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I would say Burnout 3 set a precedent for the series. Burnout Revenge refined some things and expanded on the mechanics a bit. The biggest addition in that game was traffic checking which added a whole new dynamic to the gameplay. From what I’ve researched, after Revenge, Criterion began working on Burnout Paradise so EA took it upon themselves to make a different Burnout game. Developed and published by EA, Burnout Dominator was released for the PlayStation 2 and PSP in March, 2007. For this review, I played the PlayStation 2 version.
If you’ve played the previous games, the core gameplay and mechanics will be familiar. Burnout Dominator is an arcade-styled racing game. You can accelerate, brake, and drift and driving dangerously fills up your boost bar. The boosting here is slightly different. When the boost bar is full, it becomes a supercharge boost. Depleting a supercharge boost is a considered a burnout. However, if you continue to drive dangerously during a supercharge boost, you can chain burnouts together. This means depleting the supercharge boost while driving dangerously results in the bar automatically filling up again. Basically you can keep boosting as long as you’re driving dangerously.
While the crashing in Dominator is awesome as expected, the game focuses more on racing and reckless driving. For one thing, the Crash mode/events are absent. I don’t understand why the developers decided not to implement it but it’s not here. Traffic checking is also absent so you won’t be punting traffic vehicles all over the road. On the plus side, takedowns are still a big part of the gameplay. You can take down opponents in the normal ways and aftertouch and signature takedowns are present. One neat change is that now you can perform a crashbreaker after crashing in any race, eliminator, and road rage events, and not just specific ones, so that’s pretty cool.
There are two single player game modes; World Tour and Record Breaker and some multiplayer modes which I didn’t get to try. The World Tour is where you unlock shit and the Record Breaker mode is where you can try for high scores in several event types including a Time Attack event with any vehicles and on any tracks of your choosing. However, I would suggest you unlock some stuff in the World Tour before jumping into the Record Breaker mode.
The World Tour is where you compete in events to earn medals and awards and unlock new events and vehicles. The events are broken up by the multiple series of vehicles. Completing events rewards you with Dominator Points and after earning enough, you unlock a new series of vehicles. Additional vehicles are unlocked by meeting certain requirements in certain events. For example, you’ll have a perform a certain amount of burnouts in one event and take down a specific opponent a certain number of times in another. Things like that.
Many of the classic events are here; race, grand prix, road rage, eliminator, and burning lap/preview events. Dominator introduces some new event types; Maniac, Drift Challenge, Near Miss Challenge, and Burnout Challenge. The goal of these is to rack up as many points as you can by meeting the challenge requirements and performing burnout chains will multiply the points you earn. You’ll have to near miss vehicles to earn points in the Near Miss Challenge, perform burnouts in the Burnout Challenge, and drive recklessly in the Maniac events. Maniac is the easily the best of the bunch but none of them are as exciting as the classic event types. These events make it clear that the game is pushing you to drive recklessly and that you are rewarded for doing so in the form of boost. It’s a risk and reward system and boosting can be a key factor in winning certain events. However, this system has always been in place, minus the supercharge boost mechanic. As much as the game pushes it, I think Burnout 3 and Revenge have shown that the high speed racing, crashes, and takedowns should always remain front and center in a Burnout game because that’s what makes these games so much fun. At least in my opinion. These new events are peppered throughout the World Tour and feel more like events you just need to get through before getting to the good stuff.
If you’ve played any game in the series up to this point, you should know rubberbanding actually adds excitement to the races and other events. Burnout Dominator is no exception but the difficulty does spike which is noticeable during any event with opponents. You can drive fast and not crash and AI opponents will never be too far behind you and when you get to the tuned series of vehicles, catching up to opponents becomes difficult. You can chain multiple burnouts and still not catch up. It gets frustrating. Opponents will try to make you crash by ramming and slamming into you and crashing can drop you from first place to last place but being able to activate a crashbreaker is helpful. You just need to time it so you can take down multiple opponents.
Dominator consists of urban and rural tracks based on locations in the USA, Europe, and the Far East. And the PSP version received two additional tracks that can be downloaded for free. You’ll drive on highways, city streets, dirt roads, and through tunnels. You’ll want to keep an eye out for shortcuts. Some of them need to be unlocked and these are known as signature shortcuts. They are blocked by barriers that can be destroyed by ramming opponents into them. I think it’s a neat concept and adds some replay value. It forces you to explore every path you can take on a track.
Dominator released in 2007 so I am a little curious why a version wasn’t developed for the newer consoles at the time especially considering Revenge was eventually released for 360. Regardless, for a PS2 game, Dominator doesn’t look too bad. The vehicle models look great and reflect their surroundings. The the environments are detailed, vibrant, and full of color and as you speed along the tracks, you’ll see advertisements for various brands. When vehicles crash, sparks and smoke fill the air and vehicle parts go flying. Crashes are accompanied by the sounds of metal crunching and glass breaking. Overall, I can’t say the audio work is as good as it is in the previous two games but it gets the job done. Dominator is another entry with an EA Trax soundtrack which means a lot of alternative rock. The frame rate was smooth throughout my entire experience and I did not encounter any major bugs or issues.
Burnout Dominator is a good game but you can skip it and won’t be missing out on anything. I had fun with it but it does feel like a regression. It’s not as action-packed as the previous two entries and the omission of the crash events is odd but I really enjoyed some of the tracks and the signature shortcuts are a cool concept. The game does get challenging, sometimes to the point of frustration, and I would say it’s one of the more difficult entries in the series. The new event types don’t really make this a must-play but the returning events are enjoyable. But at this point, they’re expected. Dominator doesn’t experiment with the formula or try to push the envelope any way and I think that’s it’s biggest issue. It’s just typical Burnout and nothing about it stands out.
I would recommend Burnout Dominator to fans of the series or if you’re looking for a fun racing game on the PS2 because it is a fun arcade-styled racing game. But if you’ve played Burnout 3 or Revenge, you’re not missing much. You could play those games and have a better time. So if you’re hellbent on playing Dominator, I would say check it out otherwise just move onto Paradise or stick with the other games.