To quote an oft-referenced Far Cry villain, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Danger Zone 2 marks the third time in two years that Three Fields Entertainment has tried to convert their past success with Burnout’s distinctive crash mode into a standalone product. While there have been big improvements each time, I want to pull over the speed demon developers and tell them to pump the brakes just a bit.
For those not yet in the driver’s seat, the Danger Zone games are all about turning an intersection into a war zone. You have to pick just the right bus, careen into it at 100MPH, and then steer your wreck in midair with the magic of aftertouch. The more cars pile up, the higher your damage total goes, and the closer you are to an explosive smashbreaker finish. The concept has always been an appealing one, a high-speed score chase that plays to the strengths of the arcade racer.
Originally a side mode, Danger Zone makes crashing the main event, to mixed results. The first game was pure crash in simulated environments, with everything feeling a little samey as you went through it. The sequel takes the game to actual streets and gives you a good variety of vehicles to wreck. It’s never more fun than when you’re crushing cars underfoot in a giant semi-truck.
The most important aspect of any game like this is the driving, and the former Burnout developers still have a firm grasp on capturing a sense of speed. Driving through traffic feels a bit wobbly compared to past efforts, but the glorious return of traffic checking (turning cars into missiles via hitting their bumper) does a lot to make up for any of my momentary misgivings. Just be sure to avoid causing too much damage before you enter the titular “Danger Zone.”
Jack Knife City
You see, crashing isn’t everything in Danger Zone 2, or at least that’s what the developers intended. Each intersection now features a run-up where you dodge traffic and go for side goals like knocking boats off truck beds or traffic checking limousines. While the variety is appreciated, these sections can overstay their welcome. Needing to complete these goals over and over made me less likely to chase after high scores, which should be the ultimate goal of the whole experience.
These sections also highlight the limitations on Danger Zone 2’s wide open environments. If you veer off the beaten path just a bit in any direction, the game forces you to crash. This closes off possible shortcuts and punishes recklessness, a death knell for this style of arcade driving. The first game’s static test chambers had a similar issue, so the promise of the wide open roads feels like a hastily applied coat of paint.
Road to Ruin
This isn’t the only place where Danger Zone 2 feels hasty. The presentation is minimal in a bad way, with cookie cutter font choices and the complete omission of a soundtrack. The crashes are still spectacular, but there’s a distinct lack of debris in the air. The camera never lets you get a glimpse at your surroundings, and the timer at the end of your run seems to be tied to your car’s movement rather than whether cars are still crashing.
This is all the more frustrating because the original Danger Zone did not have some of these issues. While the holographic test chambers were a bit claustrophobic, they did provide a premise for the proceedings. Police cars in that game featured clever wordplay, and the crash junctions all had better layouts. A lot of this charm is lost in a game that feels like an afterthought from the moment you load it up.
Should you buy it?
I understand that Three Fields Entertainment isn’t the biggest developer around, but these little problems keep adding up. In an age where indie titles regularly share the spotlight with AAA giants, Danger Zone 2 feels like it belongs in the bargain bin. Similar to the first game on release, the main campaign can be rushed through in less than two hours. After that, it’s all up to your desire to get the high score or set up the perfect crash. It’s just that there’s nothing here that grabs you and makes you want to achieve those goals. I’m hopeful that this title is just another speed bump. But we’re starting to run out of road and we’re nowhere close to 88 MPH.
Danger Zone 2 is available from Steam. A review copy was provided.