Burnout Crash Mode Creators Speed Into The Danger Zone

by Matthew Kato on Apr 26, 2017 at 08:01 AM

The Burnout franchise by Electronic Arts explored the seemingly contradictory mix of racing and a love of spectacular collisions. While the series' Crash mode – where you rack up money smashing your car into traffic intersections – started out as its own mode, Burnout Paradise attempted to integrate the mode's twisted metal into an open-world racing structure. Now the series' creators (Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry) head up their own indie studio, Three Fields Entertainment (Dangerous Golf), and are returning to the essence of the popular mode in Danger Zone.

The newly announced title comes out this May on PlayStation 4 and PC ($12.99), and distills the gameplay qualities of Burnout 3's Crash mode into a title featuring four tutorial segments and 20 stages. Pickups litter each area, and after speeding into the intersection and causing enough damage to earn a Smashbreaker, you can explode and tumble your way to pick up the three bronze and two silver pickups in each level. Getting these spawns a gold pickup, and collecting them in order gets you a Grand Slam payoff that will surely make your mark on the stage's leaderboard – which not only shows the crash's dollar amount, but also the number of wrecks you've caused and the number of attempts it took to get there.

Earning a second Smashbreaker, getting pickups, and wracking up a massive damage bill (the team even called up an Atlanta bus company to see how much a 72-seat bus cost in real life) will surely ignite quite the spectacle, but the developer has designed its levels like puzzles. Like Dangerous Golf before it, smashing stuff is cool in and of itself, but getting the pickups and figuring how to get around the stage is where the game really takes off.

Going back to Crash Mode's core concept from years ago sounds simple enough, but fast-forwarding from the days of the PlayStation 2 affords the team more than just more visual horsepower. The crashes are now all properly driven by physics, the layout of the roads and junctions themselves offers much more variety in terms of verticality and complexity, and the game's Unreal engine itself is a boon. Three Fields has used it for all their games so far (it also put out Lethal VR), and in the process has greatly improved its whole development workflow. The results are tangible in the eyes of the team. "In no time in my entire career have I had time at the end of the game to really polish all the tiny little niggly things that have bugged me right at the end," says technical expert Phil Maguire, "Whereas this game – because we have all that experience in Unreal – we have got everything locked down..."

"If we're really honest," says Sperry, "some of the previous times we've had to [refine levels], we've had to do it really quickly at the end. Whereas this time we've had a lot more time to tune that, and to get much more out of each individual junction."

Danger Zone is a focused title, and compromises have been made. It unfortunately does not have multiplayer, and it doesn't let you try out dozens of cars or anything. While Three Fields says it definitely wants to add multiplayer for a possible sequel, Alex Ward is reflective about other amenities. Talking specifically about players driving only one car, Ward says the studio didn't want to get sucked into the "aesthetic of scope."

"If you'd asked me five years ago how many pieces I need to put in the game," he says, "I would tell you that making a game with vehicles in it you've got to have 50 cars, and 50 different locations, and the more the merrier, right? Because the more things you can have the better the game is going to be. Whereas becoming an indie developer, you start to really focus down and you start to really ask questions in terms of what really affects gameplay."

After years of obsessing over exploding objects in various games – and succeeding in transferring that excitement to players – it looks like the team at Three Fields is once again hurtling toward something dangerously fun.

Tires exploding off of cars and trucks dropping their payloads adds a delightful dimension of randomness that only increases the damage done. Also sure to cause mayhem: toilets, the return of the speedboat, and more.

Note: The original text falsely listed Danger Zone as coming to Xbox One. It's coming to PS4 and PC. We regret the error and the text has been amended.