Burnout Dominator Preview
The Burnout franchise has consistently delivered some of the most popular and critically acclaimed games out there, and we already know they're working on a Burnout 5 for the new generation. But because EA knows you arcade racing fans can't possibly last the winter without an intense high-octane fix, they're bringing you Burnout Dominator for the PSP and PS2. Produced by EA's Studio UK, the game will boast many of the same fan-favorite features the series is known far; although a few key facets might be shuffled around and replaced.
It appears that Dominator brings us the best of all worlds, sporting a number of elements from all four previous installments, although perhaps more refined and expansive. To give you a better idea of what we're talking about, the Crash Mode has mysteriously disappeared, perhaps so Criterion can better enhance the mode for a whole new unveiling in Burnout 5. But at the same time, they're working to boost the appeal of the straightforward racing aspect, instituting something more pure and without the inclusion of traffic checking. It was a fun little addition to the games before now, but taking it out should force the player to be more disciplined on the roads.
We all know the last Burnout, Revenge, had a large focus on massive destruction and the ability to simply race directly through traffic. It was an evolvement of sorts for the franchise, which means that Dominator is returning to its roots, after a fashion. Although it will retain the specific elements that make the series stand out amongst the hordes of arcade racers on store shelves, you'll have to really buckle down and race like a pro. Yeah, the Takedowns are back, as is the mega-entertaining Rage mode, but at the same time, you can't attack every race in the same wild, haphazard manner. That car driving slow in the passing lane can't be smashed through; you're actually going to have to avoid it this time around.
But let's get back to that whole "getting back to its roots" deal. If you couldn't guess, burnouts are supposed to be a major part of these games, but the actual "Burnout" hasn't existed since Burnout 2. The goal was to save up all your boost, and when you're full, let it all go at once. If you could manage to barrel down the road in this phase without slamming into walls or traffic, your boost was refilled to the max and you continue to zip along at ultrasonic speed. And best of all, you could chain flawless Burnouts for speed that would melt your brain. It added a great strategic element to the game because the player had to juggle Boost and Burnout; executing each in the correct situation could mean the difference between second place and victory.
While they've ditched the Crash mode, the developers have instituted the all new Maniac mode- drive like a maniac for as long as possible. Then there's Traffic Attack mode, and the goal here is similar; stay out there for as long as you can. In this case, though, it's not about slamming into other vehicles ("shunting" traffic in Revenge was fun, but not allowed in Dominator), it's about pulling off crazy stunts while remaining in complete control. This could mean power-sliding around tough turns, inching by traffic at maximum speed, etc. Basically, just like the racing events, this mode will require a level head (to some extent), and the capability to remain in control while still invoking some insane driving methods.
Furthermore, don't think for a second that EA is simply rehashing old familiar tracks for this one; reportedly, all the tracks are completely fresh, and you've never seen most of the cars, either. Like most of the games in the franchise, the vehicles available aren't exact replicas of real-life counterparts. However, the fact that they're unique and original models is actually a testament to the ingenuity of Criterion, even though you'll see design elements of Ferraris and Lamborghinis in the cars. As of now, we're not sure how they'll institute vehicle stats, but we have heard that they'll no longer include category ratings on the selection screen. As in most Burnouts, the differences between each vehicle aren't drastic, but they should be significant.
We can also expect a new way of obtaining those cars. Instead of simply unlocking them by beating certain events, there will be specific ways of beating the event to unlock a particular vehicle. For example, you'll have to use a certain car to beat a certain event, if you want that one special upgraded car. Oh, and the fact that races will include a listing for a price car - if applicable - means you can always go back and re-race events to ensure you've nabbed every unlockable car. And in order to gain the advantage in those races, you might want to take advantage of another cool addition: Signature Shortcuts. Basically, if you perform a Takedown near a certain blockade or obstruction, the ensuing mess will result in a shortcut. Sweet idea!
The only question we have is just how visible those shortcuts will be. As usual, you can expect the extremely detailed tracks, and if that's the case, it could prove difficult to spot a destructible wall - or something like that - when we're flying by everything at 200 mph. Perhaps a good idea would be to highlight the exact spots where you can pull off a Signature Takedown; it'll be hard enough just executing the move at the exact location in the first place. But regardless of how long you spend trying to nail down these shortcuts, you'll eventually just want to advance through the game, and there's another change here as well. Instead of simply moving up in rank and unlocking new events, your goal will be to unlock the next batch of cars. You'll move through Tuned, Muscle, and Exotic in your quest, and each set comes with their own challenges.
As for the visuals, they'll probably be quite similar to what we saw in Revenge on the PS2, and while the PSP can't look as good (obviously), that version will boast a couple added benefits. Ad-Hoc play will be available for as many as six players, and an online leaderboard will let you see how you stack up against the best in the world. Unfortunately, neither the PS2 or PSP version will have actual online multiplayer support. Still, it's always a great two-player or party game, and the breathtaking exhilaration so often experienced with these games should be on display once again in Burnout Dominator. It'll be hitting store shelves on March 6, so keep an eye out!
1/18/2007 Ben Dutka