Dangerous Driving: review

Remember when everybody got excited about last year’s remaster of the decade-old Burnout Paradise? It proved that people are hungry for a new entry in the series… and there still hasn’t been one (we don’t talk about disappointing 2011 spin-off Burnout Crash!). Well, now there is one! Sort of. Le Burnout est mort, vive le Burnout!

Dangerous Driving comes from Three Fields Entertainment, a developer that enjoys a boost from some ex-Criterion staff. These people know Burnout, because they are Burnout, and it shows. Within seconds of starting your first race, you’ll be thrown back into the days of playing the first few Burnout games, back when online racing was little more than a madman’s dream for console gamers. You won’t, you know, literally be thrown back in time. The cars don’t go that fast.

They don’t half shift, though, and that’s a huge part of the sweet, sweet nostalgia. Even the slowest cars can rapidly achieve speeds you’ll rarely see in big-budget racers, and the handling is pleasingly, unapologetically unrealistic (and therefore fun). As with Burnout, DD takes place on fictional roads with traffic to avoid as well as rivals to beat and/or smash into the scenery. The key to any victory is your boost bar, which can only be filled by – oh, look at that – dangerous driving. Reckless drifts, near misses, and especially hurtling along the wrong side of the road will give you some tasty tasty boost. Wreck a rival, and your boost bar is completely filled immediately. Familiar favourite Road Rage even makes an appearance, where your sole objective is to destroy as many rival racers as possible. So, it’s just a new Burnout game without the rights to the name? Not quite.

The Chase HQ-inspired Pursuit mode sees you repeatedly ram cars until they crash horrifically, just like a real policeman.

In terms of gameplay, there’s only really one change. It’s a simple one, but one that changes the way you think and act while playing. While you’re still gleefully encouraged to destroy the cars of your opponents during regular races, car wrecks don’t disappear. They stay on the road until the race is over. Therefore, while it’s tempting to start swinging your car into the others on the first corner possible, you may regret it on lap two when you smash into a previous victim, and find yourself at the back of the pack by the time you respawn. You can still enjoy aftertouch takedowns by slowing down time when you’re wrecked, but it’s very difficult to use this to negate the effects of a crash.

This is largely because, to be honest, Dangerous Driving seems to stack the odds against the player at a harsher angle than Burnout ever did. AI behaviour doesn’t seem entirely consistent, but crash recoveries much faster than yours and near-constant boost are not uncommon. Much more frustrating are the technical issues which, while not constant, are certainly regular. There’s absolutely no consistency when it comes to which collisions you can survive and which you cannot (although to be fair, the whole point is that you should be trying to avoid them anyway). On rare occasions you’ll crash for no apparent reason, or – even worse because of how long it takes to properly recover – taking a corner badly could suddenly, awkwardly, and illogically bring your car to a sudden halt… facing the wrong direction. These things are symptoms of the low budget, as are the complete lack of in-race music (unless you have a premium Spotify account to link) and the bare-bones menus.

It’s also arguably unfortunate that all the content is unlocked in a largely linear way. Get at least a bronze medal in race A to unlock races B and C, finish all races in car type 1 to unlock the first race of car type 2, etc. On top of that, the later Face Off 1v1 races can make the presence of your opponent almost seem superfluous, so perfectly do they race that it may as well be a time trial where success is only possible by finishing within a certain time. Dangerous Driving is not a difficult game to criticise. Yet it is an extremely difficult game to hate.

Despite the many pitfalls, and the complete absence of multiplayer (promised as upcoming “free DLC”), this game is absolutely crammed full of old school fun. Sure, if a technical issue suddenly causes you problems – or costs you a whole race – you’ll grit your teeth, and quite likely say a naughty word. Yet you’ll immediately start the race again from the beginning, and you’ll do so gladly.

The new “Heatwave” mode sums the game up quite well. Here, you have theoretically infinite boost, with a few caveats. You can only trigger boost once the bar is full, and you cannot take your finger off the boost button unless you’re happy to lose all that extra speed and work on building the bar back up again. These are demanding, unforgiving races that can take place on tracks several minutes long. Like the game as a whole, Heatwave demands a lot of dedication and patience from the player… but offers miles of speed, satisfaction, and enjoyment in return.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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