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Score: 10%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Reflections
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Mission-Based Driving/ Racing (Arcade)/ First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Before I get into reviewing this game, I feel the need to offer a preface. There are probably few gamers who were quite as impressed as I was when the original Driver came out for the PlayStation. Driver literally invented a new genre: Mission-based Driving games. It was the first; the innovator. In recent days, there have been many other mission-based driving games, most notably Grand Theft Auto. However, it is worthy of note that before Driver came about, GTA wasn't a wildly popular and controversial series, but rather was a top-down (bird's-eye-view) game with a niche market interest at best. In the years to follow, Grand Theft Auto took the Mission-Based Driving game and ran with it, mixing it with some shooter elements, and providing a gaming experience that got strong reactions on both sides of the spectrum. You could love it or hate it, but you could avoid reading about it. Now, DRIV3R is out for the PS2, and they've fought back by trying to be more like Grand Theft Auto - and losing any spirit they might have had left. When the gameplay was bad, it was horrible, and when the gameply was good, I kept thinking I was playing a GTA Title. The answer to others trying to mimic your success can never be to mimic them back. The only answer an innovator should ever give is to continue innovating. I feel that I have been let down by DRIV3R; and I really was hoping it would be good.

So, that having been said, here's how the game faired...

What can I say about the graphics in DRIV3R? There are several good vehicle models and the scenery looks very nice. The map is quite expansive and you can move about with little perceivable load times; everything seems to be streamed from the disc. There are several cinematic camera angles that can be used, but they tend to be most useful in the 'Director' mode - a customizable replay mode that allows you to playback the action, from your choice of angles and with a few stylistic tricks such as slow-motion playback. More on this in Gameplay. The graphics aren't bad, but aren't earth shattering, either. Unfortunately, the 'suspension of disbelief' that they might have inspired is crushed when the poor collision detection allows decent looking policemen models run halfway through a wall. Not to mention getting a tree stuck IN your car. These things are hard to overlook.

As for the sound, the sound effects are decent, though sometimes repetitive, and the music is pretty good. The story-telling parts of DRIV3R have fairly high production value. Unfortunately, the "game" part really brings DRIV3R's score down.

I had high hopes for DRIV3R. Unfortunately, it not only didn't meet my expectations; it failed to provide decent gameplay at all. The primary aggravation is the very poor Artificial inteligence. (That's right, Capital Artificial, lowercase intelligence...)

The A.I. in DRIV3R seems to be (at best) the same as in the original Driver, if not worse. Driver's A.I. got the job done decently, but only had to deal with a low level of environmental complexity, so it handled pretty decently. DRIV3R has a much more complex environment, from fenced-in areas to more complex shaped buildings and road designs. The A.I. should have been improved with better path-finding routines to compensate for this increased level of complexity. Instead, the attempts for the A.I. to "find" you or "flee" from you can be absolutely laughable at times. Some missions are ridiculously hard (often due to game flaws, such as a person you're supposed to protect that runs headlong into gunfire or a glitch that can send you popping out of a building through the roof), while others are laughably simple. Often, winning some part is a matter of finding out how to trick the A.I., whether it be by moving to where the A.I. can't see you, but you can actually get a target lock on them, or positioning yourself where the A.I. can't get to you by running straight.

The primary enjoyment I get out of DRIV3R is in tricking the A.I. and seeing how quickly/badly I can do so. On the "Survival" mode of Driver (the original game), I would typically last a few minutes tops. The second time I played DRIV3R's Survival mode, I found a place that I could go that the A.I. couldn't reach me. I lasted for the entire time allowed for the survival game, which is somewhere around 45 minutes to an hour. I can't be sure what the exact time was, because I got bored with it and left it running while I went and surfed the net for a while. Was it that boring??! Well, yes, mainly because as soon as I got to this "magical" location that they couldn't reach me, I ran into a tree. Not as in, "I bumped into a tree", but my car literally ran into a tree... and got stuck in it! Apparently, the collision detection wasn't working well as I ran into the tree, but worked fine when I tried to back out of the tree, not allowing the tree to pass back through my car. And you wonder why I don't find DRIV3R to be fun...

DRIV3R is, unfortunately, one of those game whose difficulty is most greatly introduced by its flaws. There are some challenges that are decent, but too much of the difficulty is simply trying to play the game. The missions are poorly balance, requiring you to do very little to get past one, then having a mission that requires you to complete several difficult sub-missions before you can get to a new save point. Typically, the difficulty of the mission can be changed greatly by changing approaches, but a large part hinges on the A.I. and, it would seem, blind luck.

Game Mechanics:
DRIV3R lacks the polish and quality that I like to see in a game title. There is a physics engine that handles interaction in the game, but the bounding and collision detection is so faulty as to render the physics engine more of an amusement than something that would reinforce the realism of the game. Things that aren't touching bounce off of each other unexpectedly, enemies run (halfway) through solid objects, vehicles get stuck in other objects... add this to the poor pathfinding and you have a truly disappointing title. The missions are typically best described as "frustrating".

The only part of the game that really seems interesting is that the "random bystanders" also have Artificial Intelligence. Rather than simply rolling around when they're run over, they react. Shoot someone's car and people around run off screaming, "Don't shoot!". The car owner might get out and run, or might get out and shoot at you! During one of the "Quick Evade" mode games I played, I was being closely followed by a Police Car, and whipped around trying to lose him. We both bumped into a car on the side of the road as we turned around, but he hit it harder than I did. Seconds later, I'm losing him. I go back to see why he's not chasing me only to find him dead in his car. What happened? I thought perhaps he died from the impact when he ran into the car on the side of the road, but that wasn't it; after running the recorded action back several times in the "Director" mode, and changing camera angles several times, I found out that there was someone in that car! The female driver had actually jumped out of her car and shot the policeman in the back of the head. Mind you, this wasn't even in a "Story" Mode.

It can be fun to play freeform and just drive around wreaking havoc, but the missions might be better left alone. I would definitely recommend renting before purchase, if that.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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