|Platforms||PC (reviewed), PS4|
|Developer||Three Fields Entertainment|
|Publisher||Three Fields Entertainment|
|Release Date||May 30, 2017|
Review code provided
Danger Zone is a vehicle destruction game that aims to make a full experience inspired by Crash Mode from the now (unfortunately) discontinued Burnout series, even being created by a studio formed of developers who worked on it. Players are thrust into the role of a dangerous driver who simulates huge car crashes in an industrial warehouse-type location.
I loved Burnout. That’s probably evident every time E3 rolls around and I pray that EA will do the right thing and bring it back. Of course Crash Mode was my favourite way to play the game. It was like it was designed for me – a mode where crashing isn’t only encouraged by a requirement? Given how easy I find it to crash out in racing games, I got into this pretty easily.
There’s a solid core of mayhem at Danger Zone’s centre. Flying down a simulated motorway and causing a massive wave of destruction is satisfying, especially if you manage to hit the sweet spot of an intersection. Watching cars, trucks, buses and more all pile into one another in a ballet of carnage is what made Crash Mode so compelling, and it’s back in all its glory in Danger Zone.
That satisfaction lasts for the first few levels of Danger Zone – where hitting traffic at the optimal location and then triggering a Smashbreaker, which causes an explosion and allows you to move your wrecked vehicle around, is enough to carry you through from level to level. At least in the beginning. As you progress further into the game’s levels, Danger Zone starts putting up more and more barriers to the fun.
Danger Zone’s problems are tied into how it works out your score. You get a cash value for every vehicle that crashes or you run off the level, which is added up to give you your final total. Depending on your performance you’ll get a gold, silver or bronze medal. If you fail to earn enough dosh for a bronze medal you’ll need to replay the level until you can manage it.
The issue is that the actual cars crashing aren’t really enough to see you pass through to the next level. You earn way more money for hitting vehicles when you activate your Smashbreaker – but you only get one per run. To use multiple Smashbreakers you need to collect power-ups that are scattered across each environment. As the levels get more complex you’ll need to use more Smashbreakers to successfully complete them.
Except this pulls the focus away from the fun part of the game (causing massive car crashes). Instead, you’ll be solely focused on exploding your car and moving towards these power-ups so you can actually get a medal and move on. The crashes themselves become almost redundant. Danger Zone becomes a game of whether or not you can blow yourself up at the right time and angle to collect the power-ups you need.
This is further compounded by the game’s controls. You only have control of the camera on the Z-axis, meaning you won’t be able to look up or down. Generally you’ll have to rely on luck more than skill to actually hit the power ups you’re after. And that’s if you aren’t screwed over by an unseen vehicle knocking you off course. Or the weird physics of the game that make you feel like you have very little control over your car when you’re rolling or flying towards those much-needed power-ups.
The amount of times you end up aborting a run through factors outside your control end up turning a fun car crash simulator into a frustrating puzzle game. In the early levels you just need to cause a crash in the right place, blow yourself up and spread the destruction. As the levels grow in complexity you start to run into the game’s limitations. It stops being fun and starts being a chore.
It’s a shame, because those later levels get pretty inventive. Because Danger Zone is set inside a simulation, the developers are able to get really creative in how their intertwining roads and motorways are laid out. You need to really think about how you’re going to cause as much damage as possible. If the game didn’t rely almost entirely on the limited Smashbreaker mechanic, instead allowing you to create carnage and focus entirely on traffic pile-ups, those levels would be a joy to figure out.
Although it has to be said, the levels themselves look really drab. Layout aside, every level looks and feels the same, with each looking like it takes place inside a massive warehouse. Danger Zone’s presentation is lifeless – there’s nothing in each level but a road and some drab concrete walls. There’s no music, no outdoor weather effects, no attempt to simulate the world at all. Just some roads and some vehicles.
The lack of proper damage modelling doesn’t help Danger Zone’s cause. Vehicles will get scratched and scraped, and will resemble a burnt out husk when they explode, but the damage you cause isn’t modelled dynamically or realistically. This could probably be forgiven if the entire purpose of the game wasn’t to cause huge traffic pile-ups. It’s not a game-breaking oversight, but it is noticeably absent. That’s probably a good way to describe Danger Zone as a whole.
There’s the core of a great game here, and it’s still fun to smash a car into oncoming traffic and watch the ensuing chaos. But the game is focused on the wrong things, specifically its Smashbreaker and aftertouch mechanics, instead of just dumping you into a simulation of a motorway and told to go nuts. There’s still fun to be had in Danger Zone, but it’s unfortunately held back by this misplaced focus.
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