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In Driver the player takes on the role of a getaway-car driver, an undercover cop named Turner. This guy has obviously been plucked straight from the movies. He's Dirty Harry. He's Mad Max! In fact he's anyone who lives purely for their job, bends every rule in the book and, of course, hates their boss!
The basic objective of the game is to meet up with criminals as they are leaving their heists and drive them back to safety. But expect a few surprises along the way....
Sound and Vision:
Love it loathe it you simply couldn't ignore the fact that Destruction Derby was a flagship title when the Playstation was launched back in '95. The highly popular 'crash-em-up' was developed for Psygnosis by the Reflections studio, which was recently acquired by GT Interactive.
Reflections first project for GT was to capture the adrenaline-pumping action of a Hollywood-style car chase taking players on a careening thrill-ride through the streets of four major U.S. cities, and it is immediately obvious where their main influence came from.
Dispersed throughout Driver are a wonderful selection of FMV cut-scenes which link together the 40+ levels. It's hardly a gripping tale, and I doubt if you'll need to hang onto every syllable to keep up with the plot, but it does help the game flow a little.
The vehicles suit the style and performance of the game perfectly. No way would you expect to drive a highly polished Mitsubishi GTO Twin Turbo through the streets of New York without drawing some sort of attention from the local constabulary. Oh no! What you get is a range of scruffy, souped up Seventies saloons that blend in perfectly with the surroundings... but are capable of busting a gut when the alarm is raised.
Furthermore the sound is superb from the screeching tyres of a burnout which is quickly drown out by the bronchial roar of the engine, to the 'whip, whipping' of the cop sirens that shroud the frantic radio messages as the law desperately tries to keep tabs on your position.
Realism comes to the forefront as over thirty miles of road has been immaculately presented from the four main cities, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Take time out to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, cruise along South Beach or drive around the Empire State Building. Also, each city has working traffic lights, wandering pedestrians, moving traffic and vigilant cops on patrol, all making getaways more difficult and hazardous. Any vehicle that gets in your way will doubtlessly be heading for that great scrap yard in the sky but pedestrians cannot be mown over. You'll have to wait for Carmaggeddon to get those cheap thrills because Reflections have avoided that risque publicity stunt by programming each pedestrian with athletic capabilities. Steer too close and they leap for cover.
The streets in which you make your getaway are lined with various obstacles, both solid and destructible. Take a short-cut through a back alley and cardboard boxes, garbage cans, road work signs and discarded sheets of newspaper can be tossed high in the air as your car explodes through everything in it's path. However don't try the same manouvre with the street lighting posts or solid tree trunks as your car will always come off second best.
Those of you who witnessed the Destruction Derby games will have some idea of the splendid damage effects that will befall your car. Hit something solid and a bit will undoubtedly fall off. Constant ramming dents and buckles the bodywork, hub caps spin off and roll down the road, smoke and flames rise from the hood, while headlights will smash and fail making night driving even more difficult.
Play from behind the dashboard where players can look out both side windows for an escape route, or check things out from a third person, behind-the-car perspective. The in-car view certainly raises the hair on the back of your neck but can be quite nauseating when the vehicle takes a tumble.
The best part of the viewing angles are saved for the replay mode. The revolutionary Director's Mode gives players all the necessary tools to "film" their own car chase. Each level can be edited and cut to provide your very own high-speed Hollywood-style car chase movie that can be saved on your memory card for posterity. After completing each mission, you may go back through a virtual recording of you slick getaway, reposition camera angles and placements, and even re-cut scenes using editing tools. "Light's! Camera! Action!"
Finally it's worth mentioning the weather effects. Missions take place during daytime or night, sunshine or haze, dry or rainy, clear or stormy conditions. Each affects the handling and control of the vehicle and offers a fresh challenge to your reactions.
Enough about the eye candy, what about gameplay. Well... there's plenty of it for sure. Options offer three difficulty levels. I recommend you begin on Medium setting because Easy is a breeze. It is also worth checking out the Practice mode which is set in the Desert or a Car Park. This is basically a glorified Time Trial mode where your previous lap time is replayed using a ghost car.
Next up is the Take A Ride mode where each city revealed becomes available for a thorough investigation. This is ideal for casing out the area to discover the best hiding places and short cuts that do not appear on the map. These include back alleys, multi-storey car parks and pedestrian subways.
Car Chase is where you can store and replay your favorite getaway movies. I didn't think I would bother too much with this option but it's amazing how many times something utterly amazing and spectacular happens in this game and there is no one around to watch.
Driving Games are five sub games which slightly make up for the lack of a two player mode. Here you can take turns with a mate to log up the fastest time over a selection of tasks. The Driving Games are:
Pursuit which involves chasing a marked car across any of the eight street courses, ramming the vehicle until it burns in the gutter.
Getaway begins with a cop on your tail and a timer records how long it takes to shake him off.
Cross Town Checkpoint is similar to Die Hard Trilogy where a number of markers must be reached before time runs out.
Trail Blazer requires 100 flags to be checked against the clock.
Dirt Track has both a practice and time trial option as you burn up the dust in the desert setting.
Last, but not least, Survival is the ultimate adrenaline rush as all cop cars in town are put on alert and are intent in smashing your car to smitherines in a matter of seconds. Get out of there quick!
Of course these are all sideshows for the 'real deal' which is Undercover mode. Before access is granted the player must take a driving test where total vehicle control is proven within 60 seconds. The player then takes on the role of Tanner in his cramped apartment. Here he sits by the phone and checks out the messages on his answer phone. There might only be one job on offer, but often there may be up to three choices (including the occasional wrong number). Missions are varied but do tend to be split into six categories which are:
1. Collect a package and deliver to another address.
2. Chase and ram a marked car.
3. Ram Raid a number of restaurant windows.
4. Collect criminals/stolen cars and take back to the lock up.
5. Follow a marked car/person.
6. Race across town on a phonebox chase.
Select Tanners task and then head for the parking lot. You don't get to choose your vehicle... Tanner takes what is on offer, but this allows the player to sample all of the cars in the game. From here on in the game follows a basic routine. At the top of the screen are two gauges, damage and felony. Each law broken raises the felony bar and bring more cops on your trail, while the game is over when damage is maxed out.
At the bottom of the screen is the all important radar. This shows a compressed section of the city map. An 'as the crow flies' arrow points out the general direction of your destination. It's also worth taking notice where the cops are on the radar because if you don't break the law in front of them... you won't get busted. Now this is fine until you are crawling along the highway with a cop just in front and there are only a few seconds left on the mission clock. This is the beauty of the gameplay. You are always asking yourself questions such as 'should I run the red light in town and risk raising the alarm... or play it cool and pick up time on the main highways.' Once the cops start chasing then expect a rough ride as they appear from everywhere, chasing, ramming and setting up road blocks.
Longevity? I played from start to finish in about 3 to 4 days on medium setting but then I could always return and take on the alternative missions I turned down. Then there are all the sub games to enjoy... and Time Trials... and Cheats.. and Hard setting..... I'll not spoil the climax of the game.. only to say it involves carrying out the ultimate hit. Be warned... the final level is a bitch and could take longer to complete than the other 40+ missions combined.
This is a single disk game for 1 Player. It is compatable with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).