Review: Driv3r (PS2)

Driver 3 (DRIV3R)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Reflections
Platform: PS2
Release Date: 06/21/2004

Gaming trends is quickly becoming a disease—a disease that is not only effecting players, but also developers. Whether it is cookie-cutter World War Two shooters, or another bland first person shooter with the obligatory “Halo Killer” title, creativity amongst developers is certainly waning.

The latest craze—which doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon—is to mimic Grand Theft Auto’s wildly addictive free-form gameplay. In a way, I don’t blame developers for relying on something that works, because gosh darnit, those GTA games are so much fun—the first time you play them! If I wanted to play a game that played like Grand Theft Auto, I’d play Grand Theft Auto. Pretty soon, we are going to see “Grand Theft Auto gameplay” in the list of features on the back of the box, and when that time comes, I am officially going to punch the face of every developer that refuses to come up with an original god damn idea.

Not only is Driver 3 another one of the countless GTA clones to come out this year, but it’s also got a ridiculous name to boot—DRIV3R. Well, it is obvious that all the creativity in making this game went into its silly title.

Story:

While I largely disliked Driver 3, I have to give the game some credit, because believe it or not, it did do some things right. For the most part, I wasn’t too enthralled by Driver 3’s story, which follows Tanner, a no-nonsense undercover cop, on a mission to stop a bunch of oversees criminals. It’s your typical Hollywood fluff that we’ve come to expect from games like this, so it wasn’t like I was expecting anything earth shattering, which is why I primarily disregarded it. While the story itself was nothing special, there was a nifty little feature implemented that was—I can’t believe I’m saying this—pretty darn original. Developer, Reflections, made sure that you would always be up to date with the story, even if you go long spurts without playing (or have short term memory), by adding in a little recap feature every time you restart your game. It’s very subtle, but also very intuitive. Now, if there is a feature RPG developers should steal, it should be this one.

5/10

Graphics:

This is a Playstation 2 game, right? I mean, that is what it says on the box, but I could have sworn I was being tricked into purchasing a PS1 game. What hurts even more is the fact that game beguiles you into thinking you’re playing a graphically impressive game by introducing you with completely gorgeous cut scenes. Cut scenes? Beautiful. Actual game? Pretty ugly. Maybe it’s just the PS2 version, but the graphics looked about on the par with late PS1 games, which is not something I expected from such a highly publicized game. Not only were the graphics unimpressive, but the game was riddled with glitches and clipping issues—definitely something that is inexcusable from a game that has been development for long as it has. Oh, and where’s the blood? You can show scenes of people getting shot point blank in head, upside down, but you can’t show blood? Are we back in 1994 again? Maybe there will be a super cool Mortal Kombat-like code that turns the blood on—or not.

While the character models were less than stellar, the actual environments were stunning. Driving around the three different cities, it was amazing to realize how much space Reflections put into the game. There is over a 150 miles of drivable highways and streets in this game, and that’s not counting all the non-paved areas either. Pretty impressive, I must say.

The physics in the game, though they caused me much frustration, are worth praising—especially the level of detail put into depicting the destruction of the vehicles in the game. If you have never been a car wreck, you’re lucky, because after playing Driver 3, the thought of driving around in big piece of metal isn’t as enticing as using my god-given feet. It’s ridiculous the amount of detail put into making the crashes and destruction realistic, but the kind of ridiculous the makes you appreciate the times when you accidentally crash that unsuspecting light pole for the 50th time.

5/10

Sound:

For the most part, the music is pretty bad. It’s not terrible, but you definitely won’t be turning up your TV to rock the tunes. Driver 3 does however provide some of the best voice-acting in a game recently. Stars like Michael Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Ving Rhames, and Michelle Rodriguez all provide voice work in the game. It’s a good thing Reflections was able to secure these stars, because without this kind of talent speaking the unforgettable dialogue, I really would have disregarded the story even more than I already did.

7/10

Controls:

Let’s get the crap out of the way first. Because simply driving around wasn’t enough, Reflections decided to add several GTA inspired on-foot levels, that for lack of a nicer series of words, suck complete ass. It is obvious when you play these levels that Reflection’s expertise doesn’t go beyond the driver’s seat. Controlling Tanner is just shoddy, and simply not fun—something that doesn’t work well for a video game. Aiming is almost too much a pain to even attempt, so I spent the better half of the on-foot levels running around shooting blindly. It’s almost as if Reflections made these on-foot levels so completely terrible that they would reinforce how amazing their driving levels are. If so, they are cruel.

For the most part, the driving levels handle almost perfectly—almost too perfectly. I am all for realistic physics in a game, but when the game becomes so realistic that it loses its enjoyment value, something must be done. Now, I understand that if I ram into a light pole in real life, it will probably stop my car—I’m not going to argue that, but this a video game we are talking about here. It’s okay to bend the rules a little bit, and unfortunately there were many times when I cursing how realistic the game’s engine was—partly because I am a terrible driver. My talent aside, I still have to commend Reflection for the work on crafting such a realistic driving engine. Too bad they had to include the on-foot levels, because I could have given this section a higher score.

6/10

Balance:

As I just mentioned, the physics engine in this game can become quite problematic in terms of balance. The frustration builds to a boiling point when one mishap will practically end the mission for you. I hate to admit this, but it took me entirely too many times to complete the first real driving mission. Now, I’m no expert at video games or anything (though I pretend I am), but I’m usually capable of completing any game I play—until I faced this particular mission. It was a simple enough mission too: chase the bad guy for a while until he crashes. No biggie, right? Right, I just suck. I’ve never felt so defeated in my life. Basically, I couldn’t get past the first level without: A) crashing into a wall; B) flipping my car over; C) stalling upon hitting the cop cars situated immediately outside the exit ramp; D)passing out due to utter frustration. Luckily, I did eventually beat that level, after I finally figured out the controls, but I’ll never forget that level for the rest of my gaming life.

The on-foot levels are a complete joke. Usually when I try to kill people with a gun they at least try to shoot me back. I’m not saying they have to hit me, but they should at least make an attempt to chase me and make sure I don’t shoot them first. Unfortunately, the enemies in Driver 3 are complete imbeciles: they simply stand there like cardboard cutouts and let you pick at them from a distant. Sure, it made it easier for me, but I at least wanted some sort of challenge. I just find it so funny how the on-foot levels were so easy and the driving levels were so ridiculously frustrating. I’ve never played a game with such bi-polar balance.

3/10

Replayability:

While Reflections did make an effort (albeit a fairly poor one) to keep gamers coming back, there is really isn’t much worth returning to. There is a “Take a Ride” mode where you can randomly roam around the cities, but there is little do in this mode, although it is nice to simply explore the expansive settings. You can also hunt down a character in the game that shares an uncanny resemblance to a certain character in Vice City to unlock extra cars, but it’s hardly a reason to get excited about—especially when you can simply unlock all the cars with a simple code.

While it may sound silly, crashing is probably the strongest reason to replay this game. Embrace those sweet moments of vehicular destruction with the film director feature that allows you to record and rearrange actual gameplay footage to make beautiful cinematic art out of the blood and carnage you create. Definitely a cool little feature that could potentially provide hours of fun, based on how much time you want to spend creating the perfect crash sequence.

5/10

Originality:

We’ve already been over the GTA influences, so I won’t even bother wasting any more words on it. Even with that aside, this is the third sequel to a video game series, which means it is definitely showing its age. Since this is essentially a driving game, there are only so many missions you can whilst driving a car, apart from the obligatory chase and be-chased missions. That being said, this game does little to break new ground, other than offer bigger landscapes and a Hollywood cast of voice-acting. I’m not exactly sure where to push this franchise (on-foot missions definitely wasn’t the answer) but I’m not a developer, so it’s not my problem.

5/10

Appeal:

It’s a shame this game had great appeal, because it hardly lives up to all the hype it has generated. But if we are to ignore the quality of the game, the game has massive appeal. Not only is the Driver series very popular, but it was also supposed to utilize the GTA gameplay to enhance the already enjoyable car chase style of play. It may not have worked out as well as Reflections would have liked, but that is not going to keep people from picking it up.

7/10

Addictiveness:

It depends on how much patience you have. I for one grew sick of the frustrating levels, leading me to turn off the game before I shouted anymore obscenities, but for those adept and familiar with Driver’s gameplay will easily get sucked into racing through the missions. There is also a level of obsession that grows on you upon facing a challenge that, though is giving you trouble, you know you are capable of beating. That is where the patience comes in. If you are able to sit through these missions to the end without tweaking out, then you’ll find it rewarding. Of course, crashing into that godforsaken light pole, or having the game tell you your victim has gotten away for the 50th time will damper the addictiveness and cue the frustration.

6/10

Misc:

As much as I hated this game, there were a couple of cool things about it, so I thought I would talk about them a little, as to not completely bash this game. Like I said earlier, I thought the idea of recapping the story each time you play is a great for gamers to keep with the goings on of a game, in the situations when they quit playing for a long period of time. The FMV sequences were also very well done, both graphically and cinematically. Speaking of cinematics, the film director mode is one of the coolest features I’ve seen in a game in a long time. It’s a pretty simple feature, but if you really take the time to fool around with it, you can make some pretty interesting stuff. It’s also nice how you can save your movies onto you memory card, incase you want show your friends your amateur filmmaking skills. It’s also cool how you can see an entire replay of each mission you do after you complete it—not that I think many people will want to watch their entire mission over again, but it’s still a neat little feature.

8/10

Final Scores:

Story: 5/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Balance: 3/10
Replayability: 5/10
Originality: 3/10
Appeal: 7/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Misc: 8/10

Overall Score: 55/100