The Advertising Standards Authority has branded a poster for Electronic Arts title Burnout Dominator as "irresponsible" following complaints from members of the public.
Once upon a time, Burnout games were about driving fast and close to the edge. They were literally about the burnout: successive speed boosts triggered by following a racing line that steered perilously close to the path of danger for far longer than was sensible. With the third game in the series, the focus shifted away from this knife-edge racing line and towards a brash blend of bumper-car takedowns and slo-mo vehicular violence. It didn't make the games any less enjoyable, but it certainly made them different. Burnout Dominator, however, turns the clock back a little. While it does take some of the design sensibilities from Takedown, it blends them with the return of the burnout to create a game that's not half bad.
The complete removal of the Crash mode will no doubt annoy some people, and it does make Dominator feel a bit stripped down by comparison with the last couple of games. In many respects, though, it affords the game a greater focus. In any case, the dodgem style mentality is still there, since you can still perform takedowns, and you can still apply a bit of aftertouch after crashing to steer yourself into your rivals. But the emphasis here has definitely shifted back to burnout-assisted racing, and the ensuing sense of speed is probably the fastest that the PSP's ever seen.
Combined with the tail-out racing style of something like OutRun, and a comprehensive World Tour mode that breaks the game up into a series of brilliantly entertaining challenges, the result is surprisingly good for something that was presumably conceived of as nothing more than an amuse bouche before the meatier delights of Burnout 5 are dished up later in the year.
So here's a thing. Burnout: Dominator has a pretty great soundtrack. You've got your Fratellis, your LCD Soundsystem and your innumerable studenty rock-punk bands where the lead singer doesn't quite have a nice enough voice and so sings in slightly dumb (but unique!) way instead. About four hours into playing Dominator I was tearing through the streets while shouting along to Chelsea Dagger because I'm a terrible human being, when I noticed they'd altered it and censored the word 'hell'. I was instantly fascinated. This is a game where it's not just an option but a necessity for you to drive down the wrong side of the street, ram your opponents and detonate your own car without thought to innocents caught in the blast, but they don't want you hearing the word 'hell'. Maybe because they know that's where they're going?
The important thing you should take from this story has nothing to do with bizarre age rating laws. The important thing is that I could spare all those brain cells for a lengthy bit of legal musing while I was driving because I was on autopilot. That's something that never happened to me with previous Burnout games. In the past my attention had been held with an iron grip. This time I was playing on instinct.
Know you best as a blagger
EA's teamed up with Virgin Records and Epiphone to go on a MySpace-wide talent search for the best new bands and artists, offering the winner a chance for their track to appear in Burnout Dominator.
Electronic Arts has unveiled Burnout Dominator for PlayStation 2 and PSP, due out in 2007.