A cursory glance at today’s videogames industry will reveal many things to the longtime gamer. Perhaps none more pronounced than the fact that the industry, as well as its fans, has begun to truly grow up. Whereas characters could once be killed by jumping on their heads, chances are that, today, you are more likely to use a recognizable weapon. As the industry continues to advance, it will always find itself in trouble for programming socially irresponsible games – as some who ironically tend not to play games will describe them.
The fact that games such as the Grand Theft Auto series sell millions of copies due to their silky smooth gameplay and wonderful design seems to be a moot point when their subject matter is much more contentious and news worthy. In actuality, the games industry has been maturing for many years and, thankfully, not every game receives undue bad press years after its initial release.
Built On A Classic Design
One such game is Driver. Based in the 1970s, Driver successfully turned the excitement of car chase movies such as Bullitt, into a legitimate new avenue of the driving genre. Many years have passed since the original Driver, and with those years have come huge leaps in home entertainment technology. So, once again, Reflections Interactive and Atari are putting on their seatbelts and attempting to out run the law one more time, and bring that edge of your seat car chase excitement to a new generation of gamers.
Nothing But A Nice Paint Job?
Driver 3 casts you in the role of Tanner, a tough as nails FBI agent who has a penchant for undercover work and driving too fast. This time around, Tanner finds himself working inside a car smuggling ring that will see him working in Miami, Nice, and Istanbul before the end of his assignment. Initial impressions of Driver 3 are generally good; the intro movie and indeed the rest of the CG story sequences really make you want to play the game. They certainly convey the story in an exciting manner. At first it seems as though the Grand Theft Auto series may have lost their mantle as ?best driving action game’. Unfortunately, though, there are issues present which offset (quite harshly) the numerous satisfying aspects to be found within Driver 3. Almost immediately after starting the game, I ran into a glitch that left Tanner pinned, unable to move, between two cars. There was nothing else for me to do but restart the game – a truly bad sign. However, after that annoying experience, the game proved to be more enjoyable and somewhat less temperamental.
What’s Under The Hood
The first thing to remember about Driver 3 is that, while it may look like a GTA title, the onus is most definitely placed on driving, although a large portion of game time can be spent in third-person. The game structure is entirely mission based, and although you can carjack or steal whatever vehicle you wish to drive, in reality there is little need to do so seeing as a car is usually provided for you. Mission structure tends to be very linear and, once you start, it’s unlikely you’ll spend any time just driving around or checking out the scenery. Events are tightly scripted to help keep you on track, and the story moving at a brisk pace.
Multiple Modes Of Transport
Reflections Interactive have also included several other play modes that allow for different styles of game should you want a more diverse experience. If you wish to simply drive around town causing trouble, there is a mode that allows you to do so. If you’d like to just look around and familiarize yourself with the maps, then that option is present, too. There is also a chase mode where you can start with the police already on your tail, and the only rule is to survive for as long as possible with the vehicle you started in. Perhaps the most interesting section of the game, however, is the director mode. Essentially, as you play the game, your performance can be recorded, and you may edit recorded sequences and change camera angles, and certain filters, until your heart’s content. It is definitely fun, and lends a cinematic feel to your exploits. The functionality is also in place to upload your movies, and watch those made by other people on Xbox Live – an original idea to be sure.
Torque About Problems
Reflections has long been known for its technical prowess in creating superb graphics for its games – regardless of which platform they may be producing titles for at the time. Therefore, it will come as a shock that Driver 3 is a very mixed bag graphically. While the environments and the car models are impressive, and definitely up to the company’s usual standards, several problems present themselves that are detrimental to the games overall quality. The main problem, and the one that will be most frequently noticed is the texture work. There are several places in the game where you can stand and watch an area of screen flicker as its textures try desperately to display themselves correctly. Shamefully, the glitch occurs to an alarming degree. In fact, considering how much this happens throughout the game, it should have been caught during testing, and unfortunately mars the immersion factor of this title. Conversely, Driver 3’s CG sequences are excellent, and generally prove to be the most visually striking aspect of the game. They’re certainly directed well enough to not look out of place in a Tarantino movie.
Who’s Behind The Wheel?
Like the CG, sound is an area that obviously saw a great deal of thought and development time put into it. The primary voice actors are actual Hollywood talent, including Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill) Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction and Dawn of the Dead) and Michelle Rodriguez (Resident Evil and Blue Crush). Unsurprisingly, their performances are very good, and certainly believable within the confines of the story. Music has also been given the Hollywood treatment, as any action film fan will be able to attest. The score consists of an array of music that accurately captures elements of the gameplay, such as chases, surveillance, danger, and most certainly it conveys an effectively dramatic tone. Add to this some licensed tracks from artists such as Iggy Pop, and the sound becomes an integral part of the atmosphere.
Nothing In The Tank
Replay value is mixed in Driver 3. There are various hidden vehicles to unlock across the game’s three main areas, and the multiple gameplay modes all add some modicum of replay value to a mildly entertaining package. Undoubtedly, the element that will bring most players back is the director mode. Taking into account the ability to upload your masterpiece of movie-making mayhem to Xbox Live for all to see, there is certainly an added incentive to keep coming back. But it’s debatable exactly how long it will be before gamers get tired of this too. It’s unfortunate indeed that the game’s supplemental material will attract more repeat use than the main single player mode.
Driving The Point Home
Overall then Driver 3 is a perfect example of software that would definitely have benefited from more development time. Had it received the care and attention that it so obviously needs, the gaming scene would be much richer for its presence. The truth, however, is that Driver 3 should probably never have made it to retail in its current form. The game is fun, true enough, but its existing flaws, especially in a graphical context, are sufficiently damaging to the overall package that Driver 3, despite showing promise for what could have been, is very hard to recommend.