The developers behind Danger Zone know exactly what their public wants, but it’s been tough for them to satisfy that want so far. Their first release was Dangerous Golf, a spin on Burnout‘s Crash Mode that had a rough launch and a patch that was seen as too little too late by many. After that, they took a VR tinged side trip with Lethal VR, producing a functional but unimpressive shooting gallery that didn’t stand up among the countless other entries into that genre. Now, Three Fields Entertainment is back one more time with a more direct version of Crash Mode. Danger Zone brings back the cars and the
crashsmashbreakers, but it ultimately ends up offering nothing but a tantalizing glimpse at one possible future.
For those who didn’t grow up on the mean streets of Paradise City, Danger Zone is a puzzle game about crashing cars. An intersection is laid out in front of you, and your task is to barrel into traffic and cause as much damage as possible. Once you incapacitate enough vehicles, you gain a smashbreaker, which lets you explode and then pilot your wreck in midair towards more cars and/or smashbreaker pickups. As you hit cars after an explosion, you get score multipliers, and your final damage count is tallied once your wreck become immobile and all the other cars stop careening into each other.
As I first loaded into the game, I felt right at home. I completed every challenge in Burnout 3 back in the day, and the masters of arcade racing haven’t lost a step over the years. While your vehicle here is a bit loose on the turns, navigating after a crash felt smooth and enjoyable. I got a kick out of how cars reacted to crashes,9+ and it was wonderful to see a whole pack of traffic plow into an overturned truck bed and pile up to the sky. Even when the game breaks slightly and you see a car trying to force its way through a tiny hole using only the power of the game’s physics engine, it still holds up in the charm department.
The soul of Burnout‘s Crash Mode is definitely intact, but it’s everything around that gameplay core that holds Danger Zone at the starting line. You’ll immediately notice that your car doesn’t have a boost function. It’s probably not necessary to have this considering that your vehicle hits top speed almost instantly, but it’s a little thing that works against the rest of the game in capturing that elusive Crash Mode feeling. Still, I was pleased to discover that “traffic checking” from Burnout: Revenge was present here, meaning that you can rear end a car and send them hurtling into other lanes to cause one wreck while you veer off to start another. By the time you hit the game’s later stages, it’s almost vital that you master this technique if you want to progress.
Of course, it won’t take you too long to get to those later stages. Perhaps the biggest problem with Danger Zone is just how thin the offering is. The entire game is twenty levels, which took me under two hours to complete. For people who are new to this style of game, it might last a little longer than that, but the game is good enough about teaching you what to do that I can’t see them stretching the game past the three-hour mark. Once you beat all the levels, your only replayability comes from topping the leaderboards or grabbing achievements, which isn’t going to appeal to everyone. The game seems tailor-made for expansion, but it’s hard to consider the content here as a full release.
If you are going to go after a high score, you’re going to want to restart a level over and over, but Danger Zone doesn’t really feel built for that. Every event starts with a loading screen, a few button prompts to mash through, and a three-second countdown before you’re back in the action. Even if you’re not going for high scores, you might have to restart levels to figure out a puzzle or start again if your car gets knocked off the road and disqualified, and it’s easy to see how frustration could set in once you get stuck on a specific level.
The presentation of the game also has some very rough edges. Outside of the sound of cars crashing into each other, the game has no music and no DJ introducing each course. The lack of announcer was eventually fixed in a patch to Dangerous Golf, but that same fix wasn’t applied from the start here and is sorely missed. The visuals are impressive when it comes to explosions, but the cars are pretty much static once you get into a wreck. Outside of cargo trucks spilling toilets or giant tires onto the road, there is a disappointing lack of debris, doubly so if you consider the type of destruction that was on display in Three Fields’ prior work. On top of all of that, the game’s entire conceit of a “test chamber running crash junctions” feels sterile, and there are only small glimpses into the attitude and fun that oozed out of Danger Zone‘s predecessors. When added in with the short length, the entire game feels very disposable and just left me wanting more.
Don’t get me wrong, it still feels amazing to be playing new Burnout-styled content from the masters themselves. Arcade racing games have been in short supply, and Danger Zone was great fun while it lasted. However, the size of the package here is punishingly small, and the game lacks any identity of its own. After over a decade, it’s going to take more than nostalgia to truly win back fans, and I hope that Danger Zone ends up being just another pit stop as Three Fields drives toward their true destination.
Danger Zone's gameplay is rock solid, but its sparse presentation and short length make for a pretty forgettable experience.
- Revival of Crash Mode
- Physics Fun
- Impressive Explosions
- Extremely Short Length
- Sterile Presentation
- Lack of Soundtrack and Announcer