Driver was released in 1999 but I was unfortunately only introduced to it in the early 2000’s. The thing I remember the most about the game is the feeling of freedom and rebellion. Driver puts the player in the shoes of an undercover cop known as John Tanner. It is up to Tanner to take on the crime bosses by going undercover as a driver and showing off his incredible driving skills.
The game takes place across four cities namely Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. Each city allows the player to drive a different car. Although I felt that each car I took for a spin felt exactly the same. Rest assured though, this did not reduce the fun in any way. The games setting feels and sounds as if its straight out of a 1960’s or 1970’s film especially with the car designs, character clothing and speech as well as the jazzy feel to the music within the game.
The first mission starts you off in an underground garage where you’re put to the test to prove just how skilled you are behind the steering wheel. You’ll have to put the pedal to the metal and perform a handbrake turn, slalom through the underground parking lot and do a 180 as well as 360 degree turn in a set time limit to complete the mission. If my memory is correct I remember struggling with this mission about 14 years ago when I first played the game and to no surprise I struggled once more. As difficult as this mission is though I really enjoyed it. The game combines difficult tasks and a time limit from the get go which is perfect as you gain the knowledge immediately of what you’re in for.
Moving on from training you’ll be taken into missions throughout the game that apply two more elements that increase the difficulty a little more, a damage bar/gauge and a felony bar/gauge. Along with the time limit given for each mission you’ll have to navigate your way through the open-world cities by way of a mini map on the bottom right of the screen, and at the same time avoid police cars and prevent your vehicle from being damaged by dodging traffic. If your damage gauge fills up completely you’ll immediately be told that your vehicle has been wrecked resulting in the failure of the mission. The challenge in each mission comes in with you figuring out the fastest route to the checkpoint destination before the timer runs out. Like I mentioned, avoiding the police would be ideal but the cities seem to be swarming with cops in this game (unlike the real world) so running into them begins a high speed car chase through traffic and obstacles along the way, including road blocks set up at unexpected points the more your felony gauge fills up.
If you’re fast enough however, outrunning the cops might be the highest chance of success for every mission. What’s worst is that some missions require you to perform multiple objectives so acquiring damage early on in the mission will make things harder for you during the third objective. An example of this is the mission that requires you to smash through multiple restaurants, combining this with cop chases and peak hour traffic can be frustratingly challenging. In all honesty though most of the time you’ll be racing against the clock rather than having trouble with the cops. If the timer becomes too much for you though, there’s a free roam mode that allows you to explore the cities without the inconvenience of a clock.
All-in-all Driver is loads of fun providing high speed police chases through a fairly large open world area and is only short on one thing really, the ability to get out of your car. This might not be a Grand Theft Auto but is almost as much fun.