Over the last few years, the team at Three Fields Entertainment have been testing the field with a variety of fun, highly ‘dangerous’ affairs. With veterans of the gaming industry in the team, and the creative minds behind the brilliant Burnout series involved, it could well be said that the previous releases of Dangerous Golf, Danger Zone 1 and Danger Zone 2 have been mere fillers as they made progress towards an ultimate goal – that of providing some exhilarating Burnout-styled arcade racing to the masses once more.
And that is where we find ourselves today, with the launch of Dangerous Driving on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. You see, it is this game which has players across the globe chomping at the bit, as they look for a new arcade racer that can manage to deliver the same experience as that found across the entirety of the legendary Burnout franchise. Unfortunately, as much as I and many others would like it to be, this is no Burnout beater. In fact, it’s nowhere near.
Dangerous Driving does start off well though, and from the moment you witness the initial splash screen and get your ears blasted by some fast paced excitement-building music, you’ll be left harking back to years gone by and those games which have quite clearly influenced this arcade speedster. But soon after, the initial enthusiasm wears off, leaving you deflated, wanting more, and wondering how on earth the brilliance of those previous games could ever be created again.
I will however start with the positives and without question, visually things are just fine with what Dangerous Driving delivers. The circuits are well created, offer plenty of undulating tarmac and are well populated by all manner of structure, fauna and background material. The cars look good too, and even though none of the six car classes, or any of the four tuned variations in each ever hit anything near a Forza level of interest, they could just about hold their own in the beauty stakes. It’s nice to be able to pimp each one up a bit too, and even though there are no mechanical upgrades in place, throwing on a new paintjob is a cinch. It’s just a shame that the whole respray system is nothing more than basic at best, with a press of the X button cycling through numerous colours and styles. See one you like and accidentally press to see the next though and you’ll be left wanting forever more.
At the end of the day though Dangerous Driving doesn’t have to really look that good. See, once into the action and partaking in the variety of game modes included, everything very quickly descends into a blur of mashed metal and rushing scenery, all as you focus on the task at hand. This is certainly one of those ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ racers. Or in the case of many, ‘blink and you’ll crash’.
The gameplay itself isn’t too bad either, and it certainly evokes memories of arcade racing from back in the day. Fast, furious and running at a massive rate of knots, Dangerous Driving plays on its name. For the most part it’s all smooth too, with little in the way of lag or stutter… until that is you start racing through a tunnel or over a bridge in which both of those problems occur. These problems never render it unplayable, but when speed and precision is essential, any little jump in visuals is well acknowledged.
With a mixture of game modes that will see you attempting to hit a variety of goals, it could well be argued that Dangerous Driving is not left wanting in the content department either. Yes there is only the ‘Dangerous Driving Tour’ to partake in, but included in that are multiple races spread across nine different race modes to enjoy. These include the likes of Takedown, which provides the opportunity to smash your opponents about, to cross the line first, whilst Road Rage plays even more on the shunting aspect, pushing you to deliver a certain number of Takedowns in a set time period, with bronze, silver, gold and possibly even platinum medals coming your way should you succeed.
This love of destruction is something that is pretty much replicated in the Pursuit mode, as you hop into a cop car and attempt to take down a number of fast and furious racers, smashing into them multiple times in order to ensure their escape is put on hold. This works well and is great fun, but it’s also hugely disappointing that no matter what type of hit you get on these bad guys, the ‘health’ of their car will only ever reduce by one segment each time. Surely it’s not much to ask that the fancier and harder your Takedown, the larger the destruction should be on the opponent?
There are however other modes which rely less on pure destruction, pushing you to nail times across events like those in Shakedown and Survival, whilst Heatwave forgoes the need to worry about your opponents too much, leaving you to build, and utilise, full boost meters and chaining together speed combos. As you would expect, this is the fastest of all the game modes on offer – provided you don’t crash and lose your obtained boost.
You’ll also go head-to-head in pink slip winner-takes-all events against a specific rival, winning their motor should you defeat them, or over an Eliminator styled event as you try to keep out of last place. At times you’ll need to bring together all of the skills you’ve learnt in order to take part in a GP styled event too, consisting of multiple races, and leaderboards to sort the wheat from the chaff.
This racing all takes place across some seven different locations that blast through canyons, over mountains, past lakes and across bleak deserts, with some 270 miles of roads promised in all. In reality though many of the courses blend into one, so much so that you’ll rarely care or realise whether you are spending time behind the wheel on a short, medium or long course, or are found out in the grasslands or blasting through a valley. The action itself is all so fast and so frantic, that eyes will be firmly fixated on the road without a care of what is going on around you.
So Dangerous Driving is certainly that – highly dangerous. And when you are actually in a game, what has been included is decent fun. Except for a few things. In fact, except for many things. Because as you get down and dirty in this dangerous racer, you’ll very quickly begin to spot a ton of errors, glitches, problems and basic slackness that drags the whole experience down. And believe me when I say this, I’m hugely disappointed to flag up those facts.
Firstly, no matter what event you are partaking in, it pretty much plays as the next. And the one after that. And the next. With only really the Pursuit offering allowing for much change. This sees all other events boil down to nothing more than holding the throttle for dear life, building boost by grabbing air, driving on the wrong side of the road or smashing competitors about, before utilising it as much as possible. You’ll rarely brake and you’ll rarely drift – mainly because the drifting is rubbish and hugely inconsistent – leaving you instead to wall ride like the best of them. Or at least to wall ride like you would have done a decade or so in the middle of a Project Gotham Racing melee.
Flicking in and out of traffic is pretty much the name of the game, and whilst the controls allow for this, the physics and hit rates do not and on many occasions I’ve found the merest of clips end in disaster, whilst at other times you can plough headlong through a truck without a care in the world. When you do crash, you’re treated to a brilliant slo-mo of the accident and the option to utilise the Danger Time, given a few seconds to move your hapless wreck across the track to take out unsuspecting racers. This works, occasionally, but the small amount of time given when combined with the slowness in movement leaves it coming across as pretty pointless.
It also doesn’t help that at no point in time will you know where your opponents are, rendering this danger breaker as utterly useless. It would have helped massively if Three Fields had allowed the chance for you to move the camera during gameplay so you can at least view those around you or behind, but the severe restrictions offered with the basic bumper cam or third party chase viewpoint help little. But hey, I guess with the action as fast as it is, there are few times when it is safe to look back.
Even a map of the track running on the HUD, or some indication as to where you are in relation to others would have been appreciated, but with Dangerous Driving it seems that many corners have been cut, and I’m not sure why. This sees events ending as soon as a bronze medal is missed leaving you no way of knowing how close, or far, you are from the finish, whilst in the timed Pursuit races, it seems you are competing against both a clock and a distance counter. With the countdown of the former signifying the end of the event, it’s utterly bemusing why the latter is even there.
Outside of events and things are just as basic. Button prompts will appear or disappear at will, leaving you to second guess the correct face buttons to use, whilst leaderboards that pop up at the end of each event are just as temperamental, either loading forever more to leave you guessing, or showing names of racers who have broken all track records by completing events in less than a second. It’s nice to see the option of being able to remove the heads-up display in Dangerous Driving though, letting you focus on the carnage taking place on screen… or at least it would be if the ‘Hide HUD’ option in the menu did anything other than turn a static screen into a basic photo mode.
Furthermore, and whilst I’m on the negatives, enter a GP – Dangerous Driving’s league system of choice – and simple mathematical additions seem beyond the capabilities of the system that holds it. For the record, if you’re seeing Driver 2 finish ahead of Driver 3 in a race (and yes, these are the complexities of the AI names) you’d expect them to get more points. But alas…
I guess I should also mention the constant game crashing and occasional black screen of death which has afflicted Dangerous Driving on Xbox One too, but in the grand scheme of things, those are the least of the worries, particularly when we’re about to get on to the audio system that is in play. You see, it is here where I must salute Three Fields for being ambitious in what they’ve done, yet unfortunately – once again – Dangerous Driving is left feeling short.
See, the overall sound effects that are utilised throughout the gameplay are average at best, with the sound of a throttle and blast of nitrous coming over as you would expect. The grinding of metal on metal as you slam against a competitor is okay too, but at no point will you be left in awe by the sounds of the underground racing scene. In fact, you’ll probably be left smiling away to yourselves as you are subjected to some frankly rubbish ‘spraying’ of your car as you cycle through paint jobs.
But it’s within the soundtrack that accompanies the action which the biggest disappointment of Dangerous Driving lays – at least for some. See, Three Fields have integrated Spotify into the game, allowing you to choose your own playlists instead of having to listen to default offerings. Now this is all well and good if you have a Spotify Premium subscription and access to millions of tunes, pinging your favourite melodies towards your ears as you blast along. But for those without it, or those preferring to use Apple Music, Google Play, YouTube or the numerous other musical options available to us savvy internet users, well, you’re pretty much stuffed. In fact, there is just the one tune included for those gamers, one that constantly repeats should you like it or not.
For all the good in Dangerous Driving, there are many, many, moments of slackness. All of this combines to see Dangerous Driving deliver one of the most disappointing overall experiences I’ve had for a long old while. Yes, it is capable of producing some great adrenaline hits, but with the team at Three Fields having the Burnout pedigree rushing through their veins, there were high hopes that this would finally be the game to deliver the same such wonderful experience. But Dangerous Driving never gets close to the level of the franchise that it has been built to replicate, and instead is left to deal in many moments that can only be described as nothing but sloppy.