For many, many years, the market-defining mantra of leading third-party gaming publisher Electronic Arts has seemingly been 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Indeed, one need only look toward the history connected to the likes of Madden, FIFA, and Medal of Honor (amongst others) to see that originality and groundbreaking progression isn't exactly EA's strong point, whereas relying on the willingness of consumers to happily buy incrementally different series extensions each year most certainly is... which brings us to Burnout Dominator.
Positioned as a high-octane buffer between the existing Burnout: Revenge and the upcoming next-gen Burnout 5, Criterion's Burnout Dominator on the long-serving PlayStation 2 stakes its racing claim on the series' past achievements while offering little by way of notable improvement. However, as with most of EA's well-polished series creations, Dominator offers itself up as a well-honed and explosion-friendly rush of gaming adrenaline that performs fabulously - despite the relative lack of power in the greying PS2 - and if you were one of the few who missed out on Burnout: Revenge, then Dominator is certainly well worth taking out for a destructive spin.
Also, any series fans longing for a return to the simplicity of more focused full-on thrills, white-knuckle racing, and massive bursts of breathtaking speed will be pleased to note that the relative gameplay intricacies of Takedown have been stripped somewhat in Dominator. More pointedly, the blessed (and missed) chained Burnouts are back to encourage and reward a player's willingness to keep their car's accelerator pressed firmly to the floor in the most dangerous of racing conditions, while track environments are also more readily geared to sweepingly long drifts and continuously tempting Burnout opportunities.
Built on the engine that powered Burnout: Revenge, the PlayStation 2 manages to produce a wildly fluid experience that shifts along at such a healthy clip that it's all-but impossible to discern any distracting pop, draw, or clip as the environments whiz by at insane speeds. The gameplay backwards shuffle of chained Burnouts means that when a player's boost meter is full, the meter's inner flame icon turns blue, granting access to a supercharged boost. While the blue flamed boosts don't provide any extra speed when compared to 'standard' Burnouts, fearless and daring drivers willing to execute breakneck drifts or drive cleanly into oncoming traffic, will be able to keep contributing to the boost meter while chaining together multiple boosts and massively useful point multipliers.
Naturally, as with most editions of Burnout, there are a whole host of different event types to contend with in Dominator (i.e. Maniac, Near Miss, Drift, Rival Challenge, and Dominator Challenge), as well as masses of thoroughly satisfying takedowns, and a wealth of progressively more 'snarl-worthy' vehicles to attain along the way. Also, the inclusion of Signature Shortcuts (essentially a tweaked version of Signature Takedowns) means that smashing opponents into specific spots throughout the environment will open up fresh paths that can be later used to shave off valuable race seconds. And, speaking of smashing opponents, dishing out liberal amounts of metal-tearing Takedown action is typically impressive in Dominator, with players able to rack up huge amounts of destruction while enjoying it all in beautiful slow motion and a hail of showering sparks. And, when on the receiving end of said Takedowns, players are able to enjoy their own slow motion demise while still dishing a little extra pain along the way by adding inertial Aftertouch to their Impact Time and then promptly exploding their wreck in the path of onrushing opponents to execute a Revenge Takedown.
Graphically, Burnout Dominator certainly carries its torch convincingly on the PlayStation 2 and arrives as yet another title on the ageing console (i.e. God of War II, Okami) that belies its supposed positioning as an 'old generation' machine in the face of the well-oiled muscle of the PlayStation 3. While it's nowhere near as slick in terms of its polished presentation as some of today's racing titles, Burnout Dominator is still a fairly stunning example of blazing speed and explosive action all wrapped up in a solid fps rate and surrounded by detailed vehicles and flowing environments.
From an aural standpoint, particularly that of in-game sound, Dominator's roaring engines, screeching tyres, and ear-shattering explosions all make for a believable gameplay experience. Musically, EA's usual overload of (largely mediocre) rock tracks accompany the on-screen action - though, thankfully, any or all of the generally ill-fitting tracks can be turned off if so desired. Anyone doubting the possible mediocrity of the game's tracklisting need only know that Avril Lavigne is in attendance with the same insipid pseudo rock song in various languages.
Sadly, anyone hoping to hook up with buddies for genuine multiplayer action will be sorely disappointed in this instance as Dominator doesn't offer up any form of online multiplayer access. That said, two players can go head-to-head via splitscreen in Race, Road Rage, Eliminator, and Maniac modes. Also, Party Play mode allows up to four players to rip up the tarmac in single races or throughout multiple modes and series events.
Absolutely crammed with speed and thrills, though perhaps a little light in terms of content and longevity without the inclusion of multiplayer, Burnout Dominator is still as impressive as most of the series editions, and certainly equally as appealing as Burnout: Revenge in all the right gameplay places - but that is also perhaps its one defining fault. The fact is that if you've already played Revenge, then Dominator really does feel much like copycat filler, which it is. Ultimately, waiting for Criterion to round out Burnout 5 on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 would likely be the right move for eager Burnout fans looking for something a little more edgy and 'now' but PlayStation 2 owners could do a lot worse than Burnout Dominator. 78%