Dangerous Driving Review
Burnout is back, but with a budget
The racing genre has remained a strong part of gaming ever since its introduction, but there have always been two main categories of racer: sim and arcade/action. The latter saw its heyday in the late nineties and early 2000’s with games like Burnout and Midnight Club. Since then arcade racing has been pretty much ignored by the AAA studios, resulting in a big audience being left unsatisfied. That’s where Dangerous Driving comes in, bringing arcade racers back with all the Burnout style fun fans have been missing. And while it succeeds in this mission overall, its budget nature holds it back from true greatness.
Dangerous Driving is a Burnout sequel in all but name, and that seems exactly how developer Three Fields Entertainment wants it. Led by Alex Ward, the creative director behind the Burnout games, Dangerous Driving doesn’t so much lean into its inspirations as hold them as a badge of honor. If you enjoyed the Burnout series or any of the other arcade racing games from around the same time, then you will feel right at home with Dangerous Driving.
Racing across a small set of diverse maps, Dangerous Driving fine tunes its features into a tightly focused experience. When you boot the game up you only have one real option, the Dangerous Driving Tour. Here you will advance through classes from Coupe up to the extremely fast super cars, with each category offering a subset of races with different objectives. Most are straight racing, with some twists like periodic elimination of the last place racer, or a constantly refilling boost meter. Each different race type requires a different strategy, though you often can’t go wrong just blasting your boost the whole way.
Realism is not a factor in any real way here. Racing in Dangerous Driving is fast, responsive, and totally focused on delivering adrenaline over a sense of reality. Tight corners are all over the place and you’ll take them at speeds well over 100mph. This also extends to the spectacular crashes that you can get into yourself or force other racers into. Slamming into the side of a rival and watching them hit the wall, tumbling into traffic is always fun, though it hurts exponentially worse when it happens to you. And since they persist on the track in between laps, the last lap is much dicier than the first. It’s always hilarious crashing into a car that you put there a few laps ago.
Dangerous Driving nails its arcade racing mechanics in almost every way.
In short, Dangerous Driving nails its arcade racing mechanics in almost every way. From the first moment to the last, you will feel your adrenaline pumping as you fight with other racers for first place, or slam them into oncoming traffic. Every second feels important, like any wrong move can send you into last place, and this is often the case. Unfortunately it feels a bit like this is due to some sever rubber banding that keeps your foes involved. Since this is a solo only affair at launch, it makes sense to fudge the rules a bit to keep the races interesting, but it means you shouldn’t head into the game expecting a very competitive environment.
Aside from trying to place on the leaderboards, there’s not much competition to be had with Dangerous Driving. Online multiplayer is said to be coming in a future update, but at launch it’s just you, a bunch of challenges, and a few AI players. They drive fairly well most of the time, but it’s clear in certain game types, such as the GP that ends every category, that they’re being given a leg up. Whether this bothers you or not comes down to expectations, which is actually the biggest hurdle to overcome for Dangerous Driving.
This is not a AAA game from a massive studio. It’s a budget racer from a small team. They’ve certainly accomplished a lot here, delivering a Burnout style experience in a $30 package. The cars looks good, the tracks aren’t numerous but do impress visually, especially at night, and the action runs at a solid 60 fps on the upgraded consoles. Everything looks and feels AAA from a distance, but diving into the specifics shows the budget roots and could disappoint players if they aren’t coming in with proper expectations.
This includes basic things like in-race music. Players can link their Spotify account if they are a subscriber, but everyone else will need to load up some music on their console if they want to hear anything but the somewhat repetitive engine and tire sounds. There’s also no real way to setup races of your own, instead relying on you to dig through the challenges on offer in the Dangerous Driving Tour to find what you want. But these can be difficult to figure out since the menus aren’t descriptive enough.
The races pretty much just tell you what kind of race it is and what track it’s on, though the small selection of tracks never really stand out enough that players will remember which is which. There’s seven locations in total that split across 31 individual tracks. The locations break down to a desert one, a beach one, a forest one, a winter one, and so on, but they don’t come to life as anything but a backdrop and section of turns to overcome. The visuals change significantly depending on time of day, but you can’t decide this in the Tour. There’s also no weather, though most tracks have the shine of puddles that look good but become distracting as you get deeper into the game.
After picking a race you move on to car selection. Each category has about four different types of vehicle. Each car is tailored for a specific type of race, rather than featuring unique stats to work with different play styles. Making things a bit frustrating is the fact that the stats for the vehicles are only shown in a slowly scrolling bit of text at the bottom of the screen. If you haven’t memorized which works for which race type you have to wait a few seconds for the text to scroll through, rather than just having it displayed constantly on-screen.
These are small complaints, but they explain the overall issue with Dangerous Driving. It’s not a game that fails due to lack of skill or dedication from the team. Rather it’s a simple problem of time and resources. The $30 price tag at launch fits this and should help set expectations properly. This is a budget game and its issues are related almost entirely to that. Most of the things I’ve mentioned are annoyances outside of the races themselves, but they extend into them as well.
The biggest is the inconsistent crash mechanics, and overall glitchiness to other cars. Crashing into traffic or guardrails can often result in an expected crash, but sometimes you’ll slam head first into another car and be just fine. Other times you’ll touch the rail wrong and fly off the track, or tap the side of a car and end up “crashing” unexpectedly. It’s a rare occurrence, but when it happens it really hurts the overall experience, especially if it results in a loss. This also extends to two other gameplay issues: the camera and the framerate.
As I said before, Dangerous Driving holds a solid 60 fps on PS4 Pro (and presumably Xbox One X), but while it never drags down it can lock up on very rare occasions. Dropping a couple of frames isn’t a huge deal for most games, but racers require split second reactions, so even one frame loss can be detrimental. Hopefully an update fixes this one, cause it was rare enough to not be a huge issue but still concerning. Less troubling, there are only two camera options and neither is perfect. The first-person view is too zoomed in, and third-person is too low and close to the car. There were many times where I crested a hill and slammed head first into a car that was not visible due to the camera being too low.
Dangerous Driving delivers a tight, streamlined racing experience, but that comes at the cost of features that players have come to expect. Offering a budget price helps, and for fans of Burnout who have been missing that style, this is a must-buy. Those who expect a full suite of features, including multiplayer at launch, will come away quite disappointed. The game also parses out its limited content slowly, forcing you to complete the Tour to get to everything. For those who’ve been yearning for the glory days of arcade racers though, Dangerous Driving will hit all the absolutely necessary requirements.
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Three Fields Entertainment
- Developed By: Three Fields Entertainment
- Genre: Racing
- US Release Date: April 9th, 2019
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Dangerous Driving delivers a tight, streamlined racing experience, but that comes at the cost of features that players have come to expect."