The Driver franchise was started in 1999, with the PlayStation 1 game that was simply titled 'Driver', made by Reflections Interactive, now known as Ubisoft Reflections. The first two
games in the series were purely about driving and driving alone. However with the release of Driver 3 (usually spelt DRIV3R), the game included third person shooting elements. Since 1999, there have been five games released in the franchise,
Games in Franchise
Driver (1999 - PSOne, PC, Mac)
The first in the series, it was released in 1999 on the original PlayStation, and then on the PC and Macintosh in 2000. The game put the player in the role of Tanner, an undercover detective working as a wheelman. It established the series' cinematic driving inspired by classic car chase movies like Bullitt and was met with critical acclaim.
Also known as 'Driver 2: Back on the Streets' in Europe, it once again featured Tanner and introduced his new partner Tobias Jones. The game focused more on the narrative this time, with a structured story (Tanner and Jones are after a man named Solomon Caine) and pre-rendered cut scenes played between various missions. A first for the series was the ability to exit the car, walk around on foot, and then 'steal' a different vehicle. There was a mixed reaction from fans and critics, and it was never released on PC or other consoles.
With a new generation of hardware, Reflections returned once again with Driv3r/Driver 3, going for a cinematic theme even more, with voice talent from big Hollywood names such as Michael Madsen (as Tanner) and Ving Rhames (as Tobias Jones). The 1970s look was abandoned for a more modern day appearance, with both classic and modern cars on the streets, as well as the addition of boats and motorcycles. The game also featured third person shootouts, one of the many reasons the game was poorly received by most critics and fans.
The first game to abandon Tanner and company, Parallel Lines featured a new protagonist known as The Kid/TK, a getaway driver hired by various criminals. Also, unlike the previous games which featured three to four cities each, the whole game was set in New York City, and takes place across two time periods: 1978 and 2006. Not much else was changed: the game still had a story campaign that focussed on high speed chases, as well as third person shooting.
A spin-off prequel of the previous game, this was a PSP-only title featuring a different character from Parallel Lines, 'Ray'. Co-developed with Sumo Digital.
After a seven year absence, Tanner made his triumphant return in the latest Driver game. Set entirely in San Francisco, one of the cities featured in the first game, Tanner and his partner Tobias Jones are out to get Jericho, who was first introduced in Driver 2. The developers have emphasised a return to the roots of the series, removing all on foot interactions and keeping the action exclusively behind the wheel.
Renegade is a 3DS game which features Tanner taking down criminals in New York City. Released at the same time as the console title, but with a number of peculiar differences, the 3DS game has a more serious and mature tone compared to Driver SF's light-hearted story, and where D:SF only had a Teen rating, Renegade received a Mature rating.
Other Driver games
There are also Game Boy Color versions of Driver 1 & 2, and a Game Boy Advance version of Driv3r and a few mobile phone games made under license by Gameloft, one of which is an iPhone version of the first Driver..
C.O.P The Recruit, a Ubisoft game on the Nintendo DS that featured similar gameplay to some Driver games, had at one point the working title 'Driver - The Recruit'.
'Rivalry' with Rockstar Games
In GTA III, one of the side missions given in the game was to kill an undercover cop named Tanner. To add insult to injury, he was given a walking animation used for female characters in the game, referring to criticism of Tanner 'running like a girl' in Driver 2. Reflections responded to this by featuring a character in Driv3r named Timmy Vermicelli who constantly wore arm floats, a jab at how Tommy Vercetti in GTA: Vice City was unable to swim; falling into water in the game resulted in him drowning.
Rockstar responded to this in GTA: San Andreas. In a mission where the player has to sneak into Madd Dogg's mansion, he is playing a video game on the TV while yelling: "Damn, I mean how can Refractions mess up so bad? Tanner, you suck ass!", most likely referring to how poorly received Driv3r was. There was also a graveyard with gravestones that read "RIP Opposition 1997-2004".