There has been a lot of fuzz around Driv3r lately. Some say it is good while others say it is the worst. I thought it was time for a honest and impartial review that will let everybody know how the matter stands. After all, that is what Fragland is all about.
Only one word is necessary to describe how I feel about the story and the way it is told: perfect. The cut-scenes look so impressive that it feels as if they hired an action/video-clip director who made the action drip down the screen. If you have played through a big part of the game, you can watch all these fragments after each other which makes it feel like an action movie that can compete with a title like Heat (the first scene you will see, shows a really big resemblance with the street-fight after the bank robbery in Heat). The central core of the story is a major heist of 40 exotic cars and the web of crime-organisations and intrigues that lies behind it (the major heist immediately made me think of the original Gone In 60 Seconds from 1974, also because a great deal of the cars look like the ones featured in this movie that happens in the time where racing was still dangerous and sex was not!).
If you stopped playing and you want to continue the next day, you will get a 24-stylish summary “previously in Driv3r” which reincarnates the pace immediately.
As I came to mention, the cut-scenes look amazing and that is very true, but unfortunately you notice a big difference when the prerenderd scene stops and the in-game graphics begin. The environments do not look plain ugly, but if you take a closer look everything feels as if there was not enough time to finish it. What does look impressive are the collisions and the damage to your vehicle caused by it. They use a system where a car exists of a certain number of parts and when you crash all those parts can get damaged in certain levels. This results in broken windows and bumpers that are only half loose which makes them scrape over the road.
The sound-effects are most impressive when it comes to engines or tyre-screeching. In many movies you often see those blue and white police cars chasing one getaway vehicle. When such a police car slides round a bend their tyres make a typical sound and they managed to recreate that effect perfectly. There is one mission where you have to drive an old musclecar back to a gang and believe me when I say that the throbbing engine sounds better than the noise I heard when they tested a Dodge Charger on Top Gear (for those of you who can not imagine how this car looks like: it was used in the movie Vanishing Point and was the competition’s answer to the Ford Mustang).
Voice-overs are magnificent, what else could you expect from a great actor as Michael Madsen, and the soundtrack is everything it should be. Effects outside your car like shooting or opening doors are only mediocre, perhaps because the rest was so convincing.
Time for the most disputed item: the gameplay. After thirty minutes everything feels fine and it is obvious how things work. By then, driving a car will be very exciting especially when you are tearing through busy intersections while time is ticking away.
If you only want to drive around you can choose the mode “Take a ride”. The objective is simple: walk or drive around in Nice, Miami or Istanbul and do as you please. However, if you want to put your driving skills to the test you will have more fun playing the driving games. These give the game a lot more value because they are so exciting and addictive and there is a test for everything you can think of: checkpoint race, drive between cones, hit every cone on your way, getaway, survival, … I regret that they did not make it arcade-unlock stylish though. Let me explain: you can play every game you want, but if you get the objective nothing happens. They should have made a list for each city with all the tests and if you completed a certain amount another city is unlocked. Besides that, this mode is the end.
What is the problem then? Gameplay outside the car, frankly it sucks. The camera is the worst and walking around happens way too stiff, auto-aiming does not function properly and all this combined with other issues causes nausea after only half an hour. I am disappointed in Atari and I can not believe that they left it like this but that is the way things are and mourning is not going to help.
The extras are good: a making of driv3r, Terminator trailer and a Transformers demo all contribute their part so that you can dream some more. Michael Madsen tells you the big lines that lie behind the production of this game, the Terminator trailer makes you wish it was fall already and the demo well … it is a demo.
Too bad the gameplay partially goofed. If not, this game would have been perfect. However, it did not keep me from playing and the story was that good I just kept going. Sound is very impressive at times but the in-game graphics are a little unpolished. The driving games and the extra’s extend the life-length to normal, even if you do not finish the story mode. Perhaps a lot of critics were so hard because the expectations rose so high during these three years and its predecessors like GTA: Vice City already benefited from the fact they came earlier. Anyway, perhaps because of the impressive commercial, the sale figures are not lying but be warned that if you buy it there is one major bummer