Driv3r for Xbox and PS2. $59.99.
BETA BLUES Another promising game that feels like it never left the testing phase.
NEVER LET 'EM SEE YOU BLEED For a game with so much gun violence and death, there's not a drop of blood. Weird.
I REALLY WANT TO DIRECT Director mode lets you edit and add FX to your saved replays. Pretty cool.
The popular driver franchise has finally made the long trip to the new consoles. It's been in the shop for quite a while. Did all that time produce a Ferrari or just a Yugo with a racing stripe? It turns out this is a case of a potentially great game rushed out to market too soon, a sad and far too common story in today's super-competitive game business.
As in Driver's previous two games, you hit the streets as Tanner, an undercover FBI agent posing as a getaway driver. This time you're trying to stop an international gang of car thieves from stealing a variety of pricey foreign cars. Your missions take you from Miami to Nice to Istanbul.
The game is divided into two play modes: in-car and on-foot. Most of the time you'll be behind the wheel of a hot car, bike or boat, but all too often you'll find yourself pounding the pavement and shooting it out with the bad guys.
The driving portion of the game is pretty much identical to that in previous versions, with the addition of some new cars, boats and motorcycles. The control is arcade-y and fun, the cars are heavy and powerful, and in typical action-movie style, burnouts and power sliding are the norm. Very cool.
The vehicles are fully destructible, and the crashes are spectacular. Hoods crumple, glass shatters and debris fills the air with every collision. It looks great, and it's fun as hell.
Unfortunately, once you get out of the car, things start to fall apart. Pretty much every aspect of the on-foot missions is flawed or outright broken. The animation is simplistic and ugly, and control is extremely basic and weak, particularly jumping and aiming. Even with auto-aim on, you'll find it difficult to lock onto targets.
The only thing that makes it possible to get through these missions is the unbelievably bad enemy AI. The bad guys will literally just stand there while you laboriously draw a bead on them and finally blow them away. Painful.
The level design is hit-and-miss. Some missions are a blast to play - fun, crisp and exciting, with plenty of good car chases, where you feel you're "playing" an action movie. Sadly, many other levels are bland and confusing. Far too often you'll wonder what the hell you're supposed to do and only find out by accident.
Trial-and-error gaming is a large part of Driv3r, and inexcusable by today's design standards. Even more infuriating is that in addition to endlessly repeating missions, you must watch each level's cinematic every time you retry - there's no way to skip them. This is controller-throwing frustration of the worst kind. Ugh.
Graphically, Driv3r is a mixed bag. The vehicles look great, the cities are bland but serviceable, and the characters are just plain ugly. The graphics don't ruin the game, but they don't sell it either. The absence of a strong style doesn't help matters - it's something that saves the mediocre graphics in the GTA games and helps give that franchise its distinct feel.
The cut-scenes are well executed, and the story isn't bad. A strong cast of Hollywood talents including Michael Madson, Ving Rhames, Michelle Rodriguez and Iggy Pop do the excellent voice work. The standard action-game heavy rock music does the job but fails to add any much-needed personality.
Driv3r's not terrible but doesn't much to recommend it. By far the worst game in the series, it's not even close to the quality and fun of rival games like GTA and True Crime.