The brain is a funny old blob of goo. Despite being little more than a mix of snot, brine and electro-beeps, it’s able to regurgitate for you the entire feeling of being somewhere else from the tiddliest of inputs, like a multisensory version of Google. (Only unlike Google, it doesn’t e.g. sell your email to every sodding carpet shop in a 200-mile radius so they can bombard you with marketing guff just because you once thought about buying a new doormat.)
An example of this kind of thing is that, for me, the whiff of petrol on a warm summer evening triggers memories of a lovely family holiday in Canada.
The son of the friends we were staying with had a cruddy, fuel-leaking trails bike he was forever tinkering with, hence the general pong of ‘gas’ pervading our hols. A lungfull of hydrocarbons now, and I’m transported right back to that place and time – which is why (other than the lure of discarded rustler’s burgers) I’m often found lurking round the back of Esso garages; 4-star-based reminiscence being a hell of a lot cheaper than another transatlantic holiday, after all.
Regardless, I mention these nostalgia chunks because on level 2 of Danger Zone 2 there’s a moment that triggered another such a mem-o-reaction. On the stage in question you hit the boost button and – as well as your car hoofing off forwards at an absurd rate of knots – suddenly the field of view falls back and the horizon telescopes away.
It’s a speed effect that took me right back to the Gamecube era, sitting in my manky flat in Oxford with its CRT telly and the damp-covered lounge wall my landlord had ‘fixed’ by painting over it with white emulsion and a horrible framed picture of a dog. (Given the fact the wall was covered in patterned wallpaper, this was as classy as covering a scratch on your car with Tipp-ex.)
At the time I was playing a game that totally blew me away. I’d always loved driving games, but this was the first one that I felt ticked all my personal boxes for the genre. That game, madam? Burnout.
The fact that effect shows up here again is, of course, about as coincidental as finding a set of instructions titled ‘where to send secrets pls’ and a sticker saying ‘Good boy!’ written in Russian in D. Trump’s top pocket.
Danger Zone 2 is written by Three Fields Entertainment, a group made up of core members of the team responsible for Burnouts 1 thru Paradise, and is a spiritual sequel to Burnout’s crash mode and a very actual sequel to 2017’s nice but a bit limp Danger Zone.
The aim of each level is as straightforward as making a milk-flavoured milkshake in a wobbly dairy – reach the ‘danger zone’ without crashing, then on arrival mash your vehicle into everything to cause as much carnage as possible.
The skill is in mastering this; you have subtasks to complete (such as hitting every caravan on the motorway, like a pilled-up Clarkson), score multipliers to snag, and smashbreakers to pick up or earn. The latter being ruddy great explosions you can trigger to propel your wrecked jalopy into yet more traffic for even more points.
The first Danger Zone was fun, but as anaemic as a vegan Dracula – all the zones were indoors in a crash test dummy type area, with short run-ups and not much variety in cars or layout. But while DZ2 might share the same sparse, almost 8-bit look when it comes to menus and the like, the game itself is far more turgid.
Tracks now have substantially long run ups, the locations are outdoors and vary greatly, and there’s a much wider array of cars (and a massive 18-wheeler) to play with. This feels like a proper driving game now, rather than something that to be honest wasn’t really much more than an amusing tech demo.
Yes, you’ll probably get through each level and its secondary objectives easily enough. But getting platinum medals and climbing the leaderboards? That’s the ‘one more go’ itch that will keep you coming back for a scratch. It always feels like you were just a car away from another combo and racking up a huge score.
Danger Zone 2 is the very definition of cheap, daft, cheerful fun; it’s so simplistic, it’s almost retro-game like in its appeal. It’s screaming fast in places (speed-wise, the F1 car levels are right out of the latter parts of Burnout 3), menus aside it looks lovely, and it can be picked up for a quick blast but also has a ton of replayability if you really want to snag the top spots on the global leaderboards (and on that note, it’d be ideal for porting to the Switch for games on the go).
So, is this review over? Well no, not quite: we need to address the elephant in the room. A big, furious elephant with a massive turbo strapped to it and the legend ‘TAKEDOWN!’ emblazoned along the length of its flailing proboscis. Because DZ2, you see, is not only an elephant but confusingly also a sort of trunk-wielding, tusked-up Trojan horse.
Yes, it’s a fun little game in its own right, but also (for a small developer) a necessary stepping stone in the development process of another game due later this year. We’re told this other game (currently called Dangerous Driving) is a more ambitious, well rounded, single-player track-based racer. One with remarkably familiar-sounding takedowns and boost chains…
And that’s the other reason to mull over picking up DZ2: as a warm-up for what’s just round the corner. It might be called something else now – heck, it could be named Ainsley Harriot’s Late-Night Onion Touching Challenge – but from its DNA and the taster we have here, it’s pretty clear what it really is.
Whisper it, everyone – proper Burnout might finally be coming back. And I can’t chuffing wait.
SCORE: 10 licence points out of a 12-point automatic disqualification.