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DRIV3R Review

publisher: Atari
developer: Reflections Interactive
genre: Action

PIV 1500, 256MB RAM, 9.5GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: M

release date: Mar 22, 05
» All About DRIV3R on ActionTrip

March 24, 2005
Branka "Nikerym" Todorovic

Back with a vengeful limp...

Before I became such a distinguished and prominent individual as I am now, I was a solitary kid with repressed anger and a knack for making a fool of myself - in one word, a loser. I did not find school activities particularly interesting, but somehow I managed to have surprisingly good marks at school, which really seemed to bother me. In order to demonstrate my general feeling of scorn towards the world, I engaged in fist fights and listened to Iggy Pop (That IS self destructive behavior! -Ed).

Yes, there was a time when I considered Iggy to be the coolest man in the world - with the possible exception of David Bowie and Yukio Mishima, that is. Do I need to mention 'Gimme Danger' was my own personal anthem for several years on end? My open, yet completely unimportant and ridiculous rebellion turned out to be a typical adolescent fantasy about changing the world rather than a conviction for life, but Iggy Pop stayed my personal hero nevertheless, and I still feel that strange urge to smash things in my vicinity when I play 'Gimme Danger'. I guess this way I'm paying tribute not to Iggy but to my non-existent, adolescent, idealistic self.

Why all this talk about Iggy? The answer to this question is rather simple: he lent his voice to a Driv3r character. Yes, he participated in the game and I've heard he's contributed to the Driv3r soundtrack, and that's pretty much all that's left of the coolness in this surprisingly short, unimaginative and, occasionally, outrageously dull game. In fact, his name in the intro was the last good thing I've seen in the game. But let's just take this literary dismemberment one step at a time, shall we?

First of all, the intro didn't seem all that bad. To be honest, it looked quite good, demonstrating our main protagonist Tanner being shot in Istanbul (And if you've ever hurt your Istanbul, you'll appreciate how painful it is to be shot there! HA HA!! -Ed), then taking us six months back and allowing us to engage in Tanner's struggle to deal with the car thieving mob in Miami. That sounds interesting all right, but very soon this impression proves to be terribly wrong. Why? Well, let's just say this: I found the entire gaming experience of Driv3r rather traumatic. This game is a cock-tease of its own kind: it promises you a new and exciting, urban experience of playing a cool and somber hero with a mission to put the stop to the car-jacking business in Miami. Instead of that, you are left empty-handed and bitterly disappointed with a shallow story, vapid characters and Tanner's poor physical prowess. Why, the poor bloke can't even walk properly, let alone perform some complex actions in a satisfactory manner (Lighten up on the poor man! Let me shoot you and see how spry you are in 6 months time -Ed). Allow me to elaborate.

The weaknesses of the game are pretty much obvious even in the first training mission. After you're told to come to the police headquarters, you take the car and drive off to the designated location. That is you would drive off if you had any idea how to steer the bloody car. It's more probable Tanner would drive off into the sunset instead, leave the bloody game and never be seen again. But that's never going to happen, because his tortured virtual identity is forever doomed to dwell in these plain and chunky textures, limping around like a fucking idiot. As for the driving, it is possible to optimize the commands so you can appreciate the driving part of the game more, but that still does not help as steering is rather crude. There are moments when driving seems realistic enough, but you are not going to get this impression often. There were times when I'd drive the same way the same speed, make exactly the same turn right and never knew what was going to happen next. Sometimes the car reacted positively to my commands, sometimes it chose to ignore them up to the moment when it was impossible to react. I am aware that this is not a driving simulation, but still there's no excuse for this. I hated every moment I spent in the car. Driving has its good moments, but most of the time the experience is far from positive. On the other hand, the damage model is excellent, so you can expect to see parts of your car falling off where you hit them. The doors will fling open and eventually fall off and your engine will break down, leaving you in utter misery and exasperation. And that's all right. The downside to this, though, is that you'll never have the impression you're driving a car but rather wrestling with it.

Driving is bad enough, but moving around on your own two feet is a fucking nightmare. Tanner runs by default, but he obviously does it involuntarily; it is quite clear he does not wish to be there and just wants to get the hell out of Dodge. He also jumps awkwardly. It looks as if the man suffers from some sort of mental illness or a brain dysfunction, because he acts as if it's all none of his concern - the guy just takes his time. I am not saying you won't get used to it - after approximately an hour you'll be able to drive a car and shoot the criminals with some degree of success, but you won't be very enthusiastic about it. The truth is, the game made me feel rather miserable - not because the shooting and the driving part (which are, ironically, the core of the game) were so painful, but rather because they were so dull. This game was supposed to be fun, remember?

The story featured in the game is no better: you have certainly seen it and heard it all before, but someone obviously thought it wouldn't kill you to see it one more time. *I* could kill for less than that, mind you. I could kill someone just for chewing their food loud enough, so what do you think, just how pissed am I when I behold a game with ugly, bleak textures, the main hero who is a limping idiot, nicely rendered car models that are absolutely no fun to drive and the brainwashed story that I couldn't swallow even if I gulped it down with Wild Turkey. Where the fuck *is* my gun, anyway?!?

The most ironic thing is that all the time I had an impression something was going to happen that will make me completely change my opinion about the game. I though that perhaps, just because I initially did not like the game, it still didn't mean it was that bad. Suffice it to say nothing of the sort ever happened, and the pain just got worse with time. Although I learned how to walk, shoot and drive with more or less success, there was still the fact I did not enjoy it a bit - there are so many games that present these game elements in a much better way and incorporate them in a story which is neither this short nor plain boring. Yes, that is another problem with this game - it is rather short, although I never felt like this was a bad thing really. Driv3r is also altogether linear - the game is split into missions that you must accomplish in order to advance through the game and get new assignments. The missions are what you would expect from this type of game - you are required to drive from one place to another, chase or be chased by somebody, engage in some shooting activities... That sort of thing. No more, no less. That all wouldn't be a problem if all this were exciting in the least bit.

You know, when you're after some dangerous criminals you'd expect a lot of excitement to ensue, and chases around the city and gun fights have a special appeal to the human sense of danger and adventure. Driv3r offers none of that excitement, and if you ask me this is its biggest fault. As I've already said, I could forgive it for not being visually spectacular or original when it came to the characters and the story, I could even forgive the crappy controls... maybe. However, I can't forgive it for rendering this subject in such a dull way. The thing is, most of the time you won't be interested in completing the mission in order to advance to the next segment of the game and reveal the story, and utter lack of freedom to decide about the course your actions is rather irritating. I know that linearity is in the vein of this game, but the year is 2005 after all, and making slight modifications of a certain principle sometimes give marvelous results. There is only one way you can complete each mission, and while this principle may have been adorable back in 1999, today it is obsolete at best. I don't even have to mention that the game never lets you feel as a crucial, integral part of the game world.

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3.2   Don't Bother 

Damned if I know. More than 70 vehicles in the game, solid damage model, several missions are engaging and fun, voiceovers by Madsen, Pop and Rourke;

Everything else. Boring game with unimpressive visuals, poor animation, controls, and ... need I go on?


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