John Tanner is the main protagonist in the Driver series. Throughout the series, Tanner uses his expert driving skills to intercept criminal syndicates as an undercover detective.
Tanner is the main protagonist of the mainline Driver series until his absence from Driver: Parallel Lines. Tanner would return as protagonist in Driver: San Francisco.
Raised in New York City, John Tanner was an ex-race car driver whose career promptly ended as a result of an unknown accident. By the events of Driver, Tanner is working for the NYPD and is sent to infiltrate the Castaldi crime family. In order to prove himself to the gang, Tanner must participate in a number of challenges in a parking garage.
After doing several jobs for the gang across the United States, Tanner soon comes to realize that Castaldi plans to assassinate the president in New York. Tanner is able to successfully save the president's life and is congratulated by his superior officer - who offers to give Tanner's badge back to him. Tanner declines this offer.
Chicago, United States
Sometime later, Tanner is working with the Chicago Police Department in order to track down a petty criminal named Pink Lenny. Alongside his new partner, Tobias Jones, Tanner follows up on various leads to figure out Pink Lenny's next move.
Joining South Beach & Killing Gator
Tanner returns to his hometown of Miami to intercept a gang led by Calita Martinez called South Beach. The main objective of South Beach is to steal several high-performance vehicles and send them overseas to be collected by a mysterious buyer. Tanner is ordered to kill Gator, a former affiliate with South Beach, to prove his worth to the gang.
Dubois' Capture & Rescue
Sometime after Gator's supposed death, South Beach relocates to Nice, France to resume their operations. Upon his arrival to Nice, Tanner is introduced to Interpol agents Didier Dubois and Henri Vauban, who make it clear that they want to take the cars by force. Tanner doesn't want to go this way, and instead wants to find out who the buyer is first before taking any action in returning the cars.
After doing some more jobs for South Beach, they manage to find Dubois and almost force Tanner to shoot at him. They then announce their plans to kill Dubois the following day, with Tanner saving him from captivity at the behest of Vauban. After Tanner uncovers information at a boathouse with Dubois, both men are cornered by South Beach members and Tanner's old arch rival Jericho. Dubois is killed and Tanner escapes to rescue Vauban. Thereafter, South Beach heads to Istanbul to conclude their operations.
Dismantling South Beach
After a tense shootout with Jericho and his goons, Tanner contemplates killing him but ultimately decides to leave him. Jericho shoots Tanner in the back shortly afterwards. The two men are rushed to a hospital in critical condition and the game ends with the sound of a pulse, indicating that one (or both) men survived their wounds.
Six months after the events of Driv3r, Tanner and Jericho recover from their injuries. Jericho was sent back to the United States to be trialed for his crimes.
While pursuing a prison van escorting career criminal Charles Jericho, Tanner suffers a huge crash which renders him comatose. During his unconscious state, Tanner is able to solve a conspiracy involving Jericho's deadly escape from prison using newfound car shifting abilities. However, Tanner's rival Jericho can also use car shifting abilities and can even throw cars in the way of Tanner.
Once Tanner figures out what Jericho is planning, he manages to wake himself up in the real world and quickly gets to work in tracking down Jericho & stopping him. After a car chase throughout the city, Tanner and Jericho find themselves in a face-to-face situation at a warehouse until Jones manages to intercept Jericho's vehicle, subduing him in the process. Shortly afterwards, Jones suggests that him and Tanner have a beer to celebrate.
John Tanner has been mentioned, and often parodied, in a number of video games; frequently in the Grand Theft Auto series - which was often viewed as a competitor of the Driver series. The earliest reference to Tanner can be seen in the Grand Theft Auto III mission "Two-Faced Tanner", in which Claude is ordered to assassinate an undercover police officer named Tanner. The Tanner that is featured in this mission shares a similar appearance to John Tanner from the Driver series but uses a female running animation to make fun of the strange way Tanner walks in Driver 2, it is also noted beforehand that Tanner is "useless outside of his car".
An assassination contract in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City tasks the player with eliminating a variety of characters with names from main characters in games such as True Crime, the Getaway and Driver.
As a result of the failed launch and controversy surrounding Driv3r, there is a reference to this in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. During the mission 'Madd Dogg's Rhymes', one of Madd Dogg's bodyguards can be heard playing and verbally berating a game by saying "How could Refractions mess up so bad?" and "Tanner, you suck ass!".
Additionally, there are gravestones in San Andreas which read "RIP Opposition 1999 - 2004".