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Review By: Chris Lee
Developer:   Reflections
Publisher:   GT Interactive
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Driving Adventure
ESRB:   Teen

I first want to say that this review could be biased based on the fact that Driver has the elements of a game I've wanted since I was a kid. Then again maybe I look at it more harshly because it's trying to do what I've wanted a game to do for a long time. From the same people that brought you Destruction Derby 1 & 2, Driver has found it's own niche in a very small genre. With almost no fanfare, it's come out and proven that you don't need millions of dollars of hype to be a good game.

I classified Driver as a "Driving Adventure". The premise of the game is that you are an undercover cop that is trying to infiltrate the mob by playing the role of a professional getaway man. It's set in the mid to late 70's as is obvious from the cars, music, and slang. You play the part of Tanner, (get ready) a hard nosed cop from the streets of Miami. His dubious task is to infiltrate and destroy a criminal organization. Along the way you make many friends and enemies. This is all played out with the use of FMV. It's a pretty good story that'll keep you interested. Now the driving part ( and best part) comes in where you get to cruise (or speed like a maniac) through the streets of one of four major U.S. cities. I'll cover that in the gameplay and graphics part of the review which is next!

As I said there are four U.S. cities that are 3D representation's of their real life counterpart. You'll recognize landmarks, buildings and streets from each one of them. The cities are Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and San Francisco. Each one of these cities has it's own random traffic and pedestrian patterns. I can't describe how life like it all is. People walk along the streets or sit at a sidewalk cafe. Other drivers go about their daily lives going to work or home. It makes you feel like there are real inhabitants of each city on your screen. One of the more important parts of the game, I think, is the way the cars look and interact with the cities. Cars will spin out, lose hubcaps, flip over, do wheelies, slide on one end, smoke, get dented, and go flying. Headlights and tail lights will get busted, and your car will generally just look a mess. It's really neat to take a turn too hard and have your hubcap roll down the street. Think of jumping over bridges and catching air over a big hill. Or how about jumping three cars while running from the cops. Looking back and seeing them on their side or totaled in a wall. And it's not just you that this happens to. It's every car you come across! Any car you come in contact with is subject to the same problems you have. I've sent cars flying into walls, rammed them off the road and flipped them over. The environments are also great. Anything you'd see on a street is present. The environments are totally interactive. This is the real kicker of it all though: THERE'S NEVER A HINT OF SLOWDOWN! That's right folks, in an amazing feat, there is no slowdown even with all the things I just mentioned happening on screen. Let me tell you the bad parts though. There is pop-up and clipping in the game. The clipping isn't bad and in fact is what you'd expect from such a vast 3D game. I've seen much worse. The pop-up isn't noticeably bad either they have a 2D skyline in the background so that you don't notice anything unless you look for it. Neither of these two graphical gripes take away from the game in any way though.

The gameplay is like this. You start off in your hotel room, lovely(filthy) place that it is. You have the option of hearing new messages (mission offers), taking a drive around the city to get familiar with it, and adjusting the options of the game. You can have anywhere from 1 to 3 messages at a time and I believe that the story branches depending on what you choose. There are over 40 missions in the game so it'll take you a few days to get through it all. The on-screen display has a radar that helps you find mission objectives and location of the cops. It has a damage meter and a felony meter. When the damage meter gets too high you're through. The felony meter is an interesting thing. You can do a whole mission if you're fast enough without ever alerting the cops. you an even drive right beside a cop as long as there's nothing on the felony meter. But as soon as you speed, hit a sign, run into someone, or whenever the cops perceive you as "a danger to yourself and others" they're on you. The longer you run and hit other people the higher the felony meter. Once it gets to a certain point the real fun starts. That's when they set up road blocks and have two or three cars chase you at once. Whew boy it's like Starsky and Hutch all over again! Once a mission is over you can do a quick replay where the CPU shows you the happenings from different angles. That's all well and good but let's get to the crown jewel of the game. It's called Film Director. You can do almost ANYTHING a director would do. You control every aspect of the replay. The speed, camera positions, angles, zoom, etc. It's the total package. And then you can save it to your memory card! It's truly amazing what they've accomplished in this game. Fantastic. There are also pre-made replays in the game for you to take a look at. Anyone think they can make a better one than the CPU? I wanna see it!

I wanted to have a separate section to tell you about this. There are other things besides the story mode in the game. They call them driving games. They are Pursuit, Getaway, Cross-Town Checkpoint, Trailblazer, Survival, and Dirt Track. Pursuit has you chasing after a car in a Chase HQ style run through the city. The other car will do all sorts of things to get away and your job is to ram it till "it don't run no more". The CPU car will always do something different, it never follows the same pattern. It'll duck down alley-ways, weave in and out of traffic, turn around, fake you out and any other maneuver you can imagine. The Getaway mode puts you in the role of the chasee. you must get away from the cops by driving like a mad man through the city. Cross-Town Checkpoint has you try and hit multiple check points before time runs out. Trailblazer makes you follow little markers through the city in a sort of time trial thing to see if you are a good enough driver. My personal fav. is Survival mode. The object here is to stay alive as long as possible by avoiding the cops. You will die in this mode, that's the point. The cops are faster than you and gang up on you quick! You just have to survive as long as you can. It's great fun, but frustrating if the cops get you in the first few seconds. Finally there's the Dirt Track Mode where you're basically racing around the track competing for a good time. You can save all your scores and time in these modes to compete with your friends. It adds greatly to the replay value of the game.

The sound is another strong point in the game. The tunes are 70's-rrific! They fit in perfectly with the time period of the game. The voice acting is a bit cheesy at times but hey, it's the 70's!! It makes sense. The crashes and bangs sound like the real thing! I can't find any fault in the sound department except that I wanted more tunes to jam to! I'm a 70's music fan. NOT DISCO, just the Shaft kinda stuff. You know the cheesy music you hear for all those old shows. Think Starsky and Hutch. It's all great.

I'm pretty much at the end here. Driver is one of those game where there doesn't have to be some grand concept or new play mechanic. It's a game that has a visceral appeal. Meaning that it makes you feel a certain way that other games don't. Just imagine being a wheelman and running from the cops while rushing through traffic and sidewalks. It's all done in a realistic manner and like no other game before it. The playstation has really accomplished something here. I never thought I'd see this one so well on this system. I though only my PC could do this stuff. Even if you don't like this game, try it to see what the Playstation can really do with time and effort. Be good everyone!

Overall: 8.9


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