Review by Shady

Reviewed: 05/06/03 | Updated: 05/06/03

A deserving "Greatest Hit".

As the Playstation nears the end of its life cycle, games for the system are quickly becoming cheaper. Many of Sony’s ''Greatest Hits'' titles, the ones with the green sides on the jewel cases, are down to just $10 new nowadays. Driver, a 3D driving adventure game, is one such bargain. Driver can be compared to Grand Theft Auto, except you cannot leave your car and you cannot run over pedestrians. It’s just straight-up driving.

The heart of Driver lies in its ''Undercover'' mode. In Undercover, you play the role of a police officer named Tanner. You are sent out to go undercover and infiltrate the Castaldi family, the underworld’s most dangerous crime organization. Unfortunately, the story is told throughout a number of poorly executed cut scenes that make the whole plot laughable. If delivered properly, the story could have been interesting, but as it stands it’s rather lame.

Even with the weak story the Undercover mode is the best in the game. Once you get past an insanely hard first level in which you have to perform a number of advanced driving maneuvers in sixty seconds, the game improves. As you attempt to dig deeper and deeper into the underworld, you will have to perform a variety of driving missions. Each mission places you in a swank 1970’s muscle car with true-to-life physics and with a specific goal in mind. Most require you to go to place X and pick up something/someone and then take it/him/her to target Y. Although repeatedly having to do those types of missions is repetitive, they are still fun. What makes those missions so enjoyable is that you are probably going to have to achieve your objective with a bunch of cops on your ass.

You see, every time you commit a crime, whether it is speeding, running a red light, or something else, your felony meter increases. The higher your felony meter, the more cops will be after you. Sometimes the pigs will even attempt to set up a roadblock against you by putting 5-6 of their cars in the middle of the road. It can become quite crazy, but that’s what makes it so great.

You also have a damage meter to watch carefully. Whenever you hit a tree, building, car, or any kind of object, your damage meter goes up. If it gets to 100% then you will have failed the mission. With this system, you cannot drive around recklessly while hitting random objects if you wish to advance in the game. It can be frustrating at times, but I like the way the damage meter is set up.

One thing that I liked about the Undercover story mode is that it is non-linear, meaning there is more than one way to beat the game. You see, every time you complete a mission you will usually have two or three messages on your answering machine afterward. More often than not, these messages are people wanting you to work for them. This gives you the opportunity to do whatever job you want instead of being required to dredge through a set order. It’s nice to be able to do whatever you want.

Driver offers more than just the main story mode. There are several driving games added in as a side bonus. The driving games include ''pursuit'' where you are chasing a CPU-controlled car, ''getaway'' where you have to escape from a bunch of police cars, and ''dirt track'' where you race around a desert circuit. While the concepts for the various driving games are nice, they are just not entertaining at all. They would have been great two-player modes, but Driver is only a one-player game. There is also a ''film director'' mode that allows you to re-create or make your own car chase scene. I didn’t care much for that either as it takes way too long to make a movie worth watching. While others may find amusement with these added modes and options, I found them to be a waste of space.

Driver is a fairly big game. There are four different cities to drive in - Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. They are all replicas of their ''real-life'' cities, and each one is rather large.

The game is also challenging. Many of the missions in the Undercover mode are very difficult. It will most likely take you a few times to beat some of the more tricky ones. One common problem I had was the time limit running out on me when I was just a few seconds away from my destination. It’s frustrating for sure, but the challenge is nice.

In terms of visuals, Driver is pretty good when compared to other Playstation games of its time. That’s not to say it doesn’t have problems though. There is some nasty draw-in at spots, which is especially annoying when a car pops up right in front of you from out of nowhere. There is also some slowdown, although it is nowhere near as bad as some claim (*coughEGMcough*), and the graphics are a bit grainy. Still, even with those flaws, Driver is not ugly by any means. Some of the lighting effects are groovy, as is the fact that you can get a headlight knocked out when your car is damaged at nighttime. It’s not as lovely as it used to be, but Driver still looks good.

The game’s audio is a mixed bag of sorts. I’m a fan of the game’s soundtrack, which features some pretty sweet 70’s retro music. The music fits the game’s theme perfectly. The voice acting performed during the Undercover mode’s cut scenes is embarrassing. It’s not the worst I’ve ever heard in a game, but it’s still bad. For the most part, the game’s sound effects are decent. One sound effect did bug me though, and that was the sound of tools banging together when you hit an object. Unless Tanner’s car is loaded with tools, there’s no way his car would make that sound. It’s a minute problem, but it annoyed me nonetheless.

In the end, I was satisfied with Driver. Sure, it feels dated now, especially after having played the PS2 Grand Theft Auto games, but Driver’s still a pleasing experience. It has some weaknesses (most noticeably the useless side options and the lame story), but the thrill of being chased by a cop never grows old. Since it is just $10, Driver may be worth checking out now more than ever. Get it and enjoy the ride- just don’t expect anything groundbreaking.

7

Best Feature - Outrunning the police.
Worst Feature - Lame story.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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