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by Infogrames

1-01.jpg (2553 bytes)Considering only style, flare, and ambience, Driver 2 is a five star game without question. Considering only the technical end of things, Driver 2 is a three star game that constantly reminds you that it could have been a whole lot better if only it were more fun to play. For lack of a good solution, I decided to split the difference and call it a four star game, but this is only true if you’re capable of looking past the graphical and technical flaws. If you’re prone to being annoyed by these things then it’s best to stick to the three star rating.

I know I’m in the minority on this one, and in all fairness maybe I’ve become spoiled playing games on the Dreamcast and PS2, but here’s my beef with Driver 2: Numerous technical problems, graphics that inhibit gameplay, and inconsistent game physics that perplex and periodically frustrate.

2-01.jpg (4490 bytes)On the technical side Driver 2 is plagued by all too frequent slow-down and draw-in. Slow-down occurs frequently when the action gets too intense, which means it happens way too often due to the sheer number of police and commuters that you come into contact with. Sometimes the slow-down is only for a second or two and looks more like a small pause in the action, and these times can be overlooked without too much effort; other times the effect is persistent and the duration is aggravating, and serves as a wreck-causing catalyst as you suddenly try in vain to adjust to steering at a fraction of the speed. The draw-in is, of course, far more persistent as the road, buildings, and surrounding landscape materialize before your vary eyes as you speed down the road. To some extent this is necessary and even understandable on the increasingly antiquated PS1, but draw-in to this extent is excessive and infringes on gameplay. For example, tearing down the street with the cops hot on your tail, you’re dusting them, freedom is almost yours, when Bam! a wall materializes in front of you. Your would-be getaway route is in fact a dead end. While it’s true that you could have seen it if you’d have been watching your map, driving games like this require eyes on the road as your constantly avoiding cars and making high speed turns to shake the cops. Driving only by the map isn’t always possible and wouldn’t be as much fun in any event. Even on a straightaway your line of sight is being drawn –in so close to your car that if the constant appearance of buildings popping up all around you doesn’t bug you, then the inability to weigh your options by reading the terrain that hasn’t been drawn-in yet almost certainly will.

3-01.jpg (4858 bytes)Also annoying are the low resolution graphics that lack the crisp precision present in better driving games. There are the little things like the outline of your car that has zigzagging lines instead of straight ones, but personally I found the greatest irritation to be that, when whipping around corners, I constantly smacked into street lights that I hadn’t seen because the jagged, pale-gray pole faded into the background and blended so well that it looked like the side of a building. The game physics are also periodically inconsistent. You can do top speed and get into a head-on collision with a firetruck, you’ll go flying, but the truck will react to the collision as well. Conversely, if you should happen to run into say, a small dumpster, disastrous wreck is an understatement as the dumpster is actually both indestructible and immovable, meaning you’re way better off getting into a head-on with the firetruck.

I wasn’t impressed with the control either; it took itself too seriously for my taste and for its capabilities, as the game itself suggests an arcade atmosphere, but this style is popular with a lot of gamers and leans away from arcade and toward realism. In any event the control is more Grand Turismo, and less Crazy Taxi or Smugglers Run, although still somewhere between them.

The things Driver 2 did well it did very well. The cinematic cut scenes are spectacular. They create a great seventies underworld feel, and do it a lot better than the already impressive first installment. Driver 2 also features four new cities packed onto two CD’s making it much longer than the original Driver.

4-01.jpg (4351 bytes)The most exciting and innovative feature is the ability to exit your car and steal a new one. As long as the cops aren’t on your tail you can grab a new ride. This is an excellent technique when your damage meter is almost maxed out or your felony meter is high because grabbing a new vehicle resets both. There is a variety of vehicles to steal, including several varieties of cars and more exotic vehicles such as firetrucks. You can also cut off cars in traffic, force them to stop, hop out of your vehicle and pull a good old fashioned car jacking by tossing out the frightened driver. This is, of course, enormously satisfying.

A much needed multiplayer aspect has been added to Driver 2. This was a notable absence in the first driver and one of the few areas where effort was made to fill a gap left by Driver instead of just doing the same thing a little better in Driver 2. There are a variety of multiplayer games, but basically they are the one player driving challenges from the original Driver, but adapted for multiplayer gaming. The games include survival, trailblazing, and various chase and be chased games.

5-01.jpg (4916 bytes)This improvement is the exception to the rule, however, as the overriding theory of Driver 2 was to do the things that worked in Driver and do them better, but to make very little improvement on the things lacking in Driver. This lack of progress is even more evident because the rest of the field has improved dramatically in the year since the first Driver was released. Ultimately it is clear to me that Driver 2 was begging to be made for a next gen system. With a little luck, Driver 3 will be. If the technical end catches up with the creative vision, the Driver series will become an instant masterpiece. Until then you’ll have to look past a lot to see the treasure underneath. For the time being, however, I respectfully remain in the unimpressed minority who wanted more.

Jeff Luther


Ups: Excellent story; grreat new cities; multiplayer mode; amazing cutscenes.

Downs: Squirrly control; spotty physics; severe draw-in; play inhibiting graphics.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation


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