Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Archive Review: DRIV3R

(PS2/Xbox Review)

Driven around the block.

I like driving in my car. Even if its actually not going very far. When I play DRIV3R, which is really Driver 3 to be precise, I tend not to go very far at all. In fact, I don't like driving. This is because DRIV3R is likely one of the most disappointing games to come out so far this year. It heads away from the areas that made the original Driver good and instead copies the mistakes of the weaker sequel Driver 2. It tries to go all "GTA'ish" and gives us third person roaming which is as badly implemented as it was in Driver 2. What is so strange, and annoying, about this is that DRIV3R comes from the original developers of the original title, Reflections.

The developers have taken no things and advanced no things here with DRIV3R. It is a jazzed up Driver 2 but with all the flaws of that poor game. For a start we have a downright tedious control system which is bad on both formats the game was made for. The Xbox version's works slightly better in terms of the controls, but only due to the controller design.

You reprise your role as the slightly crooked cop Tanner, who now is trying to crack an international stolen car ring. Your investigation takes you from the warm shores of Miami to the crusty French loaves of Nice and the narrow alleys of Istanbul, where you must navigate a complex web of confusing double-crosses, shady accomplices and plenty of brutal murders. The truth here is that the story is actually rather dull and just a cliche of bent cop inspired, Gene Hackman wannabe, men running around with shiny badges. It feels like the story from the movie Gone In 60 Seconds... but without Angelina Jolie! Enough said.

When you get into this game it doesn't take long to realise the playing field. It's a linear game set solely on linear missions. Without any of the freedom of games such as GTA: Vice City you drive around and take mission after mission. These consist of the usual old thing, chasing cars that seem to zoom ahead only to stop and mysteriously wait for you to catch up at the next corner, running about on foot taking on hordes of street punks, and getting chased yourself - either by cops or gangs. You get a map during this which allows you to make your own way to a destination which, as you can imagine, really impressed me. You can't freely roam around in this main mode (called Undercover mode) to the game though. What happens upon completing a mission is a cut-scene and then your automatically placed into a new area - to start a new mission. After playing games like the GTA series playing DRIV3R feels like returning to an old decrepit shed after spending a fortnight at the Hilton.

You will drive 70-80% of the time in this game and it will not be much different to the earlier games. The realistic physics are fun and cleverly implemented. You can powerslide around corners, ram into oncoming cars, and start a fight with a wall and lose in realism. It does have an arcade feel to it though and is made in a way where it seems more fun orientated than the original. Throughout this adventure through crowded roads your soon be cursing at one thing - the controls. They are quite simply one hell of an annoyance. Swerving in and out of traffic is hard enough, but struggling to keep you car going straight as it bucks like a bronco after hitting the smallest bump isn't so much fun as it is nerve-wracking. This really bogs down to the fact that you need to be in a good car to have a fun time. Although you get to drive all sorts of vehicles there are only ever a few you really want to be in.

On a slightly different note this game is one of the first I have played where the training level enemy element proved more of a challenge than the live games excuse for A.I. The automated wooden targets seemed better trained and more prepared for an encounter with player. The punks you come across in the streets of DRIV3R are about as tough as the traffic lights.

The Cop A.I is as bad. It is as if there is no true A.I in this game at all, just scripts and cut-scenes there to fool you into believing this lie. The boys in blue will either go out of their way to hunt you or will go out of their way to drive into walls and die. Sometimes they will get out of the police cars and run repeatedly into a wall, fence, tree, anything really. They will also shoot the for said structure, bang, bang, bang. They also have that amazing advantage that many enemies seem to rely so heavily on in games nowadays. That is unlimited ammunition. This is subjective to them though for when you kill one and take their gun it's always only got a few rounds left...

Really the only way around this issue is to hop into the game’s other modes. You can Take a Ride to explore any of the three big cities at your leisure, which is handy for learning the maps but somewhat pointless as there aren't’t really any goals or anything to act as incentives. A few driving games make a return, most notably the ruthless Survival mode in which you must dodge waves of cops for as long as possible, which proves to still be a fun diversion.

If you own a new controller then think twice before buying this. You will find it being constantly thrown to the floor in a mix of anger, despair, rage, and sheer frustration at this game. Sometimes its so easy you yawn, other times you can't help but ask if it was even playtested. The graphics for both versions are simply average. The textures are pretty basic but give the desired impression of a city without any real problems. They're just not anything more than acceptable. It all seems rather 32-bit to me though, old and hardly flattering.

The sound fares far better thanks to a high-profile assortment of celebrities voices, including Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames and Mickey Rourke. Most of the music is intended to match the feeling of the cut scenes and carries less weight during the action, but generally works well enough.

Even the replay system is bugged. Say you end up in some really cool looking crash and pause to go watch the replay of the collision. You can do this fine except there is one little nag. After viewing the replay the mission will end and you start again, from scratch. Why? Well, there is no obvious reason as to why. I assume it's a bug.

It's a real shame this game is so weak in virtually every area. It could have been so much better. If only they'd listened to the fans and implemented more detail but without feeling the need to throw in so many poor extra elements.



+Good damage modeling and physics +Moments of fun +Good voice acting


-Weak A.I -Archaic graphics -Overly linear -Weak control system -Buggy


Drive me home

by Joey T 2004

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