Since Burnout creator Alex Ward left Electronic Arts in 2013 to start his own small studio, Three Fields Entertainment, alongside Criterion Games co-founder Fiona Sperry, people have been asking him "when are you going to make another game like Burnout?" With a team of just six people, Three Fields released two games last year – the genre-defying, physics-based Dangerous Golf and the virtual reality "weapons experience", Lethal VR and now they're ready to drop Danger Zone for PC and PlayStation 4 on May 30 – a game that captures the spirit of the popular "crash mode" from Burnout 3.
"We made Golf, and everyone said, 'I thought you were making a car game.'" Ward says. "I guess everyone thought we'd just formed the company to make a car game, and looking back, probably we should've done, but we wouldn't have been able to do it as quickly, and it wouldn't have been as good because we wouldn't have known what to do." Ward says his small team needed to spend time working with the Unreal game engine for a while before jumping into this particular project.
"What we wanted to do with Danger Zone is go back to a proper 3D car-crashing game where you crash for cash and you have to cause a big crash – so very simple," he says. "But then, obviously, what we're not going do is create 1,000 different environments and a big pretty world, so we've started to think about, "What could we do?" So we looked at crash-test simulation locations. We did some research, and they normally take place in a laboratory in Frankfurt or something, and they tend to be what you see when Volvo release their videos and stuff. They tend to be a long white room with a lot of cameras in it, and a car rigged up with cameras. So we looked at that and we started to build that for a couple of days, and then realized that we kind of wanted to have fire and explosions in the game, so a big white room full of mirrors was probably not the best place to set it. Anyway, that at least gave us the name. We looked at, like, chimney tiles and stuff and industrial locations, and that gave us this concept of the "danger zone."
We've played an early build of the game, and it certainly evokes the same feel as the classic Burnout mode. It's a pure physics-based game that sees you flinging a car into the middle of a situation and then causing as much destruction as possible while collecting pick-ups that multiply your score. Like the Crash Modes that have preceded it, after your initial impact you still have a degree of control over the way your wreck interacts with other traffic, so the resulting experience sees you wrestling with the movement of everything in the environment to ensure you damage the most stuff, and rack up the highest possible score.