Is the PS2's final Burnout its best ever?
And so this is it for the Burnout series and PS2 - parting ways, saying goodbye and letting Criterion have their last hurrah with the console that created the first Shiny Red Car. As I wipe a tear from my eye, another falls gently down my cheek. It's (probably) the end of an era with Burnout Dominator.
Alright, so maybe I'm not exactly crying over this (very likely) being the last Burnout on the console that the series began on, but it is One Of Those Moments, and Criterion have seen fit to release another fantastic game for the PS2's swansong. In a nutshell: it's more (more) of the same, it seriously pushes the ageing hardware and it brings back chaining.
"It's maybe not the best in the series, on its own merits, this is an absolute gem of a game."
The reintroduction of chaining, though, still requires a player to use their entire boost in one continuous go - Dominator seems to be one made for the experienced, the hardcore, and those with true skill (to the max), and whilst it is still more forgiving than the first two titles - minor scrapes don't necessitate massive carnage, for example - there are a few additions along with chaining that will keep those with skilled fingers playing for a long time.
Challenge mode is another addition, and is one that I personally have put a lot of time into, which is certainly a rarity with my busy, busy schedule (sitting, standing up, re-sitting, picking things). It's a mode that would do exactly what it said on the tin, were it to be in a tin, and ranges from the piss easy to smash-o-pad hard. The - ahem - 'old school' notion of bettering oneself is the name of the game, and high scores are there to be beaten by friends, family and yourself. Mainly by myself, it has to be said, as everyone I know is rubbish at Burnout.
The real scorewhoring comes into play with the new Maniac mode though, where players are made to drive as ridiculously as possible - like that bint off Driving School, many moons ago - to notch up the highest points total possible. This mode separates the men from the other men who aren't as good, and serves to add another tasty little piece to the Dominator pie that is sure to keep the dedicated coming back again and again. And possibly again.
It isn't all perfect though, shockingly enough, with a couple of modes rather bizarrely left out - the usual world tour mode has been made into an admittedly enjoyable, though shockingly linear experience, and there is a complete lack of crash junctions. The second point hits new highs on the bizarre-o-meter and I cannot understand why there isn't even a small version of the mode included, as it stands tall as one of the best ways to enjoy Burnout games in short bursts. The game is, again, a bit heavy on tutorials early on, and it would have been nice if we weren't made to feel so utterly patronised by a game that is so very simple, at least at the base level.
But back to the pros - the game is a looker, especially by PS2 standards, and Criterion must have involved some kind of Voodoo shaman - the fella that worked on Okami, SotC and the like - to make the game look as utterly wonderful as it does on the apparently underpowered console. Sound is sharp and crisp, and there's something for most everyone in the obligatory EA Trax - though the quality isn't up to the standards set by the series highpoint, Burnout 3. Though having said that, there is an utter masterstroke in the inclusion of legendary punk rockers Lifetime on the soundtrack. Well done whoever made that choice.
The game you all know and love is the same as it was before - tightened up, a bit more linear and focused, but just as much fun as it ever was. The (re)addition of chaining brings back something of a tactical game most thought was lost forever, and the other minor additions serve to make the experience that bit sweeter.