Five years ago, Fiona Sperry and Alex Ward left Criterion, the studio they co-founded in 1993. After 2008’s “Burnout Paradise,” EA put the studio on its other racing series, “Need for Speed,” a short “Star Wars” VR experience, and more recently, “Star Wars Battlefront II” and “Battlefield V.”
Since 2014, Three Fields Entertainment has been working toward “Dangerous Driving,” a game that is best described as “Burnout” in everything but its name. Along the way, Ward and Sperry were not-so-subtly preparing for their return to racing. “Dangerous Golf” gave the studio time to experiment with Unreal Engine. “Danger Zone” brought the gleeful carnage back the road.
“Dangerous Driving” is the culmination of the studio’s efforts. Everything you remember from the “Burnout” franchise (minus “Burnout Paradise’s” open world) is here.
This isn’t a sim racer about clean lines through curves and staying clear of other cars. Instead, driving into oncoming traffic, drifting around corners, and catching air give you “boost,” collision an important strategy. Collision isn’t just encouraged, it’s rewarded. When you take down another car, the action cuts away to the carnage.
Just be careful, because other cars are wreaking havoc and the crashes don’t clear for the entire race. A great run can be thwarted by someone else’s takedown (or, worse, your own from earlier in the race).
“It makes second and third lap more interesting,” Ward explains.
Even in your own failure, you can share the pain with opponents. Introduced in “Burnout 3,” aftertouch allowed you to steer your wreck just a bit to catch other cars in the destruction. “Dangerous Driving” brings that back with a featured called “Danger Time.”
Three Fields is unabashedly borrowing from its founders’ past work. “Dangerous Driving” features nine modes, many of which will seem familiar to long-time “Burnout” fans.
“They are inspired by what we’ve done before,” Ward tells Variety. “Race is kind of like ‘Burnout 3’ era. There’s a ‘Burnout 2’ era race, which is about boost chains called Heatwave.”
“Dangerous Driving” also features a Pursuit mode similar to the one in “Burnout 2.” Road Rage sends players after opposing drivers in a race to take down as many cars as possible within a limited time frame. Survival, which was featured in the original “Burnout” puts players on the track until they crash. There are also one-on-one races that unlock new cars, a hot lap mode, and a tournament style offering, and opportunities to race cars you won’t unlock until later in the game.
“Dangerous Driving” features six tiers of cars, with the different variants (base, tuned, advanced, and prototype) set up to tackle different modes. The tuned type is designed for Heatwave, while the advanced cars are four-wheeled wrecking balls for Road Rage.
“Cars are going to be meaningful,” Ward says. “The rulesets evolve as you play through. Pursuit starts off with chasing one car. Later on in the game, you’re charging down multiple targets, some stronger than others. In Road Rage, the ruleset changes such that only certain takedowns work. It’s very, very fast, and it’s very intense.”
Three Fields won’t be shipping “Dangerous Driving” with online multiplayer. However, the team is working on patching it in as soon as possible. Building the game out for three different platforms and releasing them simultaneously was the priority.
What will be there at launch is Spotify Premium integration. “Burnout” games were known for their excellent soundtracks. Licensing music is expensive, and this solution allows players to bring their favorite tunes into the game without breaking the bank. Additionally, for those that purchase “Dangerous Driving” at retail, the studio’s “Danger Zone 2” is bundled in.
The scenery is beautiful, and Three Fields has mapped out seven different locations based on United States national parks. These include tracks set in the desert, near a lake, on an island, and across grasslands. Each features a short, long, and marathon version, including courses running in reverse and point-to-point sprints.
For a game that was built in just seven months by seven people, “Dangerous Driving” looks and feels exceptionally well polished. It feels white-knuckle fast, the crashes induce giggles and gasps, and the settings are gorgeous. “Burnout” is back. It just has a new name.