It's hard to be a clone of a game that offers an inimitable experience. Whether you like it or dislike it, Grand Theft Auto is groundbreaking in its own right. Sure, there might be issues with control, an unforgiving difficulty, and the overall tilt of the game to commit crime, but packaged together there is no other like it. Driver: Parallel Lines is simply a clone of GTA with a little different wrapping. It offers near identical perks as GTA (with one minor exception-I'll get to later) but simply isn't as polished and never gives the feeling of struggle in the streets we have as Carl in San Andreas. It's an open ended GTA clone with some good ideas and some missed opportunities.
You play as TK, an up and coming driver with a huge mullet. TK's not such a bad guy, he's trying to make it big in the Big Apple and quickly gets involved with some shady fellows. He's a good driver-which you quickly prove to your employers-and begins to rise in the ranks. Driver: Parallel Lines features two timelines, one in the late 70s and one in 2006. The two time periods are among the interesting things Driver: Parallel Lines offers to the gamer-assuming you can get through the rudimentary, though mostly amusing, story-arch. The game doesn't make it easy, either, as TK's life isn't nearly as interesting or compelling as CJ's from San Andreas. We don't really empathize with TK through the 1970s and, because of this, hitting pedestrians when driving, murdering innocent people, and going on killing rampages ad nauseam feels out of place and superfluous. For instance, I empathized with CJ (even though I don't condone violence and theft); he was lost in the world, betrayed from the outset, in a city of sick corruption and twisted apathy. TKs only understandable moments come after he is betrayed and sent to jail (where he rots until 2006). Only then do you feel compelled to guide him to a vengeful, albeit murderous conclusion. Simply, there is no 'heavy' (or antagonist) in Driver (minus cops and gangs) until late in the game. This is possibly Driver: Parallel Lines' greatest misstep.
While cruising through New York, you'll take on races, point-to-point "hunter-gatherer" style missions, or just jump through the story missions. The story missions were my favorite. The non-story missions only seem to function to gain money or bide your time between the story missions like in GTA. Let me not mislead, however, Driver: Parallel Lines has very little depth outside the story. There are no Taxi, Fire Truck, Police, or Ambulance missions, for example. In fact, you'll never even see an ambulance come for someone who has been killed, or a fire truck actually putting out a fire. I don't think I ever saw these vehicles. There are taxis, but they only serve as obstacles or cars to steal. I suppose these are picky problems-things I've been spoiled by in GTA-but you'll notice the lack of detail in the city. You'll notice that beside the cars and pedestrians New York is terribly empty.
But all is not terrible. Driver: Parallel Lines has some merit beyond the story. The inclusion of the "felony display" is ingenious in its right-an example of a good idea put to action. If you've been spotted speeding or breaking the law in a car, that car is given felony. If the cops see you exiting the car, the felony is transferred to your person. Conversely, if you have felony and steal a clean car, the cops won't recognize you. And if you're on a bike and you have felony on your person, the cops might or might not pick up on your trail depending on the length of time you spend in the cop's cone of sight. I never felt that the felony display erred, but sometimes you'll get a break and your felony will disappear altogether (this can happen if you restart any mission).
While the felony display is well done, the police AI is not. The cops are either all over you (if your felony is high enough) making it basically game-over, or they're so easy to lose it's embarrassing. The cops also seem prone to spotting you and then forgetting how to get down to where you are (under a bridge or on the lower-level of a causeway). I've also seen them lose me after I pull behind an embankment-then the cops proceeded to drive in circles for what seemed like minutes, causing all sorts of pile-ups and running over pedestrians like nobody's business.
The game doesn't let you enter buildings either, which is another minor gripe, but should be mentioned. You can go find the Empire State Building and look at its majesty, search for doors that are unfortunately painted on the side of the building. It's the same everywhere. Apparently in Driver 4, nobody every goes in or comes out of buildings. One Upping GTA Behind the Wheel?
But Driver: Parallel Lines is best while in-car, and in that way it's better than GTA. The drive-by controls are much cleaner too. The cars feel heavy, but while you're behind the wheel Driver: Parallel Lines is very precise. The game is very dodge-and-go oriented, allowing for some close calls juking through traffic. And if you get good with the hand-brake, the police chases become extremely satisfying. The cars still feel like they did in the original PlayStation "Driver." Maybe a little change is in order, maybe 50 miles per hour shouldn't feel like 15 while 80 feels like 40. And maybe every car shouldn't have stop-on-a-dime brakes. Seriously. You're cruising at 90+ mph and hit the brakes: you stop within 10 feet. It's not that this feature breaks the feel of the game, or the pseudo-realism, but it's too good.
Driver: Parallel Lines isn't a bad game, but it really feels like it's trying too hard to be Grand Theft Auto. Even when the storyline gets good, there's a hint of "been there" to where it takes you. The driving physics and a few quirks like the felony display keep the game from sinking straight to the bottom. With some additions and tweaks it could be much better. As it is, it floats, but it only has two hands and a wheel above the water.