Burnout Dominator

Less is more. It's a phrase often used to counter the notion that quantity is synonymous with quality.

The thing is, sometimes less is just… well… less.

Burnout Dominator is a case in point. After the excellence of Burnout Legends, the previous PSP outing for the popular (and mostly brilliant) franchise, this latest iteration has rolled out of EA's publishing garage offering what it claims is a pared down, more finely tuned experience.

In effect, Dominator returns to the origins of the series, where driving skill rather than vehicular combat was the central premise of the Burnout game. You still get to 'takedown' opponents – indeed, you need to slam them into barriers at certain points of the tracks in order to open up secret shortcuts – but the fun Crash mode seen in Legends has been dropped in the interest of keeping things focused on the racing.

As such, there is a return emphasis on performing 'burnouts' – injecting the entire contents of your brim-full boost bar into the engine of your already speedy machine in one brave, continuous action. Do so without letting go of the R trigger (boost) and you've bagged yourself a burnout.

Drive dangerously – on the wrong side of the road, near miss oncoming traffic, drift, get some air, takedown competitors, and so on – while boosting and you're instantly rewarded with a full boost refill, which you can chain into by keeping R firmly down. The more chaining you achieve, the higher the points multiplier, so do this for as long as you dare, or until a dangerously protruding segment of the impressively rendered scenery halts you.

Of course, the culprit for such an abrupt, brutal stop to your flow can just as easily be an oncoming vehicle. The road in Dominator rushes past at such a remarkable pace (as it does in Legends, of course) that combined with the environment's aforementioned notable level of detail it actually occasionally makes it difficult to see where the tarmac goes, let alone what's coming along it.

Obviously, familiarity with the tracks eventually removes initial navigational confusion, leaving you to concentrate on any last-minute evasive manoeuvres you may require in order to avoid hapless civilian cars who suddenly find themselves in the way of your irresponsible driving.

And yet, all you're doing is what the game requires of you. Burnout has traditionally been about taking cars around urban-based roads with absolute, reckless abandon and Dominator's new Maniac mode encapsulates that best, scoring you on how dangerously and aggressively you drive.

Found in the game's World Tour option, which offers seven car model-based series, from Classic, Factory, Tuned, and Hotrod to Super, Race Specials and Dominator, each containing 13 events, the experience is as invigorating as you'd expect.

But then so is the purity of the Burnout and Drift challenges (another two of the events), which concern themselves solely with the number of burnouts and the longest boost chain, and amount of drifting achieved, respectively.

Clearly, neither of the above stop you from driving ruthlessly. Indeed, you're often guaranteed additional points from unlocking shortcuts, near misses, takedowns, beating rival challenges (see PG Tips below), burnouts and trophy rewards (which you acquire by meeting certain targets such as a number of Maniac points or managing a double takedown, and so on), regardless of the event you're undertaking. And you need points to unlock subsequent series.

The series themselves comprise 13 events, 11 of which incorporate a mix of Burnout, Drift and Near Miss challenges, as well as Race, Road Rage, Burning Lap, and Eliminator rounds. These unlock progressively, usually as a result of top-three finishes in the others, and are completed by a Grand Prix format event and, finally, the Dominator option (again, see PG Tips).

And in addition to World Tour, there is a Record Breaker option (an opportunity to play unlocked events singularly in an attempt to better your stats), and decent Multiplayer ad hoc support for six racers with Race, Road Rage, Maniac and Party Play offerings.

Plenty to do, then, but not entirely varied. As a single-player, by the time you enter the Super series (roughly two thirds of the way through the game), you'll doubtlessly appreciate the more dart-like nature of the cars now available but may have lost some of the initial drive to complete the game due to its repetitive nature.

Then there are the niggles, such as finding that whenever you boost to try and quickly catch up with race opponents, they seem to possess the uncanny ability to do the same, making things particularly frustrating if you're in Eliminator mode and about to be kicked off the event, for instance. Or the fact that if you're playing for long bursts, the amount of lengthy loading can test your patience. And, as mentioned, the difficulty in seeing traffic can become an issue when you're behind the wheel of the faster cars, something we're attributing to the graphical style in Dominator being darker, more complex and less vibrant than Legends'.

Arguably, the game's merits counter all of the above. The sense of speed as you blast through this technically accomplished gameworld, combined with the liberating ability to drive like a lunatic, bashing rivals into oncoming traffic, taking them out even after you've crashed yourself (the franchise's Impact Time, Aftertouch and Crashbreaker features have, thankfully, been included) or squeezing through gaps barely wider than the ends of your side mirrors is undeniably exhilarating.

But the main problem is it's nothing new. The above is true of all recent Burnouts, not least of the full-bodied variety of Legends on PSP, of course. So while we can appreciate this is more of a deliberately slimline offering, you can't help emerging from it feeling it's just a little lightweight, a little lacking. For once, less isn't more.

Burnout Dominator

Technically brilliant and often thrilling, but also considerably lighter than its predecessor and unable to provide the same long-term appeal
Joao Diniz Sanches
Joao Diniz Sanches
With three boys under the age of 10, former Edge editor Joao has given up his dream of making it to F1 and instead spends his time being shot at with Nerf darts. When in work mode, he looks after editorial projects associated with the Pocket Gamer and Steel Media brands.