March 7, 2007 - Criterion's Burnout franchise has dominated the arcade racing genre for the past few years, and for very good reason. The developer essentially perfected the series' control response and feeling, it's fast as hell, looks fantastic and features some insanely cool crashes. While Criterion is hard at work on Burnout 5 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, EA UK has given PlayStation fans a reason to rev up their engines in the interim.
Burnout Dominator is quite clearly a throwback to the old days of the series. Its focus has returned almost solely to racing, what with things like traffic checking that we saw in Burnout Revenge having been removed from the game. Burnouts are back, encouraging you to keep your finger on the boost at all times, and the track design is geared more for long and huge drifts rather than Takedowns.
In essence, Burnout Dominator feels a lot like an offshoot of the past few games rather than a revolutionary sequel, as Criterion has generally attempted to create in the past. EA UK made use of the Burnout Revenge engine for Dominator, and the (happy) result is that the game feels and looks almost identical to the last game, sans the major gameplay changes. But at its core, this is classic Burnout through and through.
The biggest change, or perhaps we should say throwback, to the series is the inclusion of Burnouts. When you fill your boost meter, the flame will turn blue and you can then begin using a supercharged boost. While you don't actually go any faster than using a normal boost, you're able to chain these together and earn multipliers. As you burn off your boost, if you manage to perform enough daring maneuvers while emptying the tank, be it by driving against traffic or drifting enough, your boost will then reset when you drain it and increase your Burnout multiplier by one. Not only does this mean that you can essentially boost infinitely around the track, this increases the score that you receive for your crazed driving, which is a major part of many events now.
Replacing Revenge's Traffic Attack challenge is the new Maniac mode. Like Traffic Attack, you start with a finite amount of time on the clock and your goal is to simply rack up points before your counter hits zero. But rather than smacking into cars, you'll want to narrowly pass right by them, drive into incoming traffic, slide wildly around corners and so on. Basically, you want to drive like a madman while chaining your Burnouts together and not smacking head-first into anything.
There are more specific offshoots to the Maniac mode as well, like Burnout, Near Miss and Drift Challenges. Each of these only gives you points for performing the challenge's namesake rather than everything.
What all of this means is that Burnouts become extremely important to your progression through the game. While it's possible to pass these challenges during the early parts of the game without amassing huge Burnout chains, you'll need to basically be perfect towards the end in order to win. While this has been somewhat true of every Burnout title in the past, this much emphasis hasn't been placed on one thing across many events. You simply can't let go of the boost button or you'll be back to square one. Some folks may like this design, though others may be a little annoyed that you can be so punished for not doing one simple thing.
As mentioned earlier, the track design in Burnout Dominator is more focused around racing rather than Takedowns, and many feel like throwbacks to the days of Burnout 2: Point of Revenge. Huge, sweeping turns are the name of the game here, allowing you to toss your car's tail end way out in front as you skid for hundreds or even thousands of feet at a time.