Burnout: Dominator - Retro Reflections - TBT

Burnout: Dominator by developer EA UK and publisher Electronic Arts—PSP Throwback Thursday review written by Hamza. 2007.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Not since Stunt Car Racer did I have a more exciting time playing a racing game than Burnout: Dominator. Everything you are not given the permission to do in real life can be done here. From ramming to shunting, driving the wrong way, to drifting, near collision misses to taking down other drivers; this freedom is not just a glorified game mechanic, it is a vital part of the system and an integral instinct one has to adopt if he is ever to win races. The racing itself is futile; there are no points for coming first. You need to claim the top position with style. To me, Dominator is the first in the series to have perfectly fine-tuned the necessary aspects to making a white-knuckle, hair-raising, style-over-substance, ruthless metal against metal mayhem. This is vehicular porn, with its shattered window panes, broken doors, grinding metal, burning rubber and other results when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object beautifully and aesthetically choreographed.

Dominator thankfully doesn’t have a storyline. The last thing I need is the action to stop for a CGI-model advising me what I can and cannot do. Instead, what the game has is a lengthy career mode, which sees several distinct classes of vehicles and a chock-full of in-race missions and targets. For example, your primary objective would be taking down a rival car three times (to unlock it) and a secondary objective to drift over 9,000 ft. (for extra points). These two, coupled with the fact you need to come first if you’re after the “Get All Gold Medals in Every Race” trophy, are more than enough to permanently turn your knuckles white and possibly turn you into an insane person. But that’s what’s great about this game, the rewarding system. No matter which position you finish in, you must have done something during racing. The game takes notes of and rewards you with a surprise trophy or points.

The main pull of the game is the vehicle line-up. These inanimate monsters with an insatiable zeal for twisted metal all range from unassuming, two-tone saloons to impossibly fast supercars. My personal favourite class is the Hot Rod series. Though they controlled no better than the Factory or Super series, I think I managed to score twice as many takedowns with this series than any other. The Assassin stayed for a long time as my weapon of choice on the battlefield. True to its name, the Assassin proved to be the perfect hitman on the tarmac - due to its tough exterior and heaviness - mostly in Maniac and Road Rage, where your aim is to take down as many rivals as you can in a time period. Its slow speed proved to be an issue at times, but that’s where the Boost comes in handy.

The Boost bar is the yellow strip of flames that you see in the lower left corner of the screen. Once it turns blue, you know it is time to unleash hell. The more you fill it up, the more chain reactions you can pull off, and the more you do of that, the more you will dominate the race. However should someone dominate or take you out, the crashbreaker mode is here to save the day. This nifty mode enables you to steer your wreck in the path of other racers and take them out via Aftertouch – one of the many styles of taking a rival out. Alternatively, if the rivals are too far or have gotten ahead of you, you can press the Triangle button to cause a powerful explosion and take multiple out at once. But be careful, too many explosions and/or crashes can result in a critical condition of your car; and that means the next time it crashes, instant game over.

When it comes to the music, Dominator’s soundtrack had a tough act to follow: Need For Speed: Most Wanted. How exactly do you top Lupe Fiasco, Celldweller, Styles of Beyond, and Static-X? Ask your girlfriend, she might know.

This will date me, but Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend was a moment in music. It was everywhere, it was constantly running on some speaker. It is easily one of the coolest and catchiest songs ever; and it makes for a great musical companion. To further prove this song’s dominance in the music industry, the game also features the Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish versions of the song - the only one from the soundtrack to get such treatment. No matter what shenanigans the game’s asked you to do on the battlefield, Ms. Lavigne’s persistent - albeit censored - shouting of her wanting to be your girlfriend is pure bliss.

Unfortunately the game is not without its flaws. The major gripe I have with this game is the rather awkward controls. The Playstation 2 version had great, almost flawless steering, but this PSP version suffers from slight unresponsive controls. This is most noticeable while drifting. Another issue stems from magically appearing civilian vehicles. You could be on a hot burnout streak, and boom! a car just pops up from the ground. I didn’t encounter too many of these glitches, thankfully.

In conclusion, this hyper-kinetic road battler is a must-play for anyone. Think Destruction Derby; but with twenty times the mayhem. Think of whatever game that comes to mind, and Burnout: Dominator is x-times more than that!

Note: Screenshots from all platforms that were available at the time can be found here at Moby Games.

Score: 8.5 / 10



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