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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Atari

 

Developer

Reflections

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q3 2004

 

 

- Nice modeled cities

- Occasional moments of fun

 

 

- Glitchy and questionable AI

- Frustrating missions

- Foot levels suffer poor control

- Terrible music

 

 

Review: Driv3r (XB)

Review: True Crime - Streets of LA (PS2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto - Vice City (PS2)

 

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Driv3r

Score: 5.2 / 10

 

Drive3r is the most amazing marriage of alphanumerical characters since 2 Fast 2 Furious blew us away with its genius mastery of English grammar. It's also the latest in the increasingly annoying series of over-hyped crime games (see also: State of Emergency, True Crime, The Getaway) that Gamestop employees will hound you to preorder, even though it is clearly doomed to be utter trash. Seeing how the original PSOne Driver games gave a unique (if frustrating) spin on the racing genre, it's a little sad to see Driv3r come off so badly, with its fumbled marriage of car chases and third-person action shooters.

 

driver 3 review          driver 3 review

 

While there are several submodes in Driv3r – including a GTA-esque "explore the city" option and several driving mini-games (evade the cops, etc.) – the bulk of the game is the story mode, featuring linear missions in the usual crime-filled world that attempts to pay homage to Tarantino, but comes off more like a bad '70s cop show. Atari sunk a lot of money into getting some famous voice actors for the cutscenes, but these don't quite work as intended. Michael Madsen is amazing and all, but his (i.e. your) character rarely talks. Ving "Marsellus" Rhames and Michelle "Face Puncher" Rodriguez also star, but given that the cutscenes are mostly just dark, almost nonsensical interludes for an irrelevant story, you can really just ignore them.

 

As far as the actual game is concerned, there's actually a rather nice variety in the missions. You might start off leisurely driving to some location, followed by an on-foot action sequence, and ending with a speedboat chase. At least the designers were trying to catch the excitement of a fast paced action flick, but you'd better like playing them over and over and over. Checkpoints are sloppily placed, so losing often requires playing whole five-minute game segments from scratch. And all of these segments have some pretty major flaws that will make you rethink choosing the "restart mission" option at Game Over screen.

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Take any of the car chase missions. If you fall some arbitrary distance behind your target, you will lose. Any minor bang up or missed turn will pretty much result in failure. Occasionally you can shoot and drive at the same time, but this is an entirely useless feature, since aiming is a flat out impossibility. It's a shame really, as most of the driving physics are quite good, and banging around town in finely smashed cars is something of a minor joy.

 

The thing is, there are times where Driv3r almost – almost – elicits 

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the thrills that it’s aiming for. Take one particular mission, where you need to escape from a construction yard, only to be thwarted every few seconds by enemy cars suddenly pulling out in front of you. These segments can take a bit of trial and error, but with a set of fine-tuned reflexes, it can be quite rewarding. And on certain chase mission, the targets will change their paths, so at least the inevitable replays aren't too boring. But these are all merely scripted events that were planned well on the part of the designers. If handed off to the AI, the game flounders hopelessly. My absolute favorite experience was when a van pinned me against a wall, reducing my health in half but also somehow flinging me on top of the roof. As I sat on the van roof, the driver randomly drove around in circles, like a cat trying to catch its own tail, before I leapt off, ran a few feet and lost my enemy completely. Situations such as these are pretty normal, really.

 

And those are just the driving segments, which are, sad to say, the crème of the game. The foot segments are really just attempts at a no-frills third-person action game. You can run, shoot and duck, but that's it – no dashings leaps, no shoulder rolls, no fancy maneuvers. There's also no grenades or secondary weapons, features which you will miss a lot. Not to mention, the whole of it feels sloppy -- the camera loves you get to killed by getting stuck behind scenery, and the lack of an auto-aim or aiming sensitivity option makes shooting more of a chore than anything resembling fun.

 

driver 3 preview          driver 3 review

 

Because of these flaws, you'll die a lot during the third person segments as well, although there are some slightly amusing tactics. The best way to clear out a room is to stand by a doorway in an area where the bad guy can't detect you, turn until you get a shot of him (you can shoot through edges of walls) and let loose. I guess creating strategies based on terrible programming is a reward in itself, but it all just feels kind of wrong.

 

In spite of the average gameplay, one of the biggest draws of the Driver games have always been the huge cities they modeled. While Driv3r begins in Miami, you later end up in Nice (that's in France) and Istanbul. While it's nice to see some international cities rendered in computer geometry, the overall look of the game is somewhat average, unless you love seeing worlds decorated with several different varieties of Bland Beige Texture #37. The cars, at least, look vaguely nice (unless partial destroyed). The less said about the soundtrack, though, the better. Most of the in-game music is comprised of riffs from a bunch of "popular" songs, which are so amazing that over five pages of the instructional manual are devoted to telling you how awesome it is. And naturally, none of it is any good.

 

Maybe if the designers had either stuck with one kind of gameplay, or simply polished up everything, then you'd be reading a higher-scoring review. But as it stands, Driv3r is a buggy driving game, mixed with a terrible GTA clone and bad Max Payne rip-off.  This equals a pretty large pile of garbage, unless you're aware of some strange video game math.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(August 12, 2004)

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