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Game Over Online ~ Driver

GameOver Game Reviews - Driver (c) GT Interactive, Reviewed by - Daxx / Pseudo Nim /

Game & Publisher Driver (c) GT Interactive
System Requirements Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Thursday, October 7th, 1999 at 08:08 PM


Divider Left By: Daxx Divider Right

Driver, as the title implies, puts you behind the wheel as a driver for hire for a variety of criminals. The background of the "story" part of the game is as follows:

You are Tanner, a former racecar driver turned policeman. Thanks to your extensive past driving experience, you are selected to go undercover as a wheelman for hire to investigate the Castaldi family, the underworld's most dangerous organization.

Driver is quite unique, but you can basically think of it as Grand Theft Auto in 3d, without the part where you are on foot, without the guns, and you can't choose a car to drive. Even with all the "withouts", Driver is a pretty fun game, satisfying the cravings of all of us who fancy some crazy driving while eluding the cops.

Driver was initially released on the PSX, and suffered the same fate as most PSX games, doomed to grainy low-res graphics. Luckily us PC owners don't have to endure that; Driver comes fully 3d accelerated. I played the game at 1024x768x16, with max detail and the game was perfectly smooth on my P2-450, 128mb, TNT system. With all the details set to max, Driver is a quite nice looking game, but it certainly isn't the type of game that will make everybody go WOW. In particular, the textures are a little on the bland side, they are a little fuzzy for being at 1024x768. Everything is modeled quite nicely, from the buildings (which boast a decent amount of variety which is a very good thing) to all the cars. Another good thing is that this game takes place over 4 cities, with landmarks and different "looks" which helps to increase the graphical variety.

The sound in this game is passable, but there really isn't that much to talk about. The single most annoying thing about this game would probably be the engine noise, which is unnecessarily loud and tinny. Crash sounds, tires squealing, cars honking are all done quite well, and if you have 4 speakers the sound is even more immersive. Hearing the sound of sirens approaching you from behind is quite exciting, and adds to the game quite a bit. The voice acting, mainly found in your answering machine messages, is passable but nothing to write home about, and sometimes their accents are a little excessive, which drops the realism and also the coherency of what they're saying.

The gameplay is where this game shines. This game balances fun with just enough realism to make it a unique driving experience. The control of the car is quite good; you'll find it easy to pull all the neat "car moves" that you see in the movies. However, the "training" mission of the game basically consists of you watching a car pulling all the neat maneuvers (180s,reverse 180s, 360s etc) but they don't show you how to do them, which could frustrate some younger players who wouldn't know how to pull those maneuvers in a real car. The physics is a little shaky, especially how airtime is handled. You will sometimes feel like your car is in the air just a little too long. Some may like this exaggerated air, I found it to be a little excessive (the ability to jump over 2 cars going down a street in San Francisco is a little much).

The 4 unique cities, Miami, San Fran, LA, NY are all enjoyable to drive around, and each is modeled quite accurately and provide a good variety in gameplay. The scale of the city is also very appropriate, you really get a sense of the size of the city. However, it's not so large that driving from point A to point B can take more than a few minutes. Another very helpful gameplay feature is a full map that shows the entire city, your current position, and the destination. This is helpful in laying our your route to minimize the time it takes. There is also a minimap that shows the immediate surroundings, shows you which direction is north, and has a black "spotlight" directed from the destination onto your car. The closer you get the darker the spotlight gets.

The AI in this game is a little sub par, which can get quite frustrating. Sometimes the police aren't actually chasing you, they are just driving around. It is those times you want to be law abiding, and go the speed limit, actually stop at red lights etc. However, the police are quite stupid, you can be driving on the yellow median and totally swerve in front of cars and they won't do anything. However if you go 1 KM over the speed limit (your speed turns red when you are speeding) they will start chasing you. Basically, if you stop at red lights, don't speed, and don't hit any cars you can do anything you want (including driving on the curb) and the police won't do anything. Also, another unrealistic thing is that if you are caught speeding, the police will ram you until your car is smashed up (that's the way they stop criminals I guess...) which is stupid. Since most levels are time-sensitive, I think they should pull you over and give you a lecture, which would waste time. Having them trying to smash you into oblivion for you speeding isn't so cool.

The actual chasing is quite well done, the cops are quite persistent and you usually have to pull some pretty crazy moves to escape them. The police blockades are silly, they leave enough room between police cars for you to get through without a scratch if you're good, and usually if there is anybody chasing you when you go through the blockade, THEY smash into the blockade and stop chasing you. Otherwise, it's pretty intense trying to get to your destination while dodging cops and watching your time.

This game is fun, with a few exceptions. The first mission of the story mode is a real pain in the ass. Basically you have to "prove" yourself as a driver by doing some crazy driving moves in a parking garage. This mission is really hard, and you have to complete it to actually start the rest of the game. It took me ages to figure out how to pull a reverse 180, and what doing "speed" was (I guess it was just going fast, but it doesn't explain). I guess they just want you to have some basic driving skills before you start the rest of the missions, but they give you only 1 minute to pull like 10 driving moves, and you're in a full parking garage and if you hit your car 4 times you lose. It's just excessively hard for a first mission.

Another lame thing is the difficulty of the game. This game is NOT easy; you will get frustrated on some of the missions. The main cause of losing a mission will be running out of time. You are generally given a finite (and very short) time limit to reach a destination. You pretty much have to speed and go through red lights unless you're directly by a police car, where you should obey the traffic laws so they don't start chasing you.

On the plus side, there are a lot of missions. While most of them are quite repetitive, drive from A to B, then from B to C etc, there are some missions that are fun. Some missions you are required to smash up another car, so you basically follow it and try and push it into cars and walls and the like. Another mission has you trying to scare an individual, so you are in a taxi and you basically drive around pulling 180s in intersections and jump over other cars until he's incredibly scared.

If you're not in the mood for Driver's undercover story mode, the game features several other play modes you can try. There is free ride mode that lets you drive around the various cities and explore them at your own pace. You can also try any one of the driving games, which are generic missions like pursuit, getaway, and survival.

This is very lame that they didn't include multiplay. I can think of numerous cool things they could have included as multiplay modes (imagine a game where 1 person is the criminal driver, and the rest are all cops trying to smash em!!!). There is no reason they didn't include a multiplay option, other than the fact that this is a straight port of the PSX version and they didn't want to expend the effort to add it. This is 1999 guys...get with the program.

This is a fun and unique game. I love driving 90mph the wrong way up a 1 way street with 3 cops on my tail, swerving in and out of traffic. If this sounds like fun for you, you will probably like Driver. A little more mission variety, a little more lax time limits, and smarter cops when they are just patrolling would go a far way in helping this game, but as it is right now it's a pretty fun game. The exclusion of multiplay is a big gaping hole in the game, but fortunately the single play is fleshed out enough that it's not as big a deal as it could have been.

 

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Rating
74%
 

 

 
 

 

 

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

Ever since the original Nascar came out, with its deformable car models, I’ve wanted to play a game where you’d drive around a city, evading cops, ramming innocent cars, plowing down taxi drivers and doing other Bad (tm) things. When Destruction Derby came out, I played it so much I mastered it. Then 2 came out, and I played that to oblivion, as well - though I felt the car was much harder to control. Then Interstate ’76 came out, which was closer to home; then Redline, which I enjoyed immensely but which just didn’t have the right cars and the right physics…. and now, here is Driver.

The premise of Driver is about life in a city as an undercover police officer, which works as wheels-for-hire for the underground, at the same time conducting an investigation. There is an actual storyline, which is usually told in cutscenes, which are MPEG movies ported straight from the PSX [PlayStation], I wager - as often it’s very hard to tell who or what is in the picture and just what exactly is happening, sort of as the ending movie of Final Fantasy VII was impossible to decipher. But the storyline isn’t what Driver is about - surprisingly or not, it’s about driving, and that’s where it shines.

The game is based around the premise that you are a cop gone undercover to take down a prominent Mafia family. You work as a driver for them, whether for getting a few guys out of a “jam,” taking out someone by destroying his car, making exchanges and so forth. The missions span four cities - Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. You start off by proving your worth to the gang - and, in my view, that’s arguably one of the hardest missions in the game, especially if you don’t take the training courses first, which I, of course, didn’t. Some things are obvious, like 360 degree turns or handbrake/burnout, but some are less so, like Speed or Slalom. For those of you who don’t want to do the training courses, to get Speed right you have to drive across the garage at a high enough speed, and that’s your chance to get a Brakes, as well - just slam the brakes after Speed flashes on your screen, and you should kill two birds with one stone. Slalom is just that - slalom around the pillars in the garage. (I at first thought it was around the parked cars - don’t know how anyone could do that, though.) Anyway, after just a bit of practice you should be able to get it. Then, the real missions start.

As I mentioned earlier, the game was originally released for the Sony Playstation. After speaking to a few people who played it on the PSX originally and now played it on the PC, the unanimous agreement was that the cops are a lot harder to avoid in the PC version than on the PSX. At first, it made me wonder just how easy they were before, as I found them rather easy to get away from - but some missions aren’t quite that obvious. Simply put, if you think Survival (in the Driving Games section) is completely unrealistic and is just an overexaggeration - think again. Made me think again, anyway. The missions usually make sense (with a few exception), and the only annoying thing is that you can’t save after every mission: sometimes missions consist of more than one part (where car damage remains at the last mission’s at mission start), and sometimes there are a few missions that just follow suit. I think the developers should have at least warned the player in one way or another that a mission is more than one part long - after all, if your damage is at 90%, you’re quite unlikely to finish the next mission in less than a few hundred tries. And while I’m on the subject of tries, I should mention that a good number of missions are going to take you more than one try to complete. Actually, more than that - probably a few dozen, depending on how good you are. But once you get the hang of it, the game isn’t too bad - with the exception of Maddox Hit and The President’s Run - I have no idea still how I finished those.

The graphics in the game are not bad. They aren’t stunningly amazing (except at night - coming to that in a second), but they are sufficiently appealing. Textures are somewhat low-res, but as long as you don’t drive up to buildings up close, they won’t distract you. There is quite a variety of buildings, which is very welcome - it gives a good feel of the city. At night, however, the shadows conceal most of the defects, and then the graphics truly shine - as they say, what you can’t see, you can’t complain about. Car models are reasonably good, as well: while the headlights and the front grille are somewhat low-res again, cars look quite good otherwise. Damage modeling isn’t bad, either - significantly better than the Great Lameness that was Microsoft Midtown Madness. On the other hand, headlights don’t work as expected: while they cast a white blob on the ground, if you drive into that blob, your car isn’t illuminated, which looks sort of weird. On the other hand, a neat effect is rain: the faster you drive, the more it tilts towards the camera (of which, incidentally, there are three: in-car, over-the-hood and from behind the car, plus four directions to point each one in).

While I’m on the subject of Midtown Madness, I should mention another blunder that Microsoft made with MM (or, perhaps, it was a feature? One never knows.) It related to car physics: in one of the recent reviews of it, there’s a screen shot of a 18-wheeler semi being overturned by the gameplayer’s car. Whichever way you put it, there’s something wrong with that, especially since the player wasn’t driving a tank - nor a bus, for that matter. The physics in Driver are much more controllable, predictable and realistic - and while there are still some times when you wonder just exactly why your car is flying in the air, things are in much better shape. It has its share of unrealistic collisions, and the worst case is exhibited in Survival mode - when you have to escape from as many as five cop cars at a time, who try to ram you into walls, lamp posts, fences, other cars or whatever does damage. However, when they all ram you at the same time, the game’s prediction system seems to fail: once, I wound up driving on water, a few times I was thrown through a concrete wall, with the most common case being that the car flies up a few dozen meters into the air. Traffic, on the other hand, is neat - it obeys street rules, people change lanes (albeit not as quickly as in real life, and there are no lane-hoppers). Also, if you are in the “Take a Ride” mode (which is essentially practice, and you’re under no time pressure and can just familiarise yourself with the city), you can avoid being flagged by the cops by driving by the rules: stopping on stop signs, not breaking red lights and obeying the speed limit. Strangely enough, however, if you drive on the sidewalk or across a park, the cops don’t seem to mind the least. Should you be so unfortunate as to hit the handbrake or the burnout key, though, beware - they don’t like that. There’s also no way of permanently losing cops, like there was in Grand Theft Auto. Watch your surroundings, though - there’s always a taxi driver hiding somewhere, out of where he’ll jump out at the most inopportune moment.

There are four cities in the game. You start off in Miami, make your way to San Francisco, then Los Angeles and, finally, New York. Cities are rather large, however, not having been in any, I can’t say if the representations are accurate, but I would imagine they are. Scale is also a factor - it will actually take you some time to get from one end of the city to another.

There are a few different types of gameplay that Driver offers. There is the storyline mode as mentioned above, and there are single “missions”: Survival, Getaway, Pursuit, Carnage, Cross-City Checkpoint and another mode, the name of which I cannot recall, but which isn’t particularly fun. Survival and Getaway are similar in that you have to shake the cops (i.e. lose the tail), and the difference being that in Getaway it’s doable, while in Survival it’s not - Survival is about precisely that, surviving. There are about five cops on your tail, with engines a good bit more powerful than yours, ramming you and setting up roadblocks. To give you an idea, while in Getaway it’s possible to get away unscathed within about a minute or two, the first dozen times you’ll try Survival you’ll have your car wrecked within eight to fifteen seconds. Pursuit is the opposite: you have to ram a car that’s attempting to get away. You don’t, however, get to drive a police car (not until you finish the game in Story mode, anyway). It’s interesting to note, incidentally, how good the AI is at getting away - the car will pull the most insane stunts so as to throw you off, such as steering into the narrowest passages, doing zigzags around moving traffic, turning at the last moment et cetera. Unfortunately, the cops pursuing you aren’t always quite so cunning - they tend to ram their own roadblocks, and otherwise do the stupidest things in the world. On the other hand, if they were always as bloodthirsty as they are in Survival mode (and on the two missions I mentioned above) the game would be so difficult it would be essentially unplayable.

So, where does all of the above leave Driver? Being a straight PSX port, it has a few Playstation defects. Some are forgivable (like the textures or the stretched movies), but some are not - such as the lack of multiplayer. In this day and age, a multiplayerless game, especially of this genre, just doesn’t cut it - people complained about System Shock 2 lacking multiplayer and this is similar - if not worse. Had our criteria not been rigid, I would be tempted to take off points in another category to show my disappointment at the lack of multiplayer, as a matter of fact. In all other respects, however, Driver is a very solid an enjoyable game, and if you don’t have many friends (or if your friends don’t like Driver), or won’t need or care about multiplayer capabilities for some other reason, do check it out. I found it to be one of the rare games these past few months that are actually worth a huge percentage of my puny paycheck.

 

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Rating
74%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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