Burnout Dominator, a Hit and Run

EA's new crash and burn game for PSP and PS2 doesn't match the Xbox rival's graphics, but the tracks and crashes make up for that

Burnout Dominator lets gamers crash expensive looking cars without having to worry about their insurance, dealing with the police and most importantly, the other driver. Players slam into other vehicles, watch as they explode and assume the victim's dead, except unlike in real life, such a tragic occurrence produces a smile, perhaps even a strange, unsettling laugh from gamers eager to cause as much mayhem possible. Thankfully, publisher and developer Electronic Arts -- who's given series creator Criterion (now part of EA UK) some breathing room while it works on Burnout 5 -- encourages this wanton destruction, though if gamers intend on winning, they should steer clear of obstacles and keep their eyes on the road.

Exclusive to the PS2 and PSP, Burnout Dominator lets people hop into an expensive looking (yet fictitious) automobile and cause havoc on the road, performing takedowns by slamming into rival drivers. However, and unlike previous games in the series, this one focuses more on safe driving, or for that matter "safe driving" as it applies to a Burnout game. EA discarded the enjoyable Crash Mode and instead encourages gamers to drive as fast and as recklessly as possible without hitting things, a concept that proves difficult since this game stands out as one of the fastest, most insane racing games on the planet. Most times, it seems like the cars have jet engines under their hoods as they blaze down straight-aways and rocket around hairpin turns.

Fortunately, the reward for not crashing justifies the means. Driving safely earns boost, which lets gamers go even faster. However, if they max out the boost meter they perform Burnouts. The boost meter automatically refills if they keep from hitting things, resulting in multiple combos and tons of points. In theory, and depending on their driving skills, they can boost through an entire track.

In addition, Burnout Dominator features new tracks, all of which contain hidden shortcuts. To access them, gamers must score a takedown, ramming into an opponent at certain spots. Once unlocked, they remain that way through a person's driving career.

Dominator also sports new rides, which players achieve by completing various challenges, such as taking out a specific rival or drifting for a set amount of time. Unfortunately, none of these cars really exist, but it doesn't take a genius to see why. Automobile manufacturers such as Honda, Toyota and Ferrari might not take too kindly to seeing their signature vehicles explode and rain charred parts onto the street.

Continuing on the "drive safely" vibe, EA created Maniac Mode, where players must avoid crashing, but just barely, the goal to see how long they last. Given the game's ludicrous speed, most people won't make it past eight seconds.

After playing Burnout Revenge on the Xbox 360, staring at PlayStation 2 graphics feels odd. Dominator looks good, with detailed tracks, cars and impressive crashes, but the jagged models fail to match the quality of Revenge's visuals. Still, people will delight in the game's crashes and the new tracks.

Online, on the other hand, presents a more concerning issue. While the PSP version contains an online leader board, lets players download new tracks and allows up to six people to play via AdHoc, neither version has online racing, a curious decision.

Still, Burnout Dominator will please fans of the series looking for more content as well as people that have never touched the franchise. The combination of blinding speed and horrific wrecks offer plenty of thrills, and for those looking forward to Burnout 5, this entry should serve as a tasty appetizer.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.