Driver (video game)
European cover art
Crawfish Interactive (GBC)
|Publisher(s)||GT Interactive Software
|Distribution||CD, digital distribution|
Driver (known as Driver: You Are the Wheelman in North America), is a 1999 action/driving video game developed by Reflections Interactive and published by GT Interactive Software for the PlayStation. It was released in North America on June 30, 1999; in Europe on July 2; and in Japan on March 9, 2000. It is the first game in the Driver series.
Initially, the game was released only for the PlayStation, but later, a Microsoft Windows port of the original PlayStation version was released in North America on October 11, 1999, and in Europe later on. In May 2000, a remake developed by Crawfish Interactive and published by Infogrames was released for the Game Boy Color. This version featured a top-down view, and fewer missions. A Mac port was released in North America in December 2000. The game was re-released on the PlayStation Network on October 14, 2008, and a remake developed and published by Gameloft, with voice acting and enhanced graphics, was released for iOS on December 8, 2009.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2013)|
The game is played out in four cities: Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, each of which remain only partially faithful to the actual city layouts. The game was notable at the time of its original release insofar as the player was able to explore each city as an open world environment.
The game was designed to mimic 1960s and 1970s car chase films. The title and the general tone seem to be heavily inspired by the 1978 crime film The Driver, written and directed by Walter Hill, which itself was based on the 1967 French film Le Samouraï, written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. One of the most notable allusions to the film is the "Training" level at the beginning of the game, which is very similar to a scene in the film in which the driver (played by Ryan O'Neal) must prove his skills to his potential employers in a parking garage. The music, character design, and the cars themselves, are inspired by films such as 1968's Bullitt and television series such as Starsky and Hutch.
The game features a "Film Director" mode, where a run can be replayed with cameras chosen by the player, and a "Quick Replay", where the cameras are automatically selected.
Once the player has unlocked a given city in the main story, they have the option to drive around that city in open world mode. When a city is unlocked, several other modes also become available for play; "Pursuit", "Getaway", "Checkpoint", and "Carnage" (only available in the Windows port). After the single-player mode game is completed, several cheats are made available to the player. Among them are skipping the garage-training mission, giving the car super speed (PC only), immunity to police cars, invincibility, or the ability to drive in Newcastle upon Tyne (where Reflections Interactive is based).
The game tells the story of John Tanner, a detective with the NYPD, going undercover in order to infiltrate organized crime by impressing the bosses with difficult driving missions (e.g., stopping and following another car, smashing through restaurants, delivering stolen cars, or scaring taxi customers). Tanner was chosen for this mission because of his unique driving skills, which he gained from his time as a racecar driver.
His undercover work begins when he must prove to some gangsters in a parking garage that he can do jobs for them by demonstrating his driving skills. Upon doing so, he is invited to his first mission, in Miami, Florida.
Tanner's first mission is as the getaway driver for a bank job. Upon successfully carrying out this job, Tanner is then called upon to either drive a stolen car to a yard for a respray or help a gangster carry out an assassination. If Tanner takes the stolen car mission, he must then exchange a briefcase for a key, but he ends up being double-crossed and forced to chase the double-crosser across Miami Bay. If he takes the assassination mission, he must then clean up after a driver has left a stolen car out in the open.
Tanner then talks to a pimp named Rufus, who reveals that he is busting out an associate of his, Jean-Paul, from an armored police car. After this job is complete, Tanner either smashes a group of restaurants for a gangster who has found one of the owners has failed to pay protection money, or he drives an extremely fast car to safety for a gangster who needs it for a job. After this, Tanner is forced to pick up a supply of drugs for an operation.
Upon Tanner's return from the drugs mission, Rufus is shot by his girlfriend Jesse, and Tanner chases her as she tries to escape in a monorail. He then turns her over to the police, and during her interrogation she gives up the name of an Italian-american man named Castaldi, who lives in San Francisco, California.
Tanner begins work in San Francisco with a casino job for some gangsters who have heard he is in town. After this, he meets an informant known as Mojo, who gives him information about who Jean-Paul is really working for, and a man named Rudi.
From here Tanner either aids in an exchange, drives stolen guns to a warehouse or aids in the robbery of a shopping mall. Following this, he meets a rival from his racing days called Slater. Tanner then either aids a gangster in scaring one of his former associates by taking him on a bumpy taxi ride, or takes heavy-duty explosives to an alleyway. If Tanner scares the associate, he then takes a local gangster to a waiting helicopter. Alternatively, if he takes the explosives across town, he then aids a group of gangsters left in the lurch in Chinatown.
Tanner then gets a phone call whereby he learns that Mojo has been kidnapped, and his captors want $10,000. They make Tanner work to save Mojo by forcing him to go to three phone booths in order to pick up instructions about where to go next. At the third phone booth, Mojo is saved and the money exchanged. Mojo reveals that Castaldi (Jean-Paul's real boss) is working with a man called Don Hancock who is running for President of the United States.
Following this, Tanner is either set up by Slater and forced to evade cops as he heads home, or aids Castaldi in bringing one of his men to an underground car park for a meeting. By this point, the rivalry between Tanner and Slater has become too bitter, and when Tanner suspects Slater of spying on him, he frames Slater by smashing his car in a chase, which results in Slater getting arrested. Tanner then heads to Los Angeles to work directly for Castaldi.
In LA, Tanner begins by either stealing a police car for Castaldi's associates or bringing an associate to the hospital after he is shot. Following this, he either chases a double-crossing associate of Castaldi's and smashes him off the road, or gets Castaldi's girlfriend to a hospital after she has overdosed.
Tanner then learns of Castaldi's real reason for being in LA; the assassination of FBI agent Bill Maddox outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Tanner later meets with Leck, his police contact from New York, alerting him to the assassination attempt on Maddox. Tanner orders him to make sure Maddox turns up or otherwise his cover may be rumbled. He also warns him that there is an FBI leak which is giving information to Castaldi about Maddox. Tanner picks up the assassins and takes them to the Theatre, but the police spring an ambush.
Tanner flees the scene, taking the assassins to a safehouse near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The gangsters are convinced that Tanner, the newest and therefore least trustworthy member of the Castaldi Family was the one who tipped off the police, but he convinces them that it was Slater, who probably tipped them off during his interrogation in San Francisco.
Tanner then either rescues one of Castaldi's men from a gangster called Granger, helps some associates escape from a Beverly Hills job or tests the effectiveness of a safehouse by driving to it.
New York City
When Tanner arrives back in New York he begins by either making a switch at Grand Central Terminal or taking a very damaged car to a scrapyard. Following this, he either takes control of a police car to thwart a bank job or gets some gangsters out of trouble after they have been pinned down by police. After Leck tells Tanner that his lieutenant, McKenzie, wants Tanner to abandon his undercover work, he either brings a cab home for further jobs or destroys a rival gangster's main car. Next, Tanner has to either wreck a car to retrieve photo negatives, or destroy four cars before they reach Castaldi.
Tanner then meets with Leck, who again warns him that McKenzie wants him to come back in, as he is worried that Tanner's cover will not hold up much longer. Tanner again ignores this advice, but tells Leck that he will let him know what Castaldi's main goal is. Next, either Tanner's lady friend, Ali, will call for help or Tanner goes through a "Rite of Passage", told over the phone by Castaldi that if he does not beat Slater's time across town, he is out of the final job.
Tanner then learns that the final job is a hit on the President, and Tanner is forced to ignore all of Castaldi's instructions and take the President to safety.
After saving the President, Tanner meets with McKenzie and another unidentified man, who congratulate him on his outstanding work. He informs Tanner that Castaldi, Don Hancock and the FBI leak are behind bars, and offers Tanner his badge back. However, Tanner is infuriated that the FBI and police could be involved in something like this. He refuses to take his badge back and starts walking out of the parking garage, with McKenzie yelling at him that this is his last chance. Tanner ignores him and leaves.
In 2009, a remastered version of the game was released on the App Store. Developed and published by Gameloft, the original plot and structure were left intact, but the graphics were enhanced, the music was re-done, and voice acting was re-recorded for the cutscenes.
Upon its initial release, Driver was met with very positive feedback and critical acclaim. It holds an aggregate score of 87 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on forty-four reviews, and 87.57% on GameRankings, based on thirty-three reviews. The Game Boy Color remake holds a score of 75.50% on GameRankings, based on six reviews, and the Windows port holds a score of 79.05%, based on thirty-two reviews. The iOS remake holds a score of 83 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on six reviews, and 81% on GameRankings, based on five reviews.
IGN's Doug Perry gave the original PlayStation game a score of 9.7 out of 10, and an "Editor's Choice" award, writing "In the history of driving games for PlayStation, there is nothing that comes close to the comprehensive, deep, and thoroughly pleasurable experience that's embedded deep in the heart of Driver [...] It fulfills driving enthusiasts' deepest desires to drive as fast as possible through major US cities and to slam into just about anything without any repercussions. In that sense, Driver is a dream come true." He went on to call it "one of the best driving games on any system."
Game Revolution's Ben Silverman was equally impressed, scoring the game an A and writing "Driver excels where other games have failed by striking a perfect balance between action and realism. Car handling is a wonderful mixture of true physics and arcade functionality—not as nitpicky and sim oriented as Gran Turismo nor as ridiculously implausible as SF Rush. Driving follows the 'easy to learn, hard to master' formula [...] Rarely does a game captivate the stoic and hypercritical Game Revolution office, but Driver has done just that." GameSpot's Ryan MacDonald was not as enthusiastic, scoring it 7.7 out of 10, and writing "Driver is a game that might be mediocre in its presentation but more than makes up for it in its gameplay and concept."
IGN's Mike Morrissey scored the PC version 8.9 out of 10, praising the quality of the port; "Though the PC version of Driver is a fairly straight port from the PlayStation title released in July, graphic improvements are apparent, especially at resolutions of 800x600 and over with the details cranked. Though this requires a fairly fast computer, the effect is worth it. Smooth frame rates reveal nice textures for the buildings and surroundings, translucent water in areas of Miami, and of course, lens flare."
GameSpot's Erik Wolpaw scored it 8.4 out of 10. He was somewhat disappointed with the port, but this was negated because the original game was so strong; "Like many console-to-PC ports, Driver suffers from being translated verbatim and taking little advantage of the more powerful PC platform. However, Driver's core game design is so strikingly original and fun that it can be enjoyed without embellishment". They concluded that "It is addictive, intuitive, and fun, which are qualities sometimes overlooked in the industry's myopic pursuit of purely technical innovation. With Driver, Reflections has produced the definitive re-creation of the classic urban car-chase movie and has quite possibly introduced a new genre of driving game".
IGN's Craig Harris scored the Game Boy Color version 8 out of 10, praising the top down view and the controls and concluding "I'm actually quite surprised at how well Driver turned out for the Game Boy Color. I was expecting a Point-A-to-B game like Grand Theft Auto and got a whole lot more. The missions have different elements to give the basic formula a bit more variety. It's missing a few details from the PlayStation version, but for what Crawfish had to work with hardware-wise, the development team did a great job." GameSpot's Frank Provo scored it 7.4 out of 10. He was critical of the sound, but aside from that, he wrote "Driver is smoothness personified. Driving around is fun and exciting, the levels are varied, and the side games really do improve your skill within the main game. Even without a battery save and a two-player feature, there's really nothing major to complain about."
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- Mirror of the original Driver site
- Driver retrospective at Gamer Limit
- Driver at MobyGames
- Driver (Game Boy Color) at MobyGames