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Driver: Parallel Lines
Score: 88%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Reflections
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Mission-Based Driving

Graphics & Sound:
Driver: Parallel Lines is the latest installment of the Driver series. The models look nice and have a retro 70's feel to them. The vehicle models are not licensed from manufacturers, so you'll see cars that look sort of like ones you know, but not exactly like them. Additionally, this allows unlimited freedom in vehicle damage... which Driver: Parallel Lines exploits beautifully. Cars not only take locational damage, but also take damage in stages - emergency response vehicles' lights will stop working before the siren goes out and the horn will still work after that. Unload a couple of clips into a car and it smokes and finally explodes into a shower of parts. Or, you can get a lucky shot at the gas tank...

The sound effects are good, doing their job of sounding like you're in the action. The vocals are rather, um, colorful, helping Driver: Parallel Lines earn its Mature rating. Nothing you wouldn't expect to hear from pedestrians while you drive 60 miles per hour down the sidewalk, mind you.

The best part of the sound in Parallel Lines, however, has to be the soundtrack. There are a host of new songs (some of which were written for the game) by artists such as Paul Oakenfold, Vernon Reid and Lifesavas, Arthur Baker, Mylo, DJ Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, Suicide, Audio Bullys, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The 1978 era parts of the game have their own soundtrack, with "Bump And Boogie" by The Wrecking Crew, "Low Rider" by WAR, "Neighborhood Threat" by Iggy Pop, "One Way or Another" by Blondie, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" by The Temptations, and "Trouble Man (Main Theme)" by Marvin Gaye, among many others. All this music makes it seem like this should be a rhythm game, not a Mission-Based Driving game. ...And that doesn't even include the 2006 era music, of which there are many!

What? That's still not enough music? Well, that's okay, there are another sixteen tracks provided by Nimrod Productions. All in all, you shouldn't get tired of the music selections, which help to set the mood for the gameplay quite nicely.

The storyline on the package had me more than intrigued; you were a driver from back in the day who got set up and put away. All these years later, you're out and you're looking for just one thing: Revenge! I thought this was a very interesting move, making the main character a middle-aged man bent on revenge - instead of a young, handsome hero, you're older and there aren't any "good-guys" involved.

When I began playing the game, I was surprised to find that for the first half of the game, you actually get to play events that occur before you're set up. This is where the Parallel Lines come in. You will be developing a familiarity with all of the baddies that you'll be seeking revenge on later. This helps to reinforce the cause and effect nature of the revenge you're exacting.

Driver: Parallel Lines adds some cool new features to your Driver gameplay, such as the ability to modify cars and improve their looks and performance. This is an interesting aspect, as it makes it less likely that you'll run around town picking up new cars and ditching them - something that seems to be quite prevalent in game series' such as Driver and Grand Theft Auto. If you see a car that you like, you can jack it and rush to the nearest Ray's Auto and store it. From there, you can use some of your hard-earned cash to fix, repaint and trick out your new ride. However, you can only keep one of each type of vehicle, so if you store a newly "acquired" vehicle from off the street, you'll replace your existing vehicle of that type. This can be good if the car you already had was heavily damaged, or not so great if you had tricked out your existing ride of that type. The interface will warn you, but it's up to you to remember which rides you've upgraded.

In addition to the customizable vehicles, Driver: Parallel Lines has changed several other things; the gameplay seems to have taken quite a few tips from the latest offerings from the Grand Theft Auto series. As a result, Driver: Parallel Lines is a great game, with lots of action and missions, but it seems to have lost some of the familiar feeling of the earlierDriver games, which were more linear and story-based. This latest offering presents a lot of gameplay options and a vast environment to explore, along with various missions (including races) for earning some cash. And star tokens to collect by pulling stunts that get you enough air to reach them. And missions that are far enough away that you can either get involved in a car chase or distracted with a different mission before you get there. That and the fact that some of the missions that do advance the game's progression can be performed in the sequence of your choosing. These features give it a much more GTA "free-roaming" gameplay aspect. Also like GTA, this Driver stars a main character who is a criminal. There are some law abiding ways you can make some money, but like GTA, the main story progression requires criminal acts, robbing you of the option to choose your own path. You also get to do a lot of bad things, such as shooting police officers, stealing cars and mowing over pedestrians. However, the one thing that Driver doesn't let you do is to consort with prostitutes. They're there (at least, I hope those slutty women are prostitutes. If they're not, the developers need to get out more), but you can't solicit them, or as the main stream media loves to say, "Kill them and rape them". Perhaps this small change will help Driver: Parallel Lines avoid some of the notoriety that GTA achieved... or is that what they were going for?

The difficulty is affected by your ability to drive, of course, but there's a new aspect introduced in Driver: Parallel Lines that ups the ante. In Parallel Lines, you can upgrade your rides to improve performance and even add bullet-proofing to tires or windows. With these upgrades, you'll hesitate to abandon your ride so quickly. It may be best to leave your best car in the garage until you have a job that really calls for it. That way, you can feel free to car hop all you want without worrying about losing your favorite car.

Another thing you'll want to do is get familiar with the motorcycles. There are several reasons for this. First of all, there will be a few missions down the road that require the use of a motorcycle. So for these, you get to bring your own motorcycle, while in others one is provided for you - either way, you'll need to have trained in riding one; they have a different "feel" than the cars do, although the control scheme is, for the most part, the same.

Another good reason to get familiar with the motorcycles is that they are, in general, much faster than most cars - including police cars, allowing you to do such neat things as quickly lose a tail or jump ramps and reach the bonus star "tokens" that are hovering about the landscape in different areas. Motorcycles are also much smaller than cars - you can, for example, squeeze in between a moving train and a railing without getting hit on a motorcycle, whereas any police cars that might be chasing you would catch a train real quick.

Finally, motorcycles can help you win some cash in the races. The races that you can participate in to win cash allow you to take any vehicle that you can get onto the selection marker. This, by the way, includes cars, buses, motorcycles... whatever you like. While it may be lots of fun to take a tow truck, police car or a bus to a race, a motorcycle can help you win. Make sure that you use a road motorcycle for road races and a dirt bike for dirt tracks to get the greatest possible advantage.

One tip that's definitely worth mentioning is how to handle the SWAT team. If you manage to really upset the local police force, they'll get around to calling out air support after you. That basically means that you will be the target of a hail of bullets provided by one tenacious helicopter. When this happens, however, all is not lost. If you're driving in an appropriately hardened vehicle, such as a commercial truck or SWAT van, the bullets from the sky won't take you out until they destroy the car (as opposed to capping you through the roof - not a pretty site). Also, if you can get yourself into a position with a nice view, you can actually shoot the chopper down - even with your unlimited ammo heaters. It takes some shooting, but when the bird starts taking some damage, you'll find they start spending more of their attention on staying in the air and less on shooting you. Finally, the SWAT van is a nice, well-protected and sturdy vehicle. I would suggest picking one up and storing it in your garage for times when you need a durable ride. When the SWAT guys get out, it's not that difficult to simply jump in and take it. The difficulty comes in losing the other SWAT van that will be close behind.

Game Mechanics:
Driver: Parallel Lines is leaps and bounds beyond the quality of the last installment of the Driver series, Driv3r (Driver 3). Where there were a lot of problems with pop-in, model clipping and A.I. issues, Parallel Lines goes a long way to fixing all of these issues. The A.I. is either smarter or is helped a lot by the new addition of breakaway fences. The handling is well done - this game feels like a game to play and not just to run around trying to see how you can trick the A.I. or mess with the Physics engine. Speaking of which, the physics engine in Driver: Parallel Lines is pretty good, with things getting moved around a bit when you push them or shoot them, etc. The physics engine behaves in predictable ways, so if there's something you can do in the game, it's typically reproducible. Ah, continuity!

The new upgrading aspect is interesting and is done quite well. Driver: Parallel Lines doesn't bother with the brand names, but simply focuses on the upgraded features themselves, making some really cool upgrades available (such as the bullet-proofing) that you won't see in a lot of other games.

I found wide variety of gameplay options to sort of dilute the gameplay a bit, changing the overall experience of the game. It's just too easy to get caught up in some diversion on your way to a mission that's across town. The game itself is fun, but fans of the previous Driver titles may have a problem with all of the changes. On the other hand, fans of both the Driver series and the GTA series might find this game to be right up their littered, narrow, barricaded alley.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins