Those who were left disappointed by Danger Zone – Three Fields Entertainment’s first attempt at turning Burnout’s popular Crash Mode into its own game – will be pleased to hear right off the bat that Danger Zone 2 feels much more like the game for which they were looking. The whole idea that you’re working a job as a crash tester in a boring virtual reality warehouse has been thrown out, and the blue skies and sun-kissed highways you’d have expected in the first place are there to replace it.
As you’d expect, your job is to get behind the wheel of one of the game’s eight vehicles – which range from a big rig to an F1 car – and cause chaos. On each of the 23 levels, you’re given a “Run-Up” challenge to take on as you travel to the Danger Zone to unleash hell on the hundreds of hapless drivers who are just going about their business. You’ll be trying to jackknife trucks, smash taxis, and put together boost chains, all before you’re even anywhere near causing your main crash. The ability to guide cars that you check along the way to the left and right by pressing square or circle is an outstanding idea that provides a real tactical element as you try to chase those high scores. Blasting a hatchback across two lanes a bus while driving at full speed, knowing that it’ll cause a chain reaction of mashed metal, is blissful. Doing it and then finding the perfect spot for your big finish is divine, especially when you then hit your Smashbreaker to blow the car up before persuading your now-wrecked vehicle to fly into all the cash reward medals in order. If you’ve done exceedingly well, you might even then trigger that second Smashbreaker you captured along the way so that the whole place ends up looking like an insurance claims processor’s worst nightmare.
At times, Danger Zone 2 feels like it could have been pulled directly from an unreleased sequel to one of the better Burnout titles. At others, it feels like it could have been pulled directly off the development kit of an alpha tester.
On my very first run, my car fell through the floor of the game world as soon as I triggered my Smashbreaker. On my third and fourth runs, my car got wedged vertically in the cement and wouldn’t move. By the time I’d unlocked all 23 of the levels – which took about an hour and a half – Danger Zone 2 had crashed to the dashboard no less than six times. One level tasks you with hitting the cinematic “slow-mo” command as you go over four jumps. That’s fine, but about one in eight times the slow-mo view doesn’t reset properly and locks to the reverse view when you exit it. As it happens, it’s pretty difficult to know where you’re going when you’re staring at the wrong side of the rear-view mirror. Throw in some hit-and-miss punishments where your run ends for reasons that you can’t work out, and things get frustrating. Grind one barrier, and you’ll be fine. Grind the identical one next to it, and you have to start over as the game decides that you’ve crashed. Frustration isn’t a strong enough word when a great game is so obviously being obscured by a wall of rough edges and general jankiness. Some of the issues are jarring enough that they’ll give you imaginary whiplash. Depending on if you buy it now or when the inevitable post-launch patches roll out, your mileage may vary, of course.
The game’s UI – which could well have been designed in Microsoft Word – will probably be unusable for some people. They’ve gone for simplicity here, and as any designer knows, simplicity isn’t necessarily that simple. My eyesight is fine, but even with a 55” screen, I was having trouble seeing things. It turns out small white text with hardly any outline dropped on top of a game that contains a whole bunch of perfectly white clouds is not such a good idea. It’s quite surprising that the team has taken this approach when you consider just how accomplished and sharp the game itself looks. Still, at least the background music isn’t repetitive enough to get stuck in your head while you’re squinting to work out what the highest score for the level is, but that’s largely because there isn’t so much as a single note of it to be found anywhere.
Shovin’ Into Overdrive
However – and this is such a big one that it should be read as HOW-FREAKIN’-EVER – in spite of the non-vehicular crashes, oversights, general bare-bones feeling, and the bugs, Danger Zone 2 will probably get you to stick around. It won’t take long before the game has its hooks into you, calling you back to give that level just one more spin so that you can try for the platinum score. Naturally, that attempt will then turn into two dozen more. Even if you fail a handful of them because of things that aren’t your fault, you’ll likely try again and again until you beat the target. I said the game crashed to the dashboard six times and wasn’t exaggerating. But it’s saying something that the second it crashed, I fired it right back up again every single time. I’m halfway to getting the platinum score on each level and have no intention of stopping until I do. In reality, it should only take someone with an average level of skill a handful of hours to beat everything, as there isn’t an abundance of content to be found. Six training levels, 23 main levels, and a handful of bonus levels – which are lap-time challenges, as opposed to crash areas – are all that’s on offer. Though when weighed up against the $20 asking price, it’s not an overly thin experience.
Beyond the addictive, puzzle-like challenge of hitting those high scores, there’s a fantastic sense of speed here. When you’re belting around in the F1 car, just scraping past trucks and getting through minuscule gaps in the traffic, things feel suitably rewarding. It’s just such a kick in the airbags that for every time that feeling reveals itself, there are two more times when you’ll be frustrated by one of Danger Zone 2’s bugs or general inconsistencies.
Danger Zone 2 review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.