bomba's House Of Flancakes

Posted on Dec 18th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Misunderstood, disappointment, failure, hidden gem, Driver, Driver 3, Iggy Pop

Driv3r appeared on the game market at a bad time.  The game industry was already swimming in the wake created by GTA3, its sequel, GTA Vice City, and the hype generated by the next entry in the series due out but he end of 2004, GTA: San Andreas., Honestly, you couldn't open a magazine without seeing coverage from one or two "sandbox" games.  But Driv3r did have one thing going for it, that being lineage.  While many of the GTA copycats out there had nothing more to go on than genre similarity, Driv3r already had street cred, with two games out that were pretty popular during their respective times.  Despite this, it turned into a failure, and after a few ports (PC, GBA, and mobile), it disappeared forever.  But, could Driv3r be all that bad?

Despite looking forward to the impending release of San Andreas, I was pretty excited for Driv3r after reading just a few articles.  I had played, quite extensively, the first two Driver games on PSX, and while the GTA games had a good amount of driving in them, they paled in comparison to what Driver and Driver 2 offered.  For one thing, the Driver games were hard, and often required some serious skill brought on by practice or repetition.  You couldn't just start a mission and drive, no, you had to learn the way the car handled, because you were going to be doing some crazy stuff with it.  And really, that is what I expected from Driv3r, which is pretty much what I ended up playing, though the rest of the gaming world seemed to disagree with me.  My problem is very simple:  Is Driv3r really a bad game, or was it the misunderstood (though buggy), hardcore, precision driving beast I remember? 

Driv3r serves as a direct sequel to Driver 2, and if you would ignore the explosion that the GTA series caused to the genre, it would seem a very logical evolution of design.  The original Driver had you controlling the protagonist, undercover police officer Tanner, from behind the wheel as he drove in a variety of missions.  It featured tight car handling, which was very tough, and had a highly linear mission structure (after finishing one, you go immediately into the next mission).  Driver 2, which was originally released on the PSX back in late 2000, was more of the same, though now Tanner could exit his vehicle, move around, and get into other vehicles.  The mission structure is still very tight though, and if anything, seems harder, but not in an unfair way.  While on a mission, traffic generally appears in the same spots, so much like Super Mario Bros, when you fail in the Driver games it is because you aren't skilled enough.

This isn't my original Xbox, but one I traded from Razor Knuckles about a hundred years ago.  Hi, Raz!

From the opening credit sequence, Driv3r maintains a very cinematic experience akin to a modern movie, and it was hard to not get excited.  Even more surprising is that the game, at least on the Xbox, looks very nice, more so than other GTA-style games from the same era on equivalent hardware, and maintained that crisp look probably up until the release of GTA IV four years later.  Keep in mind that while the game is capable of widescreen 480p, I am playing it on a 4:3 480i (pushed through component) CRT screen.  I honestly think this is the best experience for this game (and most other games from this era).  While widescreen televisions were available, most of them were plasma screens and the cost was prohibitive.  Ugh...I'm doing it again.

Going back to an earlier thread, Driv3r is very much a product of its own series.  While there are some concessions to "the new," (Tanner can now shoot whilst on foot), the game really is rooted in the previous games in the series, and thus in the vehicle.  Unfortunately, this means that sequences on foot feel uncomfortable and awkward, though perhaps not as bad as in The Getaway.  Another unfortunate feature is the continued use of two buttons for moving vehicles forward, that being one button for "acceleration" and the other for "burnout."  Fortunately, you can use the right trigger for analog acceleration, though there will be times when you have to "burnout." As in the first and second Driver games, missions will at times start abruptly, requiring a sudden burst of speed, though likely you won't know this until the first or second time you fail a mission and are forced to restart.

Police AI can be pretty impressive for 2004.  For example, if you discharge a weapon or cause a little bit of mayhem the po-po will arrive shortly, though they will generally only respond to the area where you committed the crime (unless you are in a car when you do it).  This is pretty impressive, given the binary nature of crime in the GTA games, though this can get out of hand in Driv3r as you will literally have to flee and leave the visual area of the police to actually get away, which requires you to ditch the car you were fleeing in first.  Too bad that none of this is explained in any way, though if you play the next game in the series, Driver: Parallel Lines, it is explained pretty well. Rockstar actually borrowed the same idea for their future GTA games, so this is something that was perhaps done right.

A later mission in Nice has you stealing cars and parking them in trailer of this semi-truck as it circles the city

Car physics are also a nice highlight of the game, though I think many did not enjoy it at the time.  Damage is fairly realistic, so smashing into things in your car not only has a very nice visual effect to the car (and is different for each of the games seventy vehicles), but any damage can affect the performance of the vehicle negatively, which will sometimes force you to restart the mission.  Smash into a telephone poll at a high speed and your car is toast.  A great example is a mission in the city of Nice, which starts you off in a high speed chase through Nice's narrow streets and alleys. If you take more than a couple of hits, you have no choice but to restart.  I swear I did this mission about a hundred times before I got it, though I have to admit, by the time I got it right I felt pretty invincible, and the rest of the game felt more fluid.  Still brutally hard, mind you, but I guess I finally met that prerequisite amount of practice we talked about earlier.

While I did have fun overall, but I don't think I can readily recommend this game to people who aren't already Driver fans.  While the driving sequences are amazing, the on-foot sections are merely acceptable to downright terrible, so much that it kind of feels like the game engine wasn't really designed for this type of gameplay, even though there is quite a bit of it throughout the entirety of Driv3r.  Also annoying is the fact that the free-roaming part, advertised quite extensively, doesn't feel like part of the game.  If you want to roam free, you choose "Take a Ride" in the main menu, and within this mode you can drive around to your heart's content, unlocking cars and being a general nuisance.  I feel this kind of breaks the flow of exploration that GTA got right, whereby just driving from mission to mission you got the lay of the land, while in Driv3r you only learn by failing in missions over and over again.

So, after about twenty hours of playing Driv3r, I can say that maybe I wasn't totally crazy back in 2004.  The game has a lot of faults to it, but the core parts are very well done, if a little stiff (and buggy) at times.  There are a lot of fun secrets (like Tommy Vermicellis, the parody of the GTA: Vice City main character), the soundtrack is a lot of fun (who wouldn't want Iggy Pop as a radio DJ?), and the driving portion of the end mission (involving chasing a train with your vehicle through Istanbul) ranks as one of my favorites in this type of game.  Recommending this game is hard in this modern gaming environment,  as we have since moved on from needing a new GTA-style game twice a year, and the more modern Driver games have already surpassed the third game in the series.  Still, if you find Driv3r already in your collection and haven't played it, maybe pull it down and give it an hour or two.  It isn't the best game, but it certainly can entertain, just don't expect to have your hand held at any time.

Thanks for reading!

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Only played the first game but boy did I really enjoy it. Got to the last mission but was ridiculously too hard for me and never finished it.
It had some pretty sunsets.
I loved this game in middle school! I never played the single player (it was a friend's game and I wasn't interested in the story) but the free roam gave hours of fun. Looking for crazy jumps to do, dodging traffic, and the soundtrack were all great. I agree the walking was clunky at best, but it never bothered me too much. I'll have to give this one another try in single player this time one day.
@FatherJack:  Man, that game was hard, though maybe not as bad as the second game.  Seemed like sometimes your car would touch the curb and that was enough to tick off the police.  Driv3r is definitely "classic" as far as difficulty, but in the end is easier than Driver 1 and 2 (I think).

@frumage:  Yes, it certainly does.  While it is less stylized than San Andreas, Driv3r was certainly prettier (until the next gen versions came out).

@techwizard: Seriously, if you get good at driving around the cities, you might not have too much trouble with the main game (except for the trial and error part).

Thanks for commenting!
I have Driv3r on GBA... I'm afraid to power it up Tongue
Driv3r might be the most fun I ever had on Xbox live. I believe it was also the first game to allow uploading video clips to XBL. I used to create mini movies and watch other gamer's videos. This was before Youtube.

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So I'm an odd ball. So I am usually the last to post on a blog/forum. So I only post about weird games on weird platforms. So I have a strange relationship with commas and parenthesis. So what? Hey, at least you don't have to car pool with me to work, right? So have a heart, eat a blueberry, and don't forget to drop the empties in the box on the way out. I get deposit on those.
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