video games

Danger Zone 2 Review (Windows)

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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.

Go for the gold

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.

My car would sometimes become stuck in the road. This was one of the odder bugs I came across just a few times.

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.

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Danger Zone 2 is Out Almost Everywhere

It feels like just yesterday that I was reviewing the first Danger Zone game from Three Fields Entertainment. That was the Burnout-like car-crash-em-up made by ex-Burnout developers, but it didn’t quite hit the mark. The virtual space that housed Danger Zone 1’s intersections was a little boring, but that and the car-eating grid that took away your score looks like it might be gone for good in the sequel, Danger Zone 2.

It looks like Three Fields took the feedback to heart and have set this follow-up on 26 real-world streets that’ll be more entertaining for the whole family to crash on.

Hopefully Three Fields found a way to preserve some of the end-game ridiculousness that made Danger Zone 1 good, I’ve got a request for a Windows review copy out to the developer.

Danger Zone 2 is out now for $20 on the PS4 (and upgraded for the Pro), Xbox One (and upgraded for the X), and on Steam for Windows.

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Danger Zone Review (Xbox One)

Three Fields Entertainment’s Danger Zone is so close to what we want from a successor to Burnout’s crash mode.

You can skip this next paragraph if you’ve read the last thing, but just for anyone who doesn’t know the context around Three Fields Entertainment’s Danger Zone, here it is:

Burnout was a fantastic game series that I loved, it had arcade-style racing that rewarded you for driving into oncoming traffic (and other absurd stunts) in its races or crashing into as many vehicles as possible in the crash mode. Sadly, that game series is dead and the last big game in the series, Burnout Paradise, had a crappy version of crash mode that isn’t worth talking about.

Danger Zone is all of the good crash mode. You drive a car into an intersection, or series of intersections. Once your car hits a certain number of other cars you get a bonus that lets your car explode and then you can roll your car into more vehicles and more power ups, some of which let your car explode again. There is some thought you have to put into it when you figure out a path to hit everything just so. Do it right and you’ll get a great score by causing the most destruction. It’s a little puzzle of planning out pain.

That stuff, it’s almost all there in Danger Zone, the crashing, the rolling your car through the air to hit other intersections. What they’ve changed from Burnout is the virtual environment Danger Zone takes place in instead of the ostensibly real world that Burnout inhabited. Danger Zone trades cities and their highways for roads that appear to materialize before you after the level loads. All the cars you drive are emblemized to indicate that they’re similar to crash test cars. It’s a mix of the holodeck from Star Trek and the IIHS crash test videos.

The simulation of roads and vehicles lets the level designers get creative and make layouts that could never happen in real life. There are some truly ridiculous levels as you keep playing through the game. Intersections full of the smashbreaker rewards that let you keep rolling on to other roundabouts that float in the air.

Here’s an example of how ridiculous these Danger Zone levels get. In the last tier of levels you’ll find one that has taxi cabs hovering in the sky. They rain down and explode as you drive under them to add a challenge to getting just the right path for the highest score. It looks cool to see them hanging out above the ground with the stars above them, but it isn’t fun to avoid them. Your car’s handling is so close to good, but it ended up being incredibly frustrating to try and dodge these cabs.

The other levels in the final tier get even crazier with drives through the center of spinning roundabouts while you do hockey-checks and push cars into disaster.

As ridiculous as the environments can get, Danger Zone only really has two or three different styles for them, with a few different lighting conditions. There’s a virtual holodeck world in a huge metal box, there’s one with an outdoor open air skybox with a scuffed white paint job on the walls above the laser grid, and one final mode with the same holodeck as the first but with a starry night skybox instead of a boring warehouse ceiling.

It really makes me miss the urban disasters of Burnout and wish for something in-between. Without the simulated test facility vibe, it’d be incredible to play a similar game that featured these crashes in a semi-realistic environment of Burnout that gradually changed into a completely bent world with the same layouts that you have in Danger Zone.

Those ridiculous levels at the end of Danger Zone would be so much better if there were city blocks teeming with life spinning around the path you’re driving through. Or farmer’s fields with cows, or whatever. It could be an amazing trip, but the virtual environment ultimately detracts from the fun that is hidden in Danger Zone. Almost every roadway in the game has minimal or no barriers to prevent you from falling off of it, and then landing onto a grid that slowly eats your car and forces you to give up your progress and restart the level.

Just got a grand slam (all of the medals on the level in order) but your car is teetering on the edge of a road? Too bad, it’s going to fall off into the grid.

That grid, and the long load times to restart each medal attempt, really ruin the fun of trying to achieve the best score on each level. This game needs a more dynamic core that is capable of fast restarts when the game ends.

The camera controls are also incredibly frustrating, that the game doesn’t even let you tune the sensitivity for the right thumbstick is ridiculous. It can be incredibly difficult to pan around and figure out where you need to roll your burning wreckage next before the car just starts going without your input.

While I could spend some time trying to get better medals on each level I don’t think I’m going to try. It’s a fun game if you are looking for the most bare-bones experience and are incredibly desperate for some more crash mode without resorting to emulation or hooking up an old console. I hope that Three Fields keeps improving this formula, it’s so close to a fantastic crash mode game and already much better than their last attempt at it with Dangerous Golf.

3/5 burning limousines for Danger Zone

Danger Zone is $15 and available now on the Xbox OnePlayStation 4and Steam for Windows.

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Danger Zone on Xbox One Almost-Review

Three Fields Entertainment is still working their asses off on their Burnout crash-mode-styled-smash-em-up, Danger Zone. It’s been available for the Xbox One and was just updated for the Xbox One X in preparation of it’s launch on November 7.

Crash mode was the original Burnout series’ slightly puzzling destructo mode where you attempted to drive through various intersections and airports and other places to cause as much monetary damage as possible  while collecting dollar multipliers and crashbreakers that gave you an extra explosion and ridiculous air control of your vehicle to plow into more cars and trucks and buses for more collateral damage. This wasn’t a beautiful story-driven narrative, but it was glorious at easing a long day at my old day job of unracking, repairing, and shipping, servers for Akamai.

This mode was disappointingly lacking in the final Burnout, Paradise on the 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows.

The ex-Criterion Games’ers at Three Fields originally attempted to recapture this magic with Dangerous Golf and didn’t quite hit the mark, but did keep working on the game after it was released.

I’ve spent a little time with Danger Zone and it’s so close to what we had back on the old Burnout games. There’s smashbreakers, score multipliers, and more of what you would expect in crash mode. But what is a bit disappointing is that it’s 2017 and the game still has long load times before retrying levels. Which is something you end up doing often since Danger Zone added new ways to prematurely lose a level.

Let me explain why.

In Burnout every crash mode level took place in a realistic (or at least as realistic as the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox could render) modern environment. A city, an airport as I mentioned earlier, a mountain pass. Wherever they picked, it was a realistic-enough vista to make the game that much more ridiculous when you decided to race and crash through those environments. It made you enjoy breaking the rules after you sat in traffic for half the day.

Danger Zone has a very different aesthetic. Here you’re in a simulation with a few different environments that feel like a holodeck with a quarter of the power of the one on Star Trek. The original video I saw was an entirely bland series of roads on a grid. Fortunately this version of the game has an outdoor environment. It’s still a pie-in-the-sky virtual test track that the game reinforced whenever you start a level by drawing in the roads and vehicles as if they were being created before your eyes. But it’s a little bit more of what you want from Burnout.

I don’t know why Three Fields decided to go for this virtual environment. It could be because it’s something they could stick to with the resources they have at their smaller indie development studio instead of back when they were working on Burnout and had a larger team and budget.

Maybe they wanted something less realistic for another reason, but it doesn’t really matter, this is the unavoidable comparison you’re left with if you’ve played the old crash mode and miss it.

The virtual environment is just missing the barest hint of realism to make Danger Zone as fun as Burnout. Instead of just failing a level by missing out on a target gold/silver/bronze score, you’re going to fail many times by going off of the edge of a highway and having your simulated car eaten by a Tron-style laser grid. Even in the outdoor environment. It’s a bizarre addition to the game. Why add more failure modes? It made the game more of an unforgiving puzzle and less fun for me.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the game could instantly restart, but that kind of experience seems to be limited to simpler 2D platformers like Super Meat Boy.

That doesn’t mean that Danger Zone isn’t fun, it is, it is just the most pared-down and basic crash mode experience. I still enjoy going through the levels, crashing through cars, trucks, and buses. If I didn’t have responsibilities tomorrow I’d still be up playing it to get a better feel for where the game goes in its later levels.

It could also be that the racing in Burnout was the perfect counterpoint to the crashing, and without racing the crashing will just never feel like enough. I can’t say for sure.

If there’s anything significantly different going on here from what I’ve noted in this write-up, I’ll post a full review of Danger Zone once I’ve spent more time with the game.

My hope is that Three Fields takes this bare-bones simulated 15-dollar crash mode and makes something more ambitious later on. Arcade racers aren’t a big deal right now. This year’s Forza is the boring serious racing iteration and not Horizon. The new Gran Turismo is still Gran Turismo. They’re both pretty racing games but not the glorious ridiculousness of Burnout. The only other arcade smasher I can think of, Bugbear’s Wreckfest, hasn’t been in Steam’s Early Access program (since 2014) as long as the standalone Day-Z (2013) but it is close.

As it is, Three Fields has committed to bringing more levels and other stuff to Danger Zone later on this year. This new Xbox One version also has some extremely temporary exclusive levels and vehicles that will end up back on the PlayStation 4 and Steam for Windows versions in December.


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Crash Mode is Back in Danger Zone

Last year’s Dangerous Golf from Three Fields Entertainment tried to take the best parts of Burnout‘s amazing crash mode and apply them to an extremely simplified game of golf. It wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, but it had almost all the right pieces and they kept working on the game after it was released.

This time, they have the right pieces in place because their new game, Danger Zone, is about cars instead of golfing indoors. They even have smashbreakers back and they’re called smashbreakers again. I am excited for crash mode again. Three Fields, don’t fail me now!

Danger Zone will be out next month for Steam on Windows and the Playstation 4.