Genre: Sport Developer: Reflections Interactive Publisher: Atari Classification: M15+ Consumer Advice: Recommended for mature audiences 15 years and over
Release Date: 14th Apr 2005 Platforms:PS2
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The Good bits
Decent car physics
Good Hollywood-style story
The Bad stuff
The makers of this game slept through GTA – this game looks hopelessly out of date.
Dodgy animation and collision detection
Enemy AI is dunce material
It's not all terrible though. The driving model - as you would expect in a Driver game - is solid, although it gets tiresome getting sideways around corners if you take them at any speed. Likewise you can expect psychotic levels of road range from your foes in other vehicles, they treat you and the rest of the road like it's one big smash `em up derby. This is done better than the likes of GTA, but even so sometimes beggars belief. And pounding the hell out of police cars with a big semi trailer just doesn't attract the kind of rapid response GTA fans are used to, such situations are all too easy to extricate yourself from. Once again I'm assuming that's an AI shortcoming.
The actual sequencing of the game is pretty decent, if a little unforgiving in the missions on offer. DRIV3R aims to be more cinematic than GTA, and there's plenty of nice angles and action set pieces on display. The trouble is they - and the whole game - lacks the freewheeling spontaneity people have become used to courtesy of GTA. There was always a nice little thrill finding a series of jumps or catching a slo-mo cinematic angle of your car / bike / whatever getting airborne - and it was different every time because the game slowed down your action. More often than not in DRIV3R, the set pieces get tiresome and repetitive because you're stuck on having to get through the action they introduce before cutting to the chase. Once you get in the flow, the linear nature of the game doesn't bug you as much, but whether you'd bother returning to it after completion, well, maybe if you're really bored.
Sticking your head in the sand isn't going to solve much on the critical front, but even as DRIV3R sells its ass off to unsuspecting fans, there's clouds hanging over the series thanks to this effort. Reflections need to take a long hard look at how much the genre has advanced, and how inferior - on virtually all levels - this game is. Whether they regard GTA as competition is irrelevant, punters like you and I do - and if they can't shape up, it's time to ship out.
DRIV3R isn't a bad game by any means. It's not even lazy or complacent. Its problem, as Brutus said of Caesar, lies in its ambition - or lack thereof. When year+ old games outperform it and offer multiple times the fun and activity, you have a problem - one that is replicated on both Xbox and PS2, in case you're wondering. And so perhaps it's best we close as Bill Shakespeare did:
I speak not to disprove what Reflections and Atari speak,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love Driver once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for it?
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason.... Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with DRIV3R,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
I loved Driver2 on the PS1 a couple of years ago but playing this demo showed how much games of this sort have moved on. A linear mission with a stupid premise and a car that handled like it was driving on bald tyres on a wet day with marshmallows for suspension.