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game: Driv3r
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Atari
date posted: 12:00 AM Wed Aug 4th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Wed Aug 4th, 2004

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By Eric Qualls

Driv3r makes me want to party like it's 1999, but in this case that isnít a good thing. Basically, if you have played the original Driver or Driver 2, you know exactly what to expect from Driver 3, because absolutely nothing has changed. With games like Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City out there, I donít think it is unreasonable to expect a little more from new games in the genre than the cops versus robbers concept that Driver was built on, but you don't see any of that here. That is the biggest problem with Driv3r. It not only offers nothing new that we haven't already seen in the genre (I'd say it actually takes several steps back), but it doesn't offer anything we haven't already seen from the Driver series itself.

Like the other games in the series, Driv3r puts you in the shoes of Tanner, an undercover FBI agent, as he tries to work his way into the underground crime scene. In Driv3r, Tanner is trying to find out about a Miami crime ring that is working to steal forty exotic sports cars. Your investigation takes you from Miami, to Nice, France, and then to Istanbul, Turkey. The story is pretty bland, however, and even though it is told through some very nice looking cutscenes, it isn't very interesting and there isn't much here that you haven't seen before. The story mode is also mind numbingly linear as you are sent on mission after mission in which your only real goal is to, basically, arrive at the next location in one piece.

If you have played Driver, Driver 2, or even Stuntman, you should know pretty much what to expect from Driv3r. While GTA is sort of an all encompassing crime game, Driver has always focused on cars and car chases first and foremost, and Driv3r is no different. This time around there are more types of cars and even boats and motorcycles to cruise around in and on. The physics of the vehicles are exaggerated in such a way that you always skid around corners and fly high over jumps in order to recreate the 70ís cop show feel.

In addition to driving around, you can also exit your vehicle and explore on foot. Here is where the problems really start to mount for Driv3r. Exploring the city on foot feels very stiff and awkward, with Tanner slowly waddling around, jumping all of three inches off the ground, and turning around ever so sluggishly. The gunplay is even worse, and the aiming and hit detection are completely broken. Most of the combat consists of running right up to enemies and blasting them before the dim witted AI has a chance to react. You can also swim in Driv3r, but Tanner moves incredibly slow and you have to swim for miles to find a ladder to get back on dry land. The absolute worst part of the on foot gameplay is that when you press the button to enter a car, it doesnít work most of the time. The camera flips out and changes and reacts like you are getting into the car, but Tanner doesnít actually get in. You have to press the button several times and get in just the right position before the game lets you get into a car. In missions where you only have a limited amount of time, which is all of them, those seconds wasted trying to get into your car can and usually do result in you failing the mission.

And that is the biggest overall flaw with Driv3r. The missions are extremely linear and there is such a tiny margin for error that the game is frustrating instead of fun. In the very first mission of the game you exit the police station and then run to a parked squad car just as another police car speeds past. You are supposed to follow the other police car to the scene of the crime, but if you get too far behind the mission ends. You have to stay within about a hundred feet of the other car, so basically you have to drive absolutely perfect in order to complete the mission. Every single mission is the same exact way. You have to be perfect, and if you clip a light post, spin out going around a corner, or just plain don't keep your foot on the gas the entire time you will fail. Most missions will take you several attempts to beat simply because you have to memorize every turn and parked car and everything else in order to manage that one clean run that allows you to advance. If you don't have a lot of patience, Driv3r is absolutely no fun.

Outside of the story missions, the game isnít really all that much better simply because it is boring. There isn't much to look at in the cities and there isn't anything to do, so aimlessly driving around gets old pretty fast. The only real thrill available in Driv3r is that the cops are just itching to give out tickets sort of like here in Podunk and the police chases are some of the best parts of the game. The police are pretty crash happy and that can lead to some spectacular chases that you can edit in the filmmaker mode.

The sad thing about these flaws with Driv3r is that this is exactly how the Driver series has always been. Driver was fun back in the day because it was one of the first games to feature a wide open city and it was a thrill to run from the cops. Now, however, there are a lot of similar games and they all do these things a whole lot better. Driver just isn't hip anymore, and the frustrating gameplay definitely doesn't help the archaic design to be any more fun. This is an old game with a new coat of paint, and these days that just doesn't cut it. Graphically, Driv3r is a nice looking game, but there are a ton of glitches that pop up everywhere. Every object from car models to Tanner himself has jaggies and at this point in this console generation, particularly on the Xbox, jaggies are unacceptable. The pop up in Driv3r is also a cause for concern because it is so bad that it occasionally costs you a mission. Most of the time cars just appear out of nowhere a good hundred feet in front of you, but sometimes they pop up before you have a chance to avoid them. The textures in the game also tend to flicker and tear seemingly at random, which looks flat out ugly. The animation for Tanner is also very stiff and his character model can only be described as boxy. There is some nice lighting in the game, and when the game isn't glitching out it looks fairly good, but it should have been a lot better. The sound is fairly unimpressive, which is odd considering how big of a role sound and music plays in Grand Theft Auto and True Crime. Engine sounds for the cars and motorcycles sound good, but not really realistic. For the most part, the voice work by Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames, Iggy Pop, Mickey Rourke, and Michelle Rodriguez sounds pretty good, but for every good scene there are three or four that fall flat. The voice actors come across wooden and uninterested in what they are doing, and it shows. A major issue I have with Driv3r is the lack of music. Old time cop show music dominates the score and there are some more dramatic tunes that play during cutscenes, but none of the music is all that great. You can listen to music that you have ripped onto your hard drive, but the same song tends to repeat over and over again if you fail a mission or if the game has to load. The in-game music is bland and boring and the custom soundtrack option was only half-assed. Part of what makes Grand Theft Auto so much fun to goof around with is that it is the great music. Driv3r fails miserably in that same department, and the Take a Ride exploration mode suffers greatly because of it. For the amount of hype Driv3r produced, it is insulting just how poorly put together it is. Graphical glitches, poor sound, cliche story, and outdated and frustrating gameplay all add up to make Driv3r not all that fun to play. You are better off playing the original Driver or Driver 2. You can get the same sort of experience, glitches and all, for a lot less money that way. Driv3r isn't really a horrible game, but it isn't a good game either and really can only be described as disappointing. Give it a rent, because there are better games out there that do everything Driv3r does a whole lot better.