For the past five years, Three Fields Entertainment has been building and building to one release. Founded by some of the minds behind the best arcade racing games of all time, their goal was simple: recreate Burnout. If EA isn’t going to do it, someone has to, so why not them? Now, with Dangerous Driving, the studio is almost all the way there, producing a facsimile of sublime and unforgettable Burnout 3: Takedown that will be good enough for most. It’s not the most technically sound game in the world, and it’s missing lots of features. Still, there’s nothing quite like indulging in this style of over the top racing combat once again.
Dangerous Driving Review | Looking in the rear view
Yes, Dangerous Driving is almost desperate to make the connection between itself and Criterion’s past. Everything from the look of the menus to the loading screens to the orchestra sting whenever you get a takedown is all ripped right from its inspiration, potential lawsuits be damned. Most of the terminology is the same too. Outside of the word “Burnout” changing to “Heatwave,” you’ve got everything from Psyche Outs and Boost Shunts to Hot Streaks and Aftertouch. All the mechanics and game modes you remember are present and accounted for.
You’ll play through all of them too. At launch, the only way to play Dangerous Driving is through a linear series of events. There are 31 tracks split into seven areas inspired by national parks. This means that you’ll be blasting through a lot of wide open roads, which is a bit of a departure from the crowded cityscapes of Burnout proper. Still, there’s plenty of variety in your surroundings. At times, Dangerous Driving even manages to impress visually with its vast deserts and woodlands blazing by. It’s clear that this game is working above and beyond its scope as a budget title.
In addition to the tracks, there’s a good variety in the mission types. You need to play almost all of them in each class, meaning you’ll need a well-rounded skillset. Most Burnout veterans will find a good time in Road Rage, where the goal is to force as many rivals to crash as possible. There’s also the new Pursuit mode, where you climb into a cop car and keep slamming into criminals until you run them off the road. These are the bread and butter of the campaign, and they’re still fun even in this more limited form.
Dangerous Driving Review | Junkyard dogs
The problem comes in the fact that you have to play pretty much every event to progress. This means you’ll be going through Heatwave, which takes the rules back to Burnout 2. Instead of slamming into rivals to claim victory, you need to hold your boost as you get progressively faster. This type of race is fast-paced fun, but it takes a completely different skillset than everything else in the package. It was jarring whenever this mode or the similarly crash-free Survival events came up. Honoring the entire franchise as much as possible is admirable, but there’s a reason Burnout 3 was the game that took off all those years ago.
Whether you’re in a single race or an Eliminator gauntlet, you’ll notice the one new wrench Three Fields threw in the works. In Dangerous Driving, whenever you crash, your wreck remains in play. Get enough takedowns in a single area and you’ll create a makeshift minefield to swerve through. Blast into a hollowed out four-wheeled carcass and you’ll end up a Nervous Wreck. This tweak isn’t always noticeable, but it is certainly a clever twist, especially in the later events. It makes up for some of the less complex tracks by giving you more to dodge as you boost your way to victory.
Dangerous Driving Review | In need of a tune up
On the surface, everything so far is all well and good. However, Dangerous Driving isn’t quite there in terms of feel. The driving works pretty well, even if it can be a little floaty as you move in and out of drifts. The real weirdness comes with the takedowns. It is way too easy to slam rivals off the road with a simple tap. Grinding against a car’s side is gone, and every shunt sends racers flying. In addition, after seeing the “kill cam” for your takedown, it’s hard to tell where your car will end up. Sometimes, you’ll smash the first place driver, watch them careen away, and then came back to see several other cars passing you by. It isn’t fair.
This might have something to do with the shaky physics. There were a few bugs where I flew way farther than I should have from a crash before hilariously respawning back on the road. Speaking of, there was also at least one case of an infinite respawn loop where I couldn’t get out of the crash cam. None of these are game-breaking errors, but they do contribute to the notion that you’re playing a game of modest means.
Dangerous Driving Review | Full speed in reverse
In another example, Dangerous Driving lacks any form of free play or versus modes at this time. An online component will (hopefully) come during the first month of release, but there’s only one way to play on launch day. Dangerous Driving also lacks a soundtrack, choosing instead to implement Spotify integration to let you play your own tunes. If you’re not a Spotify subscriber, you’ll just have to put something on in the background yourself. These are more minor annoyances, but they all add up.
If you’re playing on a computer, the problems don’t end there. Dangerous Driving is currently an Epic Games Store exclusive title. This usually wouldn’t impact a review in any way, but the client’s lack of features makes this PC release strictly inferior to its console counterparts. Since the EGS currently doesn’t have achievement support, neither does Dangerous Driving. This is excusable, but the additional lack of online leaderboards is the real bummer. Not being able to compete with friends for bragging rights is killer in a single player experience all about speed. In a game this barebones, the lack of these features really stands out.
Dangerous Driving Review | Racing unopposed
Despite the sparse menus and weird gameplay hiccups, Dangerous Driving is still a hell of a great time. Progressing through the events at breakneck speeds is a blast all the way through. Plus, unlike past Three Fields offerings, there’s plenty of content to chew through in this initial release. If you go in with the right expectations, you will certainly enjoy getting behind the wheel. Even if you’ve never picked up a Burnout game before now, Dangerous Driving is worth a look. Outside of re-releases, there’s just nothing out there quite like this.
If you’re already a member of the lazy generation, you owe it to yourself to hit the gas on this nostalgia trip. This isn’t just a cover band getting back together and playing the hits. This game stands as a proof of concept, a testament that there’s still life in the arcade racing genre. The road ahead is pretty rocky, but the spirit is as alive as ever. Here’s hoping that there’s plenty more Dangerous Driving in the future.
GameRevolution reviewed Dangerous Driving on PC via Epic Games Store with a code provided by the developer.