Three Fields Entertainment got its start when its two founders left Criterion Games after parent company Electronic Arts shifted Criterion’s franchise focus from Burnout to Need for Speed – away from demolition derby to more traditional racing. Three Fields wanted to keep the spirit of Burnout alive, and in 2017 they began realizing that dream with the debut of Danger Zone. That game, and its sequel Danger Zone 2, were built around the puzzle-like crash junctions found in the original Burnout titles. With their latest release, Dangerous Driving, Three Fields attempts to bring back the core of Burnout, reaching the finish line using all means necessary, including ramming opponents off the road.
Dangerous Driving features a range of rule sets with one general theme: being as reckless as possible without crashing. Taking out opponent racers or playing chicken with oncoming cars will fill a boost meter, allowing players to charge ahead or catch up to the pack. Wins will unlock new modes, new vehicles, and (most importantly) new vehicle classes such as SUVs, supercars and even formula racers.
Here’s what I liked
Brilliant graphics – The visuals in Dangerous Driving are as varied as the driving action itself. Settings include beachsides, deserts and snowy mountainous regions. The tracks are well designed with an emphasis on hairpin corners, tunnels and long straightaways. Some courses are point-to-point, while others have multiple variations depending on the mode and car type involved. Most all of them are incredibly long, with laps sometimes taking two to three minutes. When races take place at sunrise or sunset, the glare off the road is remarkably realistic, to the point of wanting to grab some sunglasses. This, in turn, makes spotting traffic that much more challenging, to say nothing of your planned intent for that knowledge (dodging it or smashing it). Players on Xbox One X will get improved frame rates, textures and 1440p resolution with standard range color sets.
Rulesets a-plenty – Just like its predecessor franchise, there are many different ways to race and crash in Dangerous Driving. There is the standard Race mode, which simply requires you to be first across the finish line. There’s also the Face-Off, where the player challenges another racer for a chance to win their car and use it in later races. Of course, players come to this type of racer for the crashes, and there’s a lot of ways to race that way here, such as Eliminator (last place racer is removed each lap) and Road Rage (take out as many rivals as possible). To keep players from getting bored with the current car type, the Shakedown Previews let drivers take future cars for a spin prior to unlocking them.
Here’s what I didn’t like
No multiplayer – The game’s AI has some oddities about it, such as starting races a fraction of a second before you do and being seemingly able to traverse huge deficits and catch up to players during the cut-scenes after the player crashes. Therefore, the logical response would be to race in multiplayer modes only, right? About that … there aren’t any. It’s you and the AI only. Since part of the visceral thrill of Burnout is taking out other players, this is a GIANT omission from the game. On their website for the game, Three Fields Entertainment states that Xbox Live multiplayer is coming in a future free update.
No (free) music – I love a good racing soundtrack, to the point where I shouldn’t be driving with certain musical selections playing on the car stereo. So you’re probably wondering what I think of the soundtrack in Dangerous Driving, and I would certainly like to tell you what I think of it … unfortunately I can’t, because the game doesn’t have any music at all. It has acceptable sound effects, but the sum total of musical selections in the game is one, a rock ditty played during the menus. That said, the game does offer the option to link a Spotify Premium subscription, allowing players to create custom playlists for their use. This is an impressive option, but requiring users to subscribe to a service they may not currently use just to hear in-game music is a bad look, especially with no free option as a fallback position.
Lack of information – The average racing game offers pretty good telematics, such as a minimap. Well, you’ve probably guessed by now that there isn’t one. Considering how large the tracks are in the game, knowing where the opposition is (not to mention where the player is on the course) would be greatly helpful. While not present in the original “Burnout” titles, another helpful item would be a health gauge, primarily due to another glaring shortcoming in the game.
Inconsistent physics – In the real world, physics really comes down to three words: bigger object wins. In the gaming world, each interaction should behave in exactly the same way, even if it doesn’t precisely follow the rules of reality. That specificity should of course take into consideration the types of objects involved, but there needs to still be a form of consistency. Again, that consistency is absent. Minor collisions with “innocent” (non-racing) vehicles can wipe out your vehicle, or you could glance off of them. The result won’t be known until the collision occurs and the game runs its algorithm to determine what happens. This sadly eliminates one of the best parts of Burnout, traffic-checking. This ability to use non-player vehicles to create accidents that will ensnare other competitors is yet another surprising omission from the designers that practically invented the concept. The in-game instructions do state that different vehicles in a given class can be stronger or weaker depending on how they’re tuned, which is a good idea that again demands something telling you just how much stronger or weaker it is (the aforementioned health meter, as an example).
I am happy to see that Three Fields is working hard to resurrect Burnout, and I was overall pleased with how the first step on that path – the first Danger Zone – turned out. When this game landed in my inbox, I did have very high hopes that this would be the Burnout of old that helped introduce me to Xbox 360 racing, as one of my first Xbox 360 purchases was Burnout Revenge. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed by an ostensibly full-featured release that appears to be a beta in disguise. Three Fields is promising free updates that add content and fix issues. Unfortunately, as it stands today, players would be better advised to set their satnav’s destination for another title.
Score: Limited Appeal
Dangerous Driving was developed and published by Three Fields Entertainment. It was released on April 9, 2019 for $29.99. The author was provided a copy of the game for the purpose of this review.