Driv3r Review

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Over three years in production, Reflections have finally released the third incarnation of their successful Driver series. With a combination of cinematic car chases and third person shooting, Driv3r builds on the ambitious foundations of its PS One predecessors.

Voiced by Hollywood hard man Michael Madson, you play an undercover cop named Tanner. Working along side Tobias Jones (played by Ving Rhames), you must bring down an international car-smuggling ring. Starting with an explosive cut scene that leaves Tanner fighting for his life on a hospital bed, the game then takes you back six months to his plush Miami apartment. With his own swimming pool and boat, you can try out some of Driv3r’s new additions before heading off to the police station for some target practise on the firing range.

Your first mission takes you on a race across town to a siege on South Beach. After taking out some perimeter thugs on foot, the leader makes a daring escape in a car. In pursuit, you must apprehend and bring him to justice. Fall too far behind and he will get away, so there is (literally) no room for error. Missions have to be attempted a certain way. I tried to sabotage the criminal’s car before he tries to escape, but found I couldn’t shoot out the tires or blow up the engine as you can normally. Unperturbed I attempted to block his getaway route with several police cars. Impressively the game loaded a different cut scene, and the suspect launched himself off a ramp and over a fence. All was forgiven, and the chase was back on.

Next it was off to the Gold Coast Hotel to eliminate the criminal threat inside a hotel, and retrieve a car. On the way to delivering the vehicle, a rival car will attack and try to damage the car as much as possible. Once your car is completely damaged, as indicated by the car damage meter, it will no longer be drivable. In this particular mission it is important to return the car in working order, so the opposing car must be stopped however possible. The quickest solution is to simply shoot the driver through his windscreen, leaving him slumped over dead behind the wheel. To avoid an 18 rating, Reflections have decided to leave blood completely out of the game, so don’t expect to find his brains splattered on the leather interior.

Other missions see you proving your driving skills while demolishing a construction site, shooting up the Red River Bar before the police arrive, planting bombs on a boat, and ploughing through a shopping mall. Challenges generally include a mixture of pursuing cars, escaping the police, shooting people and destroying everything in your path while working on both sides of the law. Objectives are set across three full-scale cities, including Miami USA, Nice France and Istanbul Turkey, which offer some 135 miles of open road.

You begin the game with two handguns, and one of which features unlimited ammunition. Additional weapons such as machine guns and silencers can be picked up from fallen enemies. To stop you accidentally killing a law-abiding citizen, your target turns blue if aimed at them. Those considered a threat will turn the target red, including provoked pedestrians who suddenly retrieve a gun.

There are over seventy vehicles to take for a spin, which are exclusive to the city you are currently in. In addition to a variety of sports cars, motorbikes, and buses, you can also get behind the wheel of a forklift truck, dumpster, SUV and even a Go-Kart. All of which offer different handling, and in turn a varied driving experience. You can conveniently commandeer any vehicle in the game by simply opening the door and pulling out the driver.

There is plenty of realistic vehicular damage to enjoy as doors hang off, bumpers scrape along the ground, bullets pierce the metal, bonnets fly off into the car behind, the framework crumples and glass windscreens shatter realistically. If the engine receives too much damage it will overheat, before catching fire and exploding. Recognisable debris from the car then falls from the sky, leaving scrap metal, seats and wheels cluttering up the road. Vehicle engines are positioned in different places, so learn where they are if you want to make them blow up without wasting too much ammo.

Once a mission is complete, you have the option to view and save a replay of your heroics, or cut together a Hollywood style car chase in the returning Film Director Mode. Here you can set the camera angle, add slow motion, or use the auto Director feature. Movies can then be uploaded and shared with the World via Xbox Live.

Iggy Pop provides Driv3r’s theme song, with additional bands contributing rock selections to the in-game soundtrack. Joining Michael Madson and Ving Rhames in the voice-over department are Mickey Rourke and Michelle Rodriguez.

In Take A Ride mode, you can cruise around any available cities to your hearts content, while making use of any acquired weapons in the Undercover Story Mode. You can adjust the time of day, weather, turn cops on or off, and select from over 20 vehicles. Perfect for learning your way around the city, or practising any particularly tricky routes. A number of mini-games are also on offer, including Gate Race, Quick Chase, Quick Getaway, Trail Blazer, and my personal favourite, Survival. All of which can be played in any city, and offer a number of sub-games to spice things up.
Additional features include a making of documentary, plus trailers of forthcoming Atari titles ‘Shadow Ops: Red Mercury’ and ‘Terminator 3: The Redemption’.

While the sprawling cities, realistic car damage, slick cut scenes and lighting effects are undeniably impressive, there are a few areas that make the whole experience less polished. When getting out of a vehicle, climbing a ladder or swimming in the water, it isn’t possible to fire your weapon. This makes you a sitting duck with no way to defend yourself. There’s also a few clipping issues and lacklustre water effects that should have been addressed. Reflections will need to make the game play more open-ended if they want to compete with Grand Theft Auto.

Most missions have multiple objectives, and to save time will conveniently restart at the last reached section should you die. The problem lies when you reach a section with almost no health left and inevitably biting the dust. Your position will indeed be restored, complete with your exact ammo and health when reaching the stage. This means that the chances are, you will die straight away again. The only solution is to exit the mode completely, then start again from the very beginning of the mission.

Driv3r is a largely enjoyable experience that captures the thrill of a Hollywood chase, complete with boxes, café tables and benches to crash through. With over twenty-five missions, Film Director mode and various mini games, there is plenty to keep you occupied. On the verge of greatness, Driv3r is well worth taking for a test drive!

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