-in far off in the distance, but largely the game holds together very well considering the eye-bleeding speed everything is zipping along at. Beyond that, the game’s presented in a straightforward manner with tidy menus and little more.
Online leaderboards the solitary multiplayer offering at launch. That’s promised for a future update, but even without, the game’s pricing and the small development team have still created plenty of game to enjoy. If you pick up Danger Zone 2 alongside it you’ll have the perfect companion piece, and hours of metal-crunching fun.