Burnout 3: Takedown was an still is one of the best racing games out there, and part of the reason it was so revered was because, on top of the high quality racing action it offered, there was also an element of danger, as you could at any time total your car if you were to clip a tree or corner too fast. Nowhere was this danger more celebrated (and encouraged) that in the Crash Mode, which tasked you with driving into traffic to collect powerups and cause as much damage as possible.
Enter Three Fields Entertainment's Danger Zone, a game from ex-Criterion developers Fiona Sperry and Alex Ward, devs who know the Burnout series inside out. Who better to make a Burnout spiritual successor than Burnout devs, after all. This time, though, Crash Mode is the focus, and it's the first time in a while that we've seen the mode in action, the Burnout series having raced off into the distance quite some time ago.
Those of you who have played Crash Mode will instinctively know what to do when you're given control of your car. The format is almost identical, as you're driving your car, there are roads in front of you, and there are pickups scattered on those roads. You then have a chance to try to cause as much vehicular carnage as you can to get one of three medals, before unlocking the next challenge.
The big difference, however, is the setting. Part of the appeal of Burnout 3's Crash Mode was that it took the roads you were used to seeing across the world and then let you loose on them, creating carnage on these 'real' roads, each with a distinct feel, details, and vehicles. In Danger Zone, however, the entirety of the action is contained to a testing facility, which is basically a dark warehouse, and vehicles come from teleporters into the small sections of road. It feels as if all of the effort has gone into recreating the very core of the experience - the crashes between vehicles - but that this has come at the expense of all the bells and whistles that made Crash Mode a masterpiece.
If we focus just on this core aspect though, Danger Zone pulls it off very well. Just like Crash Mode, t-boning lorries at high speeds, exploding in a heap of traffic, and multi-car pileups, are all just as satisfying as ever, and smashbreakers are the icing on the cake, allowing you to cause more damage after you crash with explosions activated at the tap of a button. Once in the air you can then guide your wrecked car in mid-air to wreak even more havoc. The team at Three Fields Entertainment clearly knows how to make chaotic fun, as they've made a number of great jumps and busy intersections for you to destroy, and it all works just as well as it did back in 2004.
One thing we were a little disappointed by is the lack of vehicle choice. Throughout the game you can only play as this one car, a dull white saloon that clearly isn't built for speed or power, and we lamented that there were no other car options, or customisation options either. That being said, there's plenty of vehicle variety in terms of the cars you crash into, which makes up for it a little bit.
You'd be forgiven for assuming the game is pretty easy, when you can pile into traffic and activate explosions relatively regularly, but you'd be wrong, as there's quite a challenge in the 20 crash scenarios on offer. It plays much like a puzzle game in the sense that you have to work out where is best to crash first to maximise damage and get pickups, and then possibly where to go after that, as you could use your smashbreaker to direct yourself into a second location. Once you work the sequence out, you then have to find that sweet spot and hit the traffic, ensuring that all lanes are yours to pummel.
Saying that, we'd have liked to see a bit more than 20 crash scenarios in the game. The challenging nature of these scenarios extends the lifespan of the game, and you can always go back and try for higher scores, but more scenarios would have been welcome, maybe with more really high-octane features like loops, corkscrew jumps, and explosives.
In short, the fact that Danger Zone is entirely set in a testing facility, lacks in variety, and has only a few scenarios, means that it ultimately feels like a training mode for Burnout 3's Crash Mode, a comparison we wouldn't make if it wasn't for the fact that the development history and gameplay invites it so clearly. It suffers from the Crash Mode comparison, and while the mechanics all work and the essence is there, it just doesn't live up to expectations.