In 1999 it was Driver, in 2000 it was Driver 2. Fans of those two games are surely familiar with Reflections Interactive, developers who seem to specialize in wrecking all types of vehicles. With titles such as Destruction Derby, Destruction Derby 2, Stuntman and the previous two Driver games, of course, you know that they have got car damage and mayhem down to an art.
Having sold over 12 million copies worldwide, the Driver series is as big as games come and even though Driver 2 never received the critical acclaim that the original enjoyed, it still became a favorite with gamers.
True to the current trend which wants games to resemble large-scale Hollywood productions, Driv3r or Driver 3, has a movie actor cast, a licensed soundtrack, three immense wide-open city environments: Miami, Florida; Nice, France; and Istanbul, Turkey and Ridley Scott's company producing short movie like teasers.
Developed by Reflections Interactive and published by Atari, Driv3r is expected in June 2004 for XBox and PS2 with a PC version being released some time after that.
[[What is Tanner Up To]]
The Driver series chronicles the exploits of Tanner, a ruthless undercover cop and a fearless driver. Driv3r sees him immersed in a global car theft ring. In a Gone in 60 Seconds type plot, a mysterious buyer has ordered 40 stolen high-performance cars. Tanner wants to know who the buyer is and to stop the deal but has to do so without blowing his cover and before he runs out of time.
The story stays close to the original Driver storylines while allowing for a very GTA:VC type gameplay. In order to spice things up, Reflections have secured a Hollywood cast for Tanner and the main characters in the game so let's have a look at them.
Tanner a.k.a. The Driver
He is an unlikely hero well known for being an obsessive risk-taker with brutal methods and a severe dislike of authority. He is however, used to dangerous undercover work and rather effective. Tanner is voiced by Michael Madsen known for movies such as Reservoir Dogs, Donnie Brasco and more recently Kill Bill.
He is Tanner's partner, a dedicated police detective who is critical of The Driver's methods but does have an admiration for his effectiveness. Jones will be voiced by Ving Rhames, who has appeared in films that include the Mission: Impossible series, Pulp Fiction and Con Air.
She is the ruthless Boss of a South Beach, a notorious car theft ring. Rumour has it that she killed her entire crew during a hostage stand off with the police. Michelle Rodriguez, of S.W.A.T., Fast and the Furious and Blue Crush fame, will provide the vocals for the disturbing part of Calita.
Mickey Rourke, famous for his roles in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, The Thin Red Line and 9 1/2 Weeks, will be the voice of Jericho, the sinister and secretive leader of the international crime syndicate.
Now that we know the cast let's have a look at how Driv3r will play.
Although it is easy to compare Driv3r to GTA:VC you have to remember that this game will focus a lot more on driving, with a ratio of 70 per cent driving to 30 per cent walking and shooting, having been mentioned. In order to get through that 70 per cent in style, Tanner will have access to over 70 playable vehicles, including cars, bikes, boats, trucks and buses.
Use of those vehicles is unlikely to become repetitive when you consider that The Driver will have over 156 miles of road to cover in three vast and highly detailed cities which will include 35,768 buildings.
Reflections have also taken care of the 30 per cent walking and shooting part of the game and will offer 8 different weapons for Tanner to cause mayhem with, including Mac-10s, Berettas, shotguns etc.
Driv3r will include an Undercover mode which will immerse players into the storyline and try to give Tanner some challenging missions which will help him track Jericho while using all the in-game possibilities. Another mode will be Take a Ride, a free-roam mode where players will be free to explore any part of the city and do anything they like. Survival mode, will leave players to their own devices in order to tackle four police cars. Reflections have also promised to enrich the gameplay options before the game releases with a few mini games, which will include quick races, checkpoint races, and so on.
It would be unfair to discuss Driv3r without paying particular attention to the immense environments Reflections have created. The game's story unravels in three cities, Miami, Nice and Istanbul. Even though the number of locations is limited compared to the other Driver games, each is made up of approximately 30 square miles making driving through them
an important and unique experience.
Tanner works with Miami PD and that is the point where the story kicks-off. The story then leads our favorite undercover cop to Nice where he teams up with his French counterparts in an attempt to discover where the stolen cars are headed. By the time Tanner reaches Istanbul the race against time is on and The Driver has to get to Jericho before he can finalize the deal.
Programmers and level designers have spent a considerable amount of time on the environments, using real-life maps as references, in order to produce an authentic feel to the driving experience. Buildings too have been matched to landmarks in each of the three cities in order to further enhance the experience. Another interesting touch is the use of a variety of objects on the pavements and streets of each town which are particular to each city and which your car can run through creating spectacular crashes. So in Nice you get French Cafe chairs, while in Istanbul you have a variety of fruit-laden crates and stalls you can run through showering everyone and everything with fruit pulp.
Overall the environments are extremely well done and a treat to the eye offering extensive detail and guaranteed variety. It is not coincidence that Reflections have spent so much time and effort in their creation, since the diversity of the streets and backgrounds could well be what distinguishes Driv3r from other similar games and what may add the all important, replayability value to the title.
What makes any comparison between Driv3r and GTA:VC a null point is the extensive efforts of the developers to make the former an authentic experience. The technology in Driv3r is far more extensively utilized than it was in GTA:VC. This, of course, does not mean that Driv3r will necessarily be a better game just that, in most cases, it will look a lot better but then again it is almost a year and a half its junior.
The sheer scale of the project meant that the technology behind it would have to be specific to the game since the demands made by Driv3r are also very specific. Reflections decided to use an enhanced version of their in-house engine, previously used for Stuntman. Although this might put-off some it shouldn't since Stuntman's shortcomings had to do with gameplay, difficulty and cohesion, rather than with the way it looked. In any case the engine has been greatly upgraded so Driv3r does have unique technology behind it.
The enhancements include a revised damage engine which will allow cars to be crashed into a pulp with visible detail. Where Driv3r truly stands out is in the extent of the damage detail. Any crash, however small, will have an effect on the way the vehicle looks and a variety of related events will accompany it. So if you hit any part of your car it will bear visible damage and any part that comes off will fly out in a realistic way.
The engine also utilizes traffic in order to further serve the authenticity of the game. Each area of the city streets is packed with AI-controlled vehicles which will create jams in realistic parts of the cities and will make maneuvering the streets a decent challenge.
The engine also includes impressive visual effects which generate eye-candy every time you blow something up or crash in spectacular fashion.
In-game physics have also been meticulously created in order to further improve on authenticity. In that sense the joy you get when driving through a crate is great considering you unleash a shower of splinters on the unsuspecting passers by.
Driv3r also boasts improved cinematic action which includes a thrill cam and a Director mode with slow-motion effects which will be useful when spectacular crashes and pile-ups take place.
Tanner re-enters the driving game genre which is a traditional favorite amongst gamers. The successful combination of action and driving however, is not an easy one but it is one which can pay off if done right as GTA:VC has demonstrated. The success of True Crime : Streets of LA suggests that there is room for more such games even if they are not critically acclaimed.
When considering the vast number of copies that these games have sold however, we can see that any new game will have to convince gamers that it has something new to offer. Driv3r will attempt to do so with the know-how of its developer, Reflections Interactive. Exquisite detail and innovative damage changes may be visually impressive but a lot will rely on the control aspect and the gameplay versatility of Driv3r.
Another interesting choice by RI is to not mention any multiplayer aspect of the game which leaves a few questions about its longevity prospects.
The way the game is received may also be affected by its soundtrack. While GTA:VC had a very clear musical identity, the 80's, and even True Crime carries a hip-hop theme through gameplay and music, Driv3r's soundtrack is, for the time being, limited to 12 tracks and does not seem to incorporate itself into the story. This may seem an insignificant point to many but such details are those which may distinguish a classic game from a one-week wonder.
Finally we have to consider what the PC version will be like. Will it be a pure port of the console game to the PC or will it offer different gameplay modes and more PC oriented controls and options? A pure, limited port of the console version may risk alienating PC gamers who tend to frown upon such efforts. Most gamers however will be happy to see that a PC version is planned since, initially, the game was not expected to make it to the PC.