Also On: PC
Publisher: Three Fields Entertainment
Developer: Three Fields Entertainment
Danger Zone seems like it should be the easiest game in the world to love. It’s all about vehicular destruction, made by a team of developers who worked on Burnout, the franchise that practically wrote the book on vehicular destruction. Not only that, it comes a year after the team’s first game, Dangerous Golf, another game based around physics and destruction, which theoretically gave said developers an opportunity to test out their ideas and determine what works and what doesn’t. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect fit.
Given that Dangerous Golf was pretty meh, at best, you can probably see where this is going. And if you can’t, I’ll make it plainly obvious right off the bat: Danger Zone sucks.
I’d like to say that I’m being hyperbolic here, but I’m not. Or, at least, if I am, it’s only by a matter of degrees — maybe Danger Zone only “kinda sucks” or “mostly sucks.” The bottom line is that this is not a particularly enjoyable game.
It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be this way at first. You play the tutorial, which is full of explosions and car crashes, and you instantly start thinking that this is the true successor to the Burnout franchise that some people — myself included — have been waiting years for. And then you play the first level and realize that it’s basically a slightly longer version of the tutorial, only with point thresholds you need to pass in order to move on to the next level.
And then you play more levels and realize that they’re all pretty much rehashes of the first level, at which point, if you’re like me, you start thinking that maybe all your hopes and expectations for Danger Zone were completely out of line, and that rather than getting a spiritual successor to Burnout you’re actually getting a sense of what it would be like to spend hour after hour after hour after hour watching crash test dummy videos on YouTube.
Sorry, I’m ranting. But it’s justified in this case. Danger Zone should be so much better than it is, and that it’s not is really quite infuriating. Or, more accurately, maybe what’s infuriating is…well, literally everything about this game. The fact that all the cars handle like they’re on ice, which seems like a really bad joke when you discover that quite a few of its levels demand some degree of precision if you want to meet the requisite scores for unlocking the next level. Or the fact that some of those requisite scores seem like the were grabbed from thin air, since it wasn’t uncommon for me to destroy every car on the track and still find myself millions of dollars short of the bronze medal goal (to say nothing of silver or gold). Or the fact that the game doesn’t include any kind of aftertouch, despite the fact that Burnout literally created that feature specifically for car crashes — after your first hit, your car sits there motionless, and you’re left to hope that some of the destruction around you will ripple outwards (spoiler: it usually won’t).
My list of gripes with Danger Zone could go on and on. The environments manage to pull off the feat of being simultaneously ugly and sterile; my comparison to crash test dummy videos a few paragraphs up is entirely apt here, since the whole game takes place inside grimy-looking test chambers. This gives the feeling that, rather than creating a rolling mass of vehicular destruction, you’re actually just running tests over and over again. Likewise, the total lack of music or ambient noise means that the game is scored by the sounds of crashing, screeching cars — the kind of thing that sounds fun, even exciting, once in awhile, but that becomes gratingly repetitive after a couple of minutes. And speaking of the cars, they suck too: you’re steering a generic white automobile, and even though you crash into a variety of other test subjects (buses, tractor trailers, etc.), you’re stuck with the same nondescript vehicle over, and over, and over. It would’ve been neat to see the game mix things up a little here and there, but, apparently, this game is all about making car crashes feel mundane and monotonous.
If, however, Danger Zone has one sin that towers over all the others — one glaringly awful, irredeemable, unforgivable sin — it’s this: the crashes aren’t even that fun. Sure, they’re kind of loud, and they occasionally generate some fun sparks and fires, but while the promise of something big is always just around the corner, it never materializes. With all these cars bouncing around and all these extra loads being carried by flat-beds and all the flames everywhere, you’d think that eye-popping explosions would be on the menu at some point, but you’d be wrong on that count. Their absence encapsulates everything wrong with Danger Zone, in that it means that the game can’t even deliver on the one thing — literally, the one and only thing — that you’d want it to deliver on.
I have no doubt that in some alternate universe, Danger Zone is absolutely awesome. After all, it has a good idea at its core, and its development team has shown in the past that they’re capable of pulling off that very same idea. In this universe, however, there’s no getting around the fact that Danger Zone is, quite simply, terrible.