Not Worth the Wait
The game kicks off with Tanner in the middle of some type of shootout in Instanbul, Turkey. The obvious main bad guy (he's got sunglasses so he has to be evil), is wielding a sawed-off shotgun and taking out police officers one by one. For some reason, Tanner is in the middle of it and somehow gets shot (all they show you is Tanner kicking a car door, then he's in the hospital). The scene ends with what appears to be Tanner on a hospital bed with a few doctors frantically trying to treat him until his EKG goes to a flatline. At least I think it was Tanner, since all the CG characters look almost identical. The screen fades to black and then you see the skyline of Miami and "Six months earlier..." appears on the screen. Tanner is once again an undercover FBI agent, but now he's tied with the Miami PD. This is where the story gets completely convoluded. Your first mission is to drive to the Miami Police Department and practice at the shooting range. Yet, in the third mission, if you're seen driving too fast or running a red light, the cops will chase you til you die. Does this make any sense to you? If it does, go waste your $50. The game features three cities (Miami, Nice, Istanbul) and the Xbox version allows you to use Live Aware and upload your own movies for other people to watch...as if anyone gave a shit that you rolled your car 8 times and lived.
You've probably seen screenshots of this game, and I agree, they look beautiful. There's just one problem with them though...well actually, lots of problems. The moment you put those beautiful images in motion, everything falls apart. It's saying alot when there are aliasing issues on an Xbox game. Yeah, you heard me...jaggies on Xbox. The jaggies are just a tiny problem compared to the draw distance in some areas. When you're cruising through the streets at 100mph and a car appears about 60 feet in front of you, causing a massive wreck and probably death, you'll want to chuck your controller at the TV. The game also attempts to make use of a fairly common method of drawing low-quality textured objects (people, trees, etc) until you get close enough and then it becomes high-quality. This works great in most games, but in Driv3r the game seems to lag behind you, so often you come to gun-point range with something that looks like it's from the original Driver on PSone. I could probably go on for days about specific issues, but you get the point. Sure, the lighting is great, but that can only go so far.
If you were hoping for some intuitive gameplay dynamics to make up for the ridiculous graphics flaw, sorry...the controls are just as bad. They've tried to make the game more like GTA and True Crime in the sense that you will spend alot more time on-foot, which goes against what being a wheelman is about, but I understand that they wanted to flesh out the experience...and failed. Controlling Tanner on foot is about as fluid as a bowl of oatmeal. The left thumbstick strafes and moves forward, while the right stick aims. Tanner has the ability to jump about 6 inches high, and while he does have the ability to duck and roll, you cannot move while in the duck position. There's no way to peek around corners, which means you're a sitting duck in shootouts. The driving portion isn't exactly a blast either. You spend most of your time just trying to keep your car on the road. Every car seems to have the uncanny ability to spin out when trying to go around a corner faster than 30mph. Even the best sports car feels like a tank when trying difficult chase maneuvers. Another problem is that while driving, the camera is set very low behind you, so the car covers most of the middle of the screen making it hard to even see what's ahead at times. The aforementioned graphical errors don't make controlling the cars any easier. It's just bad...plain bad.
Probably the strongest point of the game, which obviously isn't saying much. Atari has acquired the talent of Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames, Michelle Rodriguez, Mickey Rourke, and Iggy Pop to voice the main characters of the game. Atari is touting Driv3r as having "Hollywood production values," but I think the sound is the only department that that tagline applies to. The voice overs are very well done, although the volume seems to be cut way down, forcing you to turn it way up to hear them, then bust your ear drums when a car explodes. While the voice overs are good, the story itself is a little on the boring side, but that's not the point. Other than that, the in-game music is your run of the mill rock tracks. Not exactly the dozen or so radio stations found in GTA.
If having to watch the same 2 minute cutscene half a dozen times while you repeatedly fail a mission due to the game's various issues constitutes Replay Value, then this game gets a 10. But it doesn't, so it won't. Even the biggest Driver fans will have to admit, they've already done all of these missions before. Watch cutscene, chase criminal til another cutscene ensues, get out of car, chase criminal, kill criminal, watch cutscene. That's the basic flow of the game. They say it's open-ended, and in a sense it is. The cities are decent size, but the game is still extremely linear. After each mission you are taken to a menu screen and given the opportunity to save the game, watch a replay, go to the next mission, or quit. It's arguable, but this "end of mission" screen completely kills any chance of the game being open ended. You simply go from mission to mission, unable to choose your own way. And as if rehashing missions from the past games wasn't enough, they repeat some of the missions over and over.
I'm struggling to find something fun about this experience. I guess the best part is the Take A Ride mode, where there is no actual point. It's just you driving around, jacking cars and smashing up stuff. The actual story mode is simply frustrating and in the end, boring thanks to a lame storyline. The AI in this game is possibly the worst I've seen in recent memory. An enemy can literally be right around the corner from you, but he will not search for you, or even hide. You can continue to step out from behind the wall and fire away. The driving AI isn't any better, as you can trap cops behind stupid shit like light posts and guard rails while they continously back up and ram into the same object over and over trying to get to you. There are even times when you'll hit a tree and the collision detection is so bad that the hood of your car will go through the tree and render your car eternally attached to the foliage. It's absurd. I could go on, but I think I've trashed this game enough. It's not worth yours or my time.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***