Dangerous Driving review – a pared-back thrill

April 8, 2019
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Listen: there is a classic bit of business in Pac-Man that occurs whenever you go through the wraparound tunnel that takes you from one side of the screen to the other. What you get is a pause. Pac-Man takes a little longer to go through the tunnel than you expect him to, so you can’t help but imagine that there’s a bit of the tunnel that you can’t actually see. (The novel Lucky Wander Boy, by D. B. Weiss, riffs brilliantly on this point.) Video games don’t make enough of this kind of thing, but Burnout did. Burnout, from Burnout 3 onwards, knew just what to do with a pause.

With Burnout the pause comes down to the tactical nudge. In Burnout, racing is battling, so you’d be best off not just overtaking your rival but causing them to crash, too. The most satisfying way to do this was to nudge them – tactically – as you overtook them. Just a little nudge. Almost a gentle nudge. The rival car would pass out of view behind you, and then a pause. One second. Two? No longer certainly. And then the camera would dance back to show your rival impaling themselves on something, your nudge having directed them into a bollard or a divider or another rival.

Dangerous Driving has the tactical nudge. Oh man, does it have it. It’s one of the nudgiest games I’ve played in years, and that makes sense because it’s the work of a small team who have Burnout pretty high up on the CV. You can tell it’s a small team, because the small team has small team priorities. Dangerous Driving is 30fps on base consoles but 60 on everything else. Sacrilege, but understandable sacrilege, if such a thing is possible. And the crash animations are short on the crumpling, chassis deforming beauty of yesteryear. Multiplayer will be coming later on. There are occasional glitches and moments of odd physics, and the soundtrack, ingeniously, is handed over to Spotify, so you can put Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne on loop and be done with it. But I found I could live with any corner-cutting because of the focus Dangerous Driving has. Decades of experience are present here. This small team, in its own way, has worked wonders.

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