Dangerous Driving is Burnout, but what kind of Burnout is it? This question shouldn’t be easy to answer because, like Tetris, Burnout is one of those games that was always, secretly, reworking itself. Burnout 3 introduced takedowns, for example, the ability to strike a rival once you had crashed, steering your own wreckage through the thick, sparking air for fun and profit. Burnout 4 took that idea and turned it into traffic-checking, which meant that any cars you hit that were travelling the same way as you would suddenly begin to bounce down the road, taking out anything and everything in their path. And then Paradise took the whole thing open-world.
So let’s get surgical for a moment. Dangerous Driving belongs after Burnout 3 – takedowns and their attendant slo-mo are all in place. And it belongs before Burnout 4 – traffic-checking is not included. It represents, I think, the road not taken by 4. It has its own big idea, yet while it’s different from traffic-checking it still has this sense of continuity, this sense of having emerged from the latent potential of those brilliant takedowns.
A few weeks back I went to play Dangerous Driving at the lovely bucolic office of Three Fields Entertainment, a small team – just seven, I gather – that is built around a core of personnel who all worked on Burnout back at Criterion. Three Fields has turned out a handful of games over the last few years, and there’s a palpable sense that they’ve all been building to this one. To revisit a few, we’ve had the Burnout sensibility reworked as an indoor chaos simulator in Dangerous Golf, and we’ve had Burnout’s Crash Mode reworked in Danger Zone. Dangerous Driving, though, is Burnout itself, back on the twisting, bucking, beautiful canyon tracks that made the series famous, earning boost by driving badly – but driving badly well – and then switching between boost and drift as you take on some astonishingly aggressive AI.