posted 7/6/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: Xbox
In the past I’ve been labeled as a Grand Theft Auto hater both by my peers and our readers. To those people I say this, I don’t necessarily hate the Grand Theft Auto series of games, I just don’t think they’re as good as everyone makes them out to be. They’re fun games to mess around with, but playing them in the way that they were meant to be played results in endless amounts of frustration. And while I tend to lower games of this genre much lower than the rest of the gaming press, it’s not like I haven’t given games of this genre their fair due. I was severely annoyed with Sony London’s The Getaway but was willing to play through the game to see if it was able to improve on the GTA formula. I came into Atari’s DRIV3R with the same mindset, seeing how it learned from the mistakes that Rockstar made and what it did to improve upon them. In the end I came away with an impression that varies severely from the majority of the gaming press; Atari’s DRIV3R is an entertaining action/adventure title that while flawed, has enough going for it to warrant at least a rental.

I’m worrisome about recommending this game as a purchase because it’s not as easy to get into as a Grand Theft Auto. The beauty of the GTA games is that you can boot it up and spend a whole day having a blast while wreaking havoc in the city and ignoring the missions entirely. DRIV3R doesn’t have that same luxury. It’s a game that tries to bring structure to the free-roaming genre and thus relies on the storyline and mission structure to keep you intrigued. As a result you’ll have to invest much more time in the game while sticking through it in order to have a good time. The fact that the missions are pretty unforgiving makes the game all that much harder to get into. But if you finally get into the game you’ll be in for one of the better gaming experiences of this yawner of a summer season. That’s a big “if” though and it appears that Reflections has taken almost every possible precaution to make sure to take you out of the game before it has a chance to grow on you.

There are a couple of modes available for you when you start up the game. Among them are a free-roaming mode, a stuntdriver-like mode and the core gameplay mode, Undercover. In it you’ll take control of Tanner as he attempts to take down a criminal operation from the inside. Over previous installments Tanner was simply the wheelman; here he’s been upgraded to full hitman status. He’ll participate in high-speed chases, daring escapes, shootouts and other insane operations. In keeping with the tone set by the second Driver game, missions take place on foot and in the vehicle. Most of the vehicle-based missions involve chases or escapes while the on-foot missions ask you to infiltrate the enemy and dispense lead injections. Along the way you’ll run into some minor variations of the missions including some rail shooter sequences but those are very few in between. Of the two core gameplay modes the driving missions are more entertaining. This is where Reflections really is able to flex its muscles as one of the leading developers of realistic driving, object and damage physics. It’ll take some time to get used to the vehicle physics but that’s just because the game affirms to something called realism as opposed to super human physics where make-believe vehicles can turn on a dime. It’s not that physics that are the problem though, it’s the inane mission structure and design that really makes this game a chore at times.

That’s because most of the game affirms to the same trial and error style of gameplay that made Stuntman such a frustrating affair. Best described as a modern take on the old Dragon Lair style of gameplay, the game threw tons of obstacles at you and expected you to be able to react within a split-second. DRIV3R has plenty of sequences like these most of them revolving around high-speed chases or escapes. Technically they’re pretty short in length but those three minutes become a real pain in the ass when you have to restart every single time you hit a vehicle, a lamp post or a wall. It’s particularly frustrating when you get to the very end and fail the mission because the game throws something so severely different and unexpected at you. An early mission asks you to run over barrels for about three minutes only to unexpectedly ask you to go off a ramp and jump onto a roof top at the last second.
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