The wheelman is back, and this time he can jump out of his car, run around, and hijack any vehicle.
Every once in a while, a video game comes along that changes everything. Last year, amidst a crowded racing genre, Driver introduced a brand-new reason to get behind the wheel of a virtual '70s steel monster. With myriad game modes, solid control, and addictive gameplay, Driver went on to become the best-selling PlayStation game of 1999. As is the case with any successful video game (or movie, for that matter), a sequel is upon us. So, while Driver 2 offers more of the same things that made the original a great game, it doesn't push the series much further.
Like the original, Driver 2 focuses on Hollywood-style car chases in just about every game mode. Whether you embark on the intense 40-plus-mission story mode or the always-addictive survivor mode (good luck outrunning the cops for more than 45 seconds), the game offers plenty of cops-and-robbers-style action through the crowded streets of Chicago, Las Vegas, Havana, and Rio de Janeiro.
If you loved the original, this sequel will satisfy your hunger for new locales, two-player game modes, and curved streets and overpasses. While it doesn't push the graphics engine of the PlayStation (you'll have to wait for the PS2 Driver for a graphical overhaul), the game does repeat the solid game control and overall fun factor that continues to drive the original in the sales charts and pushed preorders of the sequel to over 1.2 million.
The heart and soul of the Driver series is the infiltrate-the-mob storyline that unfolds through vastly improved cinema scenes in Driver 2. Once again, you assume the role of undercover cop Tanner; partner Tobias Jones is also along for the ride. The story revolves around Pink Lenny, bookkeeper for notorious crime lord Solomon Caine. After cutting a deal with Caine's rival (Alvaro Vasquez, who topples the balance of power in the crime world on two continents), Tanner must find this Pink Lenny and restore order before all hell breaks loose.
In the story mode, players are now given the choice of different vehicles during the game. Most missions allow for players to choose from a sturdier vehicle (like a van) or a speedier sports car that's located further away. During the game, you can ditch your car and pick up a better one, and some levels require you to switch cars at different points. You'll also be asked to set bombs and enter buildings in some missions. The many vehicles to choose from and new foot-based objectives really add to the game's appeal.
One thing that is evident in this game is the detail that's been added to the four locales. Each city has 20 miles of roads, including curves and underpasses, and over 150,000 objects (buildings, vehicles, and pedestrians). Everything from the traffic patterns to back alleyways to police roadblocks to sunbathing pedestrians--who run to avoid getting killed--adds to the interactive mix. Each city has been accurately modeled in this game.
But all of this detail comes at a price. The game engine and the PlayStation processor simply can't handle all of these details and provide a consistent frame rate. Nice visuals from afar do not outweigh blurry pixilations up close. The graphics also take a hit when you jump out of the car. While the option is a great addition to the gameplay, opening up endless carjacking opportunities, it doesn't look very good. (One look at how well Digital Anvil's still-in-development Loose Cannon exploited this feature on the PC shows just how dated the PSX is.) The two-player split-screen mode looks rushed, and really kills the already average graphics.
But there's more to a good game than amazing graphics. As most of the PS2's launch titles proved, eye candy only goes so far. Both Driver games deliver the goods in the fun factor; the games' many positives outweigh the negatives. Like the original, this game is just plain fun to play. It's like starring in a '70s cop movie filled with loud chases and cheesy characters, and the game's difficulty level will keep the most veteran gamer on his toes.
This game ain't easy. The fun factor, addictive, solid control, and creative gameplay will blow away the game's shortcomings. Driver 2 proves that more of the same can be a good thing, and a good example of this is the director's cut mode, which has now been copied by many games. It returns here, and it's still a thrill to orchestrate your own stunts.
Reflections has thrown in some new options for this game. There are two-player game modes with dedicated missions and mini-games, which provide a great way to unwind at the end of the day. Another improvement in this sequel is the sound, which features licensed blues and soul tracks. All of the intense racing-action sound effects, including the ability to hear police scanners, have been nicely reproduced for this second go-around.
While it could have used some more development time, Driver 2 is a solid sequel. Fans who fell in love with the first game will find more of the same gameplay with some new bonus twists and mini-games. Although a graphical overhaul would have been nice, the game does retain the same look and feel, as well as the great control of the original. The adrenaline-inducing arcade action makes up for the game's flaws.
- If you've played the original, this game controls the same way. If it's your first time, test out the controls in one of the mini-games before embarking on the difficult story mode.
- This game is all about speed, so opt for the faster vehicles whenever given a choice.
- Cops are everywhere and road blocks are built instantly, so explore back alleys and alternate routes whenever possible.
- Getting out of your car is dangerous. Cops are lurking everywhere, so only do this when you have to.