Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Burnout: Dominator
Score: 43%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Criterion
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:
For the most part, the graphics in Burnout: Dominator are what I've come to expect from the Burnout series... beautiful environments, lots of car-nage and excellent particle effects. What I was surprised to see, however, was extremely limited car selection (per event), and only three colors to choose from per car. The tracks were varied and were interesting, but not enough to make up for the gameplay, mentioned below.

The car models are original creations with generic names, which is to be expected. This allows the game to have their way with the cars and destroy them in various incendiary ways without having to obtain the permission of car manufacturers, who typically frown on graphic depictions of their product lines being blown up.

The music in Burnout: Dominator is a nice selection of rock and alternative music, utilizing EA's EATrax music system. I found that there was enough variety for me to find a song that fit the mood I was in, but the only way to change to a different track was the (L2) button, which randomly chose another song, so if you find a song that you might want to listen to, it's probably best to go ahead and race to it... it will be very difficult to find your way back to that song again, unless you've taken a lot of the songs out of rotation in the music settings.

The sound effects are spot-on, filling their supporting role well and not seeming out-of-place. Unfortunately, the part that seems to come up short in this game is the Gameplay.

Why? Why would a sequel to a game remove the very elements that made the game fun? I can see die-hard fans of the earlier games complaining about these changes, but if these changes make the game much more fun to a wider audience, you don't simply rip them out... you could (easily) offer a couple of modes or something... some could simply be an option in a menu somewhere.

What am I talking about? Well, one of the best games ever in the Burnout series was Burnout: Revenge. In this game, you could slam into ambient traffic from the side or from behind, knocking them forward and turning them into veritable projectiles, capable of taking an opponent out. Slamming into traffic head-on, however, would take you out. This made the game both easier and more fun to play than previous games in the series, in which you would crash out if you hit ambient traffic head-on or from behind. Burnout: Dominator returns to the old style of play, where crashing into traffic in any way other than side-swiping them results in you crashing. Additionally, Burnout: Dominator focuses heavily on speed and the use of boost - which makes for a lot of accidental impacts with ambient traffic - and, therefore, a lot of annoying crashes. Burnout: Revenge also featured a "Traffic Attack" mode that gave you a time limit and required you to take out a certain amount of ambient traffic by "checking" them from behind in order to get extended time. This mode was, in a word, awesome. And in Burnout: Dominator? In a word? Absent.

The other thing that is quite noticeably absent is the Crash mode. This was a puzzle mode that appeared in Burnout: Revenge and Burnout 3: Takedown before that called Crash Events. In this mode, you had to choose a vehicle and use it in the situation provided to create the largest possible amount of damage, assessed monetarily. This might sound a bit strange, but it was a blast! J.R. Nip played this mode until 3 A.M. when we first got that game in. I, likewise, found it to be the cause for many a lost hour. Why this mode is left out of Burnout: Dominator is beyond me.

What you do get is only a few modes, most of which feature a "car select" screen that only allows you to select a color... from a wide selection of three colors. (Woot.) I played a split-screen multiplayer game with Psibabe and was amazed to find out that we couldn't even choose a color. As I recall, we basically had one "choice" to choose from; the color change option simply wasn't there. This lack of color selection wasn't limited to players, evidently, as all of the computer A.I. controlled vehicles were also the same color.

The official Burnout: Dominator states that this game focuses on blinding speed, allowing you to chain one full boost meter after another for a long, high-speed streak that can literally last until you wipe-out. And, given an amazing amount of skill (and practice), that could be true, but it seems like so much was taken out of the game without any cause in order to focus on speed. Why the limited car choices? Why limit to 3 color selections per car - if that?! Burnout: Dominator seems to have been built from the ground up with the sole purpose of disappointing those who enjoyed Burnout: Revenge.

Burnout: Dominator is a difficult game to play. The hardest part for me is trying to avoid slamming into ambient traffic. Especially since in Burnout: Revenge you could rear-end traffic that's traveling the same direction as you. Burnout: Dominator requires that you avoid all contact with ambient traffic other than tapping them with the side of your car. This can be tough at very high speeds.

It should be mentioned that the difficulty in avoiding ambient traffic is greatly increased in Split Screen mode, due to the loss of half of the screen detail (per player). You get either the top or the bottom half of the screen, which had me scooting closer to the TV and squinting to try to figure out what I was about to run into in time to avoid actually doing so.

As far as simply advancing in the game, there are several different goals to attempt for some of the events. There may be some goal to meet on a specific track to unlock the use of a new car, for example. This objective may be completely unrelated to the actual goal of the race, and it is possible to lose the race (or event), but meet the objective that allows you to unlock the car. This is fine, as you can try the event again, this time trying to get a Gold medal without worrying about trying to unlock the new car. Also, new tracks are opened up based on points which are earned by meeting objectives and getting medals. If you find that you haven't received enough points as you've progressed, you might want to look back at early events and retry any that you didn't get a Gold medal in; upgrading your medal to a Gold will give you the difference in the point value between your previous medal and your new one, and the practice you've gotten since the first time you tried these early events will often make them easier to earn a Gold.

Game Mechanics:
I don't understand why Burnout: Dominator doesn't have the elements that made Burnout: Revenge so great. The Crash mode seemed to be a fairly natural extension of the game itself, using the same engine, with very little additional required overhead, such as the tallying of damage at the end, the setting-up of a puzzle-like scenario and triggering an explosion. This mode was very addictive and should have been a lasting part of the series from Burnout 3: Takedown on.

Another missing element in Burnout: Dominator is the ability to "check traffic", that is, to ram into ambient traffic from behind and send them flailing down the road. In Burnout: Revenge, this served as an added way of attacking opponents (using traffic to take out opponents - even as "trick shots") and oncoming traffic, as well as making it a bit easier to keep your speed up, since accidentally rear-ending traffic that was going the same direction as you wouldn't cause you to crash out. After introducing this in Burnout: Revenge, there is no excuse for not including this in all subsequent Burnout games. If nothing else, this could have been an option in the Options Menu.

Even disregarding the above complaints, the car selection is limited - in many races to merely selecting a color... and that's from only three colors. Play in Split Screen mode, when color is crucial to knowing which car driven by the person sitting next to you, and you'll not even get to choose a color; instead, all of the cars in the race will be of the same color. What were the developers thinking?

I really don't know what to say about Burnout: Dominator. This game might have been good, if it had come out before Burnout: Revenge. As it stands, however, I would have to recommend buying Burnout: Revenge over Burnout: Dominator - even if you already own a copy of Burnout: Revenge; I think the release of Burnout: Dominator may actually raise the value (and possibly the street price) of Burnout: Revenge and Burnout 3: Takedown.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.