It's a sad time for PlayStation 2 owners. Although the system still continues to sell well, more and more big franchises are moving to next-gen systems. Thankfully the Burnout series hasn't jumped ship just yet, with Burnout Dominator for PlayStation 2 and PSP due for release at the end of March. Although the aged Sony console is starting to run out of new tricks, Dominator has a number of new ideas up its sleeve.
The big addition to Dominator is boost meter chaining. By performing drifts and risky moves on the road you build up the boost meter, just as you did in previous Burnout games. The difference this time is what you can do once that boost meter has been filled up. As the boost meter gradually drains, a secondary meter fills up. If you can fill this meter before the main meter drains, you'll gain a full boost meter once the current boost runs out. This can be performed over and over again, allowing the best drivers to chain boosts together. Your chain also acts as a score multiplier, adding even more of an incentive to link boosts together.
Elsewhere things are very similar to before. Many of the gameplay conventions from previous games return, so fans should feel right at home. Takedowns are once again a big part of the experience and they've been joined by Signature shortcuts. Hidden shortcuts are placed around the courses and the only way to unlock them is to perform a takedown at the entrance. This unlocks that shortcut for the race and for the duration of your time with the game, allowing you to better your fastest times.
Burnout Revenge, and Takedown before that, focussed on the battle side of racing. Dominator feels much more similar to the first two games in the series, where racing was the star of the show. This is immediately apparent by the lack of Crash mode and the new Maniac mode that replaces Traffic Attack from Revenge. Instead of ploughing into other cars, Maniac mode rewards players for driving like a maniac, totting up points as you race against an ever decreasing clock. The use of boost chaining is more important than ever here and will need to be mastered if big scores are going to be achieved.
Dominator on the PSP is a direct port of the PlayStation 2 game, but it does feature additional multiplayer support. Criterion focussed on what they felt current PlayStation 2 and PSP gamers would want from a new Burnout, so online multiplayer has been dropped and there's no data sharing between the two games. These are features that Criterion doesn't believe would be used, so instead the team focussed on the core game and useful features like Game Sharing on the PSP.
Burnout Dominator might only be a stopgap release while work is being done on the first proper next-game game in the series, but it's looking far more exciting than a quick cash grab. Look out for a full review towards the end of March.