Review: Burnout Dominator (Playstation 2)

In this review, we chain our boosts in the Playstation 2 game Burnout Dominator. We find out how well this combat racing game plays.

This game was released in 2007 and is the sixth instalment of this series.

We previously played the game Burnout. That game got a very solid score. Next up is Burnout 2: Point of Impact. That game also got a very solid score. Finally, we tried Burnout 3: Takedown. That game got quite the great score. So, we wind up skipping ahead a little to try this game to see how well this one plays.

One way of describing this game is that it takes ideas from all three of the first games and mashes them together. Chaining boost, for instance, is found in the earlier Burnout games and is, in fact, making a return here. Meanwhile, the combat racing found in the third instalment is also found here. So, one could say this game has a bit of something old and something new going on here.

There are a total of 7 series in this game. Each series features 13 races. The series names are Classic, Factory, Tuned, Hotrod, Super, Race, and Dominator. Each series is restricted not only by which cars you can use, but also how many Dominator points you have earned.

You simply start off with the Classic series. This series features the slowest cars in the game. The upshot is that the cars are easier to handle here (generally speaking). You only have one race available, the Burnout challenge. This helps players understand the concept of boosts, Supercharge, and Burnouts. From there, players will be able to taken on the rest of the game one piece at a time.

There are a number of different kinds of races. There’s the regular race which challenges players to finish first. The burnout challenge challenges players to get as many burnouts as possible. Drift challenges cause players to try and get as much drift distance as possible. Near miss challenges challenges players to get as many near misses as possible. Maniac combines all of these challenges and gets players to drive dangerously to earn points.

Road Rage pits the player against a constant onslaught of computer opponents. The challenge is to earn as many take downs as possible. Burning Lap (sometimes referred to as the “preview” race) challenges players to complete a lap in as fast time as possible. Eliminator pits players against multiple opponents. Last place is eliminated after a short period of time until only one racer is left. Finally, grand prix gets players to take on a series of regular races. The most championship points earned after the series (typically three races) wins.

One big change is the fact that most challenges are based off of a points system instead of absolute numbers. Maniac, for instance, depends on a number of ways of earning points. However, there is a faster way of earning points. If you chain your boosts, you’ll earn a point multiplier. Each chained burnout adds a multiplier. A chain of two will give players a multiplier of x2. A chain of 10 will earn a 10x multiplier. The caveat is that points must be earned while boosting. Break the chain and you have to start over again. This makes it important to be boosting on many of these point based challenges (such as drift or near miss challenges).

Boost can be earned in a number of ways. The smaller ways include tailgating an opponent, driving in the oncoming lane, near misses, and drifting. What will earn a bunch of boost all at once includes a takedown, aftertouch takedown, and explosive takedowns. Each takedown will instantly get you the supercharged boost instantly.

Crashing happens in this game. It happens a lot. Sometime’s it’s caused by clipping a railing, misjudging a drift, simply smashing into traffic or getting taken out by another opponent. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do after you have crashed. Hold down the boost button and you’ll initiate the aftertouch system. With this, you can actually steer your car into the path of other opponent is they happen to be behind you. Any opponent you touch will count as an aftertouch takedown (if another car is between you and opponent, then it won’t count. So, your car has to trade some paint in order for it to count).

Meanwhile, crashbreaker is also here to help make your life easier. If there is an opponent just out of reach, you can initiate a crashbreaker. This will cause your car to explode. If opponents are near the explosion, they’ll get taken down. That will allow you to earn an explosive takedown. Great for at least reducing the number of opponents passing you by while you roll your car. If you don’t take out any opponents after you initiate the crashbreaker, you’ll lose all of your boost. Beware of airtime reducing the ground blast radius.

One thing to note is that you can both gain and lose boost based on hitting opponents. You can earn or lose boost through shunts, rubbing, and sideswiping to name a few examples. If it is determined that your opponent initiated, say, the shunt, then that opponent gets some of your boost. If you get flagged as the one initiating the shunt, you’ll earn a bit of boost. The game can be a bit buggy at times determining who gets credit, though, but still worth the risk.

While the game emphasizes that you can’t “earn while you burn”, this only applies to regular (orange) boosting. If you start boosting while your boost is blue, then you can still earn boost. As you earn more boosts, the yellow arrows will increase. Get all the yellow arrows to light up and you’ll be able to chain your boost while continuing to hold down the boost button. That is how you chain boosts in this game.

To make things more interesting, with the exception of the dominator series, there are little car icons above each race in the race series menu. These races give you a chance to unlock a new car. To earn this car, you need to fulfill a certain requirement during the race. Fulfill that requirement and the car you are driving is yours. This can include drifting for a certain distance, taking down a rival car a certain number of times, or getting a chained boost. One way or another, you’ll get a counter in the corner during the race counting down how much of a certain goal you have left before that car is yours. So you’ll always know what is left to do at any given time during the race.

Another thing you can earn is accomplishment trophies. Each trophy is earned by completing a list of goals. Each goal is more intense then the last. Award’s include total near misses, an aftertouch takedown, long chain boosts, and total maniac points to name a few. You can only earn each reward once, but you can earn trophies because of this.

Finally, there are shortcuts. Throughout each track are a series of shortcuts. They can only be unlocked by crashing an opponent on the entrance. If you manage to do this, you’ll open this up. This should give you an advantage in future races should you take those shortcuts.

Now, how you unlock new races depends on which race you win for the most part. However, with the exception of the dominator series, each series unlock hinges on earning a certain number of dominator points. You can earn dominator points by winning medals, earning award trophies, unlocking shortcuts, and unlocking cars. You can repeat races and beat them again to earn more points, however, grinding is generally not really necessary unless you are managing to hoard bronze medals and unlocking as few rewards as possible throughout your play.

There are a number of strategies one can employ while racing. This includes riding on the shoulder of oncoming traffic. This can allow you to earn oncoming distance and near misses while not risking as much on the stretch of highway. Drifting around large corners on the dirt can also help you earn boost. If a stretch of road is very straight, you can drive right on the centre line in oncoming traffic. This will earn near misses from two lanes as well as oncoming. A quick way to earn boost, but very risky because a slight change in direction can mean instant head-on collision.

One thing I’ve noticed is that a number of people suggest that this isn’t the greatest game in the series. The common complaint is the lack of “crash mode” as found in previous Burnout games. Personally, I can agree that this isn’t the greatest Burnout game I’ve played, but not because crash mode is missing. In fact, I would say that a lack of crash mode had very little impact on how I enjoyed this game.

What I will say is that what causes this game to suffer starts at the very beginning. The introduction course is annoying thanks in part to unskippable freeze frames. This winds up disrupting play a lot. Given that this is most players first impression of the game, it doesn’t get off to a good start.

To make matters worse is that this game starts off a bit more on the difficult side of things. This can be offputting to new players. The difficulty takes some getting used to. While possible, it makes for a slower start to this game.

A longstanding problem for this game is that a lot of races tends to be luck based. Sometimes, you can easily make first place with only one or two crashes throughout the race. Other times, it feels like you can’t really make it half a block before crashing your car yet again. As such, dead last is pretty much a destined thing to happen. Some it it has to do with skills and knowledge of the track. Other times, it is simply a case of rounding a blind corner into an oncoming car with no time to really react. While aftertouch skill can soften the blow, you’ll still likely find yourself scrambling to catch up (if you even can).

That’s not to say this is a bad game. There is actually a lot going for this game still. This includes the car unlock challenges which can help spice up a race. The ability to advance with the odd race here and there being left behind gives players some options to advance through the game if a track happens to be particularly challenging.

Another thing I like about this game is the fact that a lot of what makes the Burnout series great is also retained here. This includes the boosting system, the combat system, and the crashing and aftertouch system.

So, there is plenty of reasons to like this game. While not the strongest entry in the series, you can still get some entertainment value out of this game. If you like the other Burnout games, this is a game that is certainly playable. It has its issues including difficulty, the introductory race, and the fact that some of your racing revolves around on pure luck. Still, the boosting and combat system works quite well. The challenges also helps spice up some of the races as well.

Graphically, this game is OK. While for a PS2, this is a very solid game, the thing to keep in mind is that the Playstation 3 is already on the market. Games are already being released on that system by the time this game was released. So, it is imperative that this game impresses that much more. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it really gets there. There is some interesting effects and menu systems. Even the chrome works pretty well on the cars. Still, it winds up being only reasonably solid. Nothing here really makes me impressed enough to say “wow”. So, a solid effort, but nothing overly amazing.

The audio has always been a real staple for this game. In this series, I’ve always been at least somewhat impressed by this game series. This is probably the first time I’ve been a bit disappointed by it (mainly because previous instalments have been so good in this case). The sound effects work quite well. They offer a lot of personality for this game. The big disappointment has been the music for this game. The overall lineup is quite lacklustre. Probably the only highlight that I’m aware of in this game is Sugar Cult – Dead Living. Beyond that, I can’t really think of any real highlights in this game.

Overall, this game represents a bit of a step back for this series. Yes, it is quite enjoyable still with the challenges and boost system here. Unfortunately, the intro race, raised difficulty, and luck dependent racing holds this game back. The graphics are solid, but the audio is merely passable (which is a surprise to me given this game series history). So, a solid game all around, but there are better games to be found in this series.

Furthest point in game: Completed 83/88 races.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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