Driver: Parallel Lines
If there is one franchise that is totally ruined by the developers themselves, it is the Driver-series. Driver 2 was released way too early so the game could profit from the last living days of the Playstation 1 console. Reflections got a shot to undo the damage on the Playstation 2 with a third title in the series but was clearly a bit too impressed by the GTA-series, something which resulted in an enjoyable game as long as you stayed in your automobile but once you slammed the car doors behind you, the game became a great source of frustrations. The lousy controls and the shitty camera made sure that many PS2 owners threw their controller at their TV in pure desperation. And what better kind of signal that your game is going nowhere can one get than a melting PS2 controller in a dying tube? Reflections needed some time to think and decided to go back to the roots of what once was a perfect arcade racer. Now Driver: Parallel Lines knows a lot more action in the car than on foot, which is one of the major improvements in this game. Maybe things’ll turn out quite alright…
The year is 1978 and there’s a new kid in town. The Kid (TK) soon gains a lot of attention thanks to his driving skills and becomes a well known getaway driver. Business is running smooth and occasionally he works as a freelancer to get his hands on some extra dollars. This chill live however comes to an end when TK, after a kidnapping, is betrayed by his companions and has to serve a 28 years sentence. After 28 years it is time for revenge. TK isn’t an arrogant youngster anymore but a grim man on a vendetta. The New York of 2006 has some untied storylines that need to be taken care of…
But before you get to the end, there’s a lot of driving to do in The Big Apple. The riding part in Driver had always been the main attraction and that is no different in Parallel Lines. Before you know it you will be cruising around like Steve McQueen in Bullit, shooting down your pursuers, cops or an unlucky chauffeur that just got in your way with Uzi’s, shotguns or grenade launchers. The controls are easy to manage and a very nice feature is the thrill cam which can be enabled by pressing the down arrow on your D-pad.
The targeting system however takes a few more tries to fully understand it and it still is a bit confusing afterwards. But the beautiful pirouettes of dying policemen that are like coloured leaves twirling down from trees in autumn night make up for a lot. On foot things are also a lot easier than before. The right analog stick gives you full control over the camera, something which of course gives a strategic advantage. Controls on foot are intuitive except the weapon selection system. Selecting a new weapon isn’t enough to get it in your hands; you will have to empty the clip of the weapon you’re still holding or holster it to trade it for your new selected weapon. The weapons by the way are based a real models, you can clearly recognize an M79 or a Steyr AUG, but the names are fictive.
Ammunition can be bought at Ray’s. This guy owns a couple of garages all over New York where you can also save yourself and your cars. Saving your profile on the road is also an option but when you reload that game, you will be transported to the nearest garage. So yes, you can use the save option as a handy teleport. At Ray’s you can not just save and repair your cars but also tune them. Options are bottles of nitro, bullet-proof tyres and glass and a tuned engine. The outside of your car too can be totally adjusted at your wishes; if you don’t like the pre-made bodyworks you can always put on a new colour yourself. All this tuning though costs an awful lot of money which you can earn by accepting some free missions to earn some hard cash.
These missions basically consist of pursuing a car, kill the driver and get back with something valuable. Sounds pretty simple but Driver-fans know that the trial and error system is never far away in these missions. To keep the frustration to a minimum, without making the game all too easy, you can press the select button to immediately restart the mission if you failed it. This keeps you from driving all the way back to the red dot. Bigger missions are divided into checkpoints too, this way you don’t have to play the same parts over and over again. A very handy feature implemented by Reflections, I must say.
Safe houses, free missions and storyline missions can all be found on the map. Your own waypoints, street races and grand prix are also marked. Here, you can also access a short briefing on the missions which lets you decide where you want to go today. Although the game is pushing you somewhat in a certain direction, you do have a lot of freedom and choice on which mission the complete first. So it is not exactly linear, but don’t expect too much variation either.
Basically Driver is nothing more than driving, shooting and driving a bit more. The game thus relies heavily on its look and feel to keep you going. That atmosphere is certainly brilliant in the seventies part of the game which also features the best soundtrack. The 2006 part was a lot less appealing to me, but that is just personal taste. Reflections was very consistent though as it changed the entire interface, look and feel of the briefings and the overall toning in the game when you changed to 2OO6.
It all looks just a bit more blue and colder than in 1978. Graphics are above average but don’t expect top quality. There’s quite some clipping on occasion and when there’s a lot of action (explosions) on the screen the framerate drops a bit. Physics on the other hand are rather perfect, but we expect nothing less from the developers of Stuntman. It’s a lot fun to see fences, boxes, bins and road signs being thrown in the air when you’re driving through the alleys losing the tail. One thing that bothered me though was that pedestrians just stood in the hood and that the collision detection only started at the windshield. A small flaw that shouldn’t have been in the game though.
For closing remarks, there’s a final word on the new felony gauge. This time there are two of them; one for the wheels and one for your character. If you commit a felony while driving, only the car gauge will fill. If you don’t have a tail and you exit the car, you are in the clear. Just leave the car and get another one. If you commit felonies on foot or you get out of the car while still being pursued, the character felony gauge will fill up as well. A nice feature that creates an extra strategic dimension to the game. This time it is really worth it to try and lose the cops.
Screeching tyres, yards of burned rubber on the asphalt and lots of action. Driver has got it all packed with an interesting storyline and a cool atmosphere. Although the game is not without its flaws, Reflections managed to let us forget that bitter Driver 3 pill. The game looks – despite the arcade controls – a lot more mature and realistic than the GTA-series and because it has returned to its roots, this game will give a lot of gamers a lot of fun.