The Burnout series of games must be one of the most impressive of the PlayStation 2 era, yet with the industry moving its development focus to new consoles, it would have been reasonable to have thought Revenge would be the last time we'd get our kicks from Sony's aging console. We were wrong though, as EA and Criterion saw fit to release Burnout Dominator on PlayStation 2 and PSP.
By now the majority of gamers should be pretty well versed in the art of Burnout and the fundamentals of Dominator aren't too far removed from the previous games in the series. You drive cars, reach insane speeds, dodge traffic, earn boost by driving like a maniac and take down your rivals. It's pure arcade racing at its best, and if you liked previous games because of the above gameplay, you'll no doubt like Dominator too. However, if your main area of interest was the superb Crash mode, you'll be very disappointed.
For reasons unknown, but perhaps in an attempt to make Dominator different from the games before it, Crash mode is nowhere to be seen. It's a shame, as this always provided a break from the intensely focussed high-speed racing, allowing you to dabble with a more strategic game mode. Instead we have Maniac mode, which is pretty much as described. You drive as dangerously as possible in an attempt to achieve as high a score as possible.
This is aided by the new boost chaining ability that has been introduced in Dominator. By building up your boost meter to its max, it turns blue and allows you to attempt a Burnout. By boosting all the way through the boost meter's duration, you achieve a Burnout, but the trick is gaining enough boost during this Burnout to enable you to instantly boost again. As the blue boost bar depletes, a series of yellow arrows grows in the opposite direction. If this maxes out and you manage to Burnout, you'll be able to keep up this boost indefinitely.
Also new are Signature Shortcuts. These are opened up by taking down another driver at the entrance to a shortcut, with that new route remaining open for future races on that track. These can then be used to set new fastest times and to sneakily pass opponents. Again, it's a nice feature, but not something that dramatically changes the Burnout experience.
On the whole Dominator left a distinctly 'seen it all before' whiff of exhaust fumes in the air. Without any online play, Crash mode or Traffic Checking you're left to tackle the singular main mode of play and, despite the fact that there's a decent variety in the challenges, nothing stands out as being hugely different. As fun as the core gameplay remains, the brand-new next-gen Burnout Paradise can't come soon enough.
On the PSP, Dominator is almost exactly the same game, which actually makes it a little more exciting than its PS2 counterpart. PSP owners have only so far been treated to one Burnout game, so a more technically accomplished entry in the series on the handheld is certainly welcome. The PSP game is also the one to go for if you want more than two-player multiplayer action. While neither game supports online play, local wireless play for 6 players is an option on PSP and there's support for online leaderboards too.
The PS2 game is also less impressive visually than the PSP release. While in a head-to-head the PS2 game would win, relative to what the systems are capable of the PSP game is a greater achievement. On the PS2 Dominator lacks a widescreen mode and seems considerably rougher in appearance than Revenge, while the PSP game is a nice improvement over Legends. Both run at a nice frame rate, which is key to the game's sense of speed. Audio is typically EA, with a bunch of licensed music, most notably Girlfriend from Avril Lavigne (in numerous different languages no less).
Burnout Dominator is a solid entry in the Burnout series but it's really just more of the same. The lack of Crash mode is a big disappointment and makes the World Tour feel a little samey. If you're after more Burnout on the PSP then this is well worth adding to your collection, but on the PS2 Burnout Revenge is by far the better option.