Danger Zone 1 was close, so close, to matching the fun of the old Burnout games’ Crash Mode. It just couldn’t reach the last few meters, even though it brought some interesting new ridiculousness to later levels that had floating cars and a chance for raining taxis exploding along the route. Danger Zone 2 might be a correction that loses the virtual crash simulation for a return to something closer in spirit to that beloved crash mode of yore.
If you’ve ever played a Burnout game crash mode, you’ll recognize the way that Danger Zone 2’s crash puzzles work. Drive up to an intersection at high-speed and attempt to rack up as much damage as you can, scored in dollars, by smashing into other vehicles. Once you rack up those high scores in Danger Zone 2 you can admire them on the online leaderboard for each scenario and collect virtual medals to mark your progress, but that is it for progression. You won’t unlock cars, or skins, or anything else.
There are a few big changes to the gameplay formula this time out. Danger Zone 2 calls the intersection the “Danger Zone” and now has optional objectives before you hit it. They call this the “run up,” like smashing into every limo or jack-knifing every articulated truck. Those goals can be fun, but they’re also a distraction from the original goal of slamming into an intersection and trying to ping-pong off of each vehicle and nailing every smashbreaker power-up and score bonus for the “grand slam.” Sometimes you could be driving for a few minutes in the “run up” before hitting the Danger Zone, which makes it a bit more difficult to work on improving your scores.
It’s frustrating to have a good run up, hitting all of your goals, and then completely botch the score-seeking fun in the Danger Zone and remember that any restart you do is going to wipe out your progress on the run up. It is even more frustrating to struggle with meeting your goals in the run-up while nailing the Danger Zone crash and having that level marked as incomplete. At least the levels load and restart much quicker with Danger Zone 2 on Windows than they did for me on the Xbox One version of the original game.
Danger Zone 1 had a virtual NTSB-style crashing test facility aesthetic that encompassed the whole game from the menu to the pithy jokes before the level began. Danger Zone 2 has blue skies across a global, but somewhat samey, real-world style environment.
Danger Zone 1’s game-ending grid ruined your day if you fell off the virtual test track, Danger Zone 2 has environments that sometimes oddly let you roam off-track until you crash into something or hit an invisible wall. That feels like an improvement except the original environment blessed Danger Zone 1’s designers with the freedom to place tracks for you to drive on in elaborate mid-air configurations. Danger Zone 2 is definitely more graphically pleasing at first glance, but sometimes you’d have a half-dozen of levels of track to tumble through in Danger Zone 1, bringing chaos and destruction with you. Danger Zone 2’s real-world style of environments have none of that creativity. I still believe there’s a mid-point between these two styles to be made with the outrageous designs of DZ 1’s tracks around real-world style environments.
Danger Zone 2 has a wider range of vehicles, some offer boosting while others focus on destructibility, but you can’t pick what car you would like for a scenario, you’re limited to whatever the designers chose for that level. The finest experience in DZ 2 might be driving the tractor-trailer cab which can knock over any of the other vehicles in the game, but you won’t bring that experience to any other scenarios, and the menus don’t bother to tell you ahead of time which vehicle you’ll be driving with so you can’t easily return to one that had a favorite mode unless you remember the level’s name.
Boosting can be earned from driving dangerously, just like in Burnout, but Danger Zone doesn’t have enough visual and audio feedback to let you know that you’re earning boost and what caused it. Was it a near-miss? Does driving into oncoming traffic still do it? The game just doesn’t tell you.
There is one very solid improvement to traffic checking. The feature that lets you slam into traffic to send them careening off into other vehicles, can now steer them into a certain direction by holding down one of the controller keys (X or B on an XBox controller.) It’s a good and fun upgrade that is necessary when you need to take out a larger vehicle, but anyone who plays the game will just keep doing it for fun once you learn how.
The first game felt a little incomplete, it had some of the most abbreviated menus in gaming. Danger Zone 2’s menus are sterile and boring without Danger Zone 1’s style. These menus are so barren that you can’t change the sound settings or rebind keys. The rest of the settings are limited to some graphic rendering options, toggling controller vibration, and changing the sensitivity of the mouse cursor if you’re trying to play without a controller. You’re either going to play crash mode in one of the 23 crash puzzle scenarios, or you can try the 3 survival racing scenarios to challenge the online leaderboard. That is it.
The wonderful driving music hook from the original Burnout games is still missing a Danger Zone-y counterpart. Instead, the menus just have a relaxing scene of traffic breezing along behind them. Typically I listen to music while writing these reviews, instead I left the main menu on to collect my thoughts, which was a completely unexpected feature from a game about crashing cars.
Many of Danger Zone 2’s missing features feel like what you would get only if the game was about more than crashing and also featured the other side of the older Burnout games, the destructive racing that necessitated more thought into feedback systems and driving tutorials. For example, Danger Zone 2 has drifting, but it’s never explained and is rarely useful, yet there is a Steam achievement for drifting over a long stretch of track in their F1-style car. These days you’d expect an in-game counter to pop-up and tell you how close you are to achieving that goal, at least. That isn’t in Danger Zone 2.
While I finished the main campaign in about 3 hours, I can spend more time getting higher up the leaderboards on some levels, Danger Zone 2 feels a little bit like a sneak peak of something else when it ends with a prompt to look forward to Dangerous Driving, the upcoming racing game coming out later this year. It feels like perhaps Three Fields has stretched themselves too thin in trying to ship too many games at once. Danger Zone 2 is an almost complete crashing game that just came out, and the other half of it just might be in a game coming out so soon.
Maybe I’m wrong. This could be the complete vision from Three Fields for their crash mode. There is still some fun to be had in crashing and tearing up the road, but I feel like this game is ultimately too limited for the $20 asking price. There is something to be said for stripping out some of the crap that was stacked on top of the later Burnout sequels and starting over from a bare-bones base. I recently tried to play Burnout Revenge for the 360, emulated on the Xbox One and it had almost too much going on, but at least it felt like a complete game.
Danger Zone 2 might be supported well after the release like Three Fields did with their previous games. Dangerous Golf and Danger Zone 1 both got gameplay updates with more levels for free long after they came out. However, with the post-game advertisement for Dangerous Driving I’m not very hopeful that this game will get the love that it needs.
It’s just kind of baffling as to who thought this game was done and would encourage anyone to buy a driving game in the same universe when it’s released in a few months. My hope is that Three Fields continues to work on the Danger Zone formula and find some success in their niche, but they’re facing more competition now than they were a year ago. Games like Wreckfest and Onrush bringing new ideas to the vehicular-smash-em-up genre. As it is, I would probably recommend Danger Zone 1 over 2, because the first game expressed a new vision with new ideas. Even if Danger Zone 1’s simulated environment was drab, the level design was completely ridiculous. It’s $5 cheaper, to boot.
2/5 jackknifed tractor-trailers for Danger Zone 2.