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March 2018

Danger Zone

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Developer: Three Fields Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 9, 2017


Xbox One Review - 'Danger Zone'

by Cody Medellin on March 7, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Danger Zone is a 3D vehicular destruction game where players crash for cash by creating the biggest car crash possible.

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Back when the Burnout series was still being published by Acclaim, the second title introduced Crash mode. It worked on the simple premise that you'd cause an accident on busy highways and intersections, and the results would create a domino effect that resulted in high number of multicar pileups. It was simple and inherently satisfying in a primal way, and you'd want to replay it multiple times to see if you could create even bigger wrecks. While the Burnout series lies dormant during this console generation, some of the original creators formed Three Fields Entertainment and created a spiritual successor to Crash mode in the form of Danger Zone.

Those familiar with that game mode or its successors in other Burnout titles and the PSN/Xbox Live Arcade title, Burnout Crash, will find the experience in Danger Zone to be largely the same. Using the provided car, you drive into a busy patch of road and try to create the most spectacular crash by hitting one car or a group of them and hoping that the resulting carnage causes other cars to crash as well. Aside from the varying sizes of the cars that help cause those accidents, you have a Crashburner power that lets you create an explosion to cause even more chaos and have some influence over where your husk of a vehicle goes when it's airborne. At the end of the stage, you're given an assessment of your damage in dollar values, and if you score a medal, you're allowed to progress to the next stage. There are 32 stages in all, not including the six bonus stages.

Aside from your vehicle's Crashburner ability, you're aided by various icons that litter the stages. There are Crashbreaker icons that give you an extra use of the ability, which is a nice boon since you can only use one of those abilities per stage without the extra pickup. The other icons are bonus cash, which are split into three levels of value (bronze, silver, and gold) that are useful when the end-of-level tallies are taking place.

The concept is rather simple, but those thinking that this game is a pushover will reconsider after a level. You can easily make a crash happen, but the totals required to garner a medal are quite substantial, so it can be tough to even get a bronze medal in the early stages. Part of this comes from a combination of the level design and limited car placement, which tasks you with sometimes changing lanes, hitting ramps, or even going up or down elevation levels to hit cars. Combine that with the placement of bonus icons, and it can be tough to eke out a bronze medal with any cash to spare.

This is when you realize that Danger Zone isn't so much an action game as it is a puzzle title. The icons act as a hint spot of where you need to go to score big. The camera fly-by at the beginning is meant to help you plan your routes and identify when traffic hits certain spots. That same fly-by also lets you see the route and some hidden platforms, so you aren't caught by surprise. Taking this approach, the game is rather addicting, as you're constantly trying to find the optimal routes. There are bonuses for gathering the bonus cash icons in order, so that helps with the planning, and the presence of leaderboards and different medal tiers are further inspiration to replay a level to achieve better results.

People may have an issue with two things. The first is the lack of a real freeform camera. There's only one viewpoint angle for driving, so you can't get a better view of your surroundings prior to the first crash. Once you become immobile, you can rotate the camera, but you can't change the pitch, so trying to reach a lower level to reach the bonus cash icon becomes a matter or trial and error that can be frustrating since you'll invalidate your run if you go out of bounds.

People will also dislike the locales. Just about every stage takes place in a warehouse, which gives off the setting of a big crash test facility. The game recently added some open-air settings in preparation for its Xbox One launch, but every place seems rather boring to watch or play in. Contrast this with the open highway and cityscapes of the Burnout titles, which felt more alive thanks to the buildings and generally brighter view.

As far as presentation goes, Danger Zone is quite bare-bones. Aside from the stagnant setting, the cars look fine, but their crashes aren't very spectacular. Explosions are rather low-key, and those expecting a shower of sparks with each crunch of metal will be disappointed at the muted graphics. Combined with the solid 30fps as opposed to 60fps, and it feels like the base hardware is either not powerful enough for the title or the game isn't pushing the system hard enough. As for the audio, the sound effects are good, and there's no voicework or music, so the experience feels lonelier when combined with the setting.

Danger Zone is a good game if you can appreciate its simplicity. The sparse setting and presentation aside, the puzzle element is a fantastic spin for the game, and it's hard to deny the satisfaction of crashing into tons of vehicles. It also helps that the game's addictive nature and leaderboard presence can inspire multiple runs even after everything is unlocked. For fans of a title that's easy to pick up and quick to play, Danger Zone is worth checking out.

Score: 7.0/10

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