Why Is "Driver" so Genius?

Updated on March 4, 2019

Driver Released for the Sony Playstation

You Are the Wheelman
You Are the Wheelman

Did you get to play?

Many did not get to enjoy the game due to that near impossible (and surprisingly simple) first level. I owned this game for quite a while before I ever got to actually play it, because of that intro level. You have to impress a couple of thugs with your driving skills, by performing a small list of tasks, in a garage. I don't know about you, but I did not know what the hell a slalom was until getting frustrated and trying to make that garage fun. Something I (and many others) did not know is that there is actually a training menu with a video to show you how to do it. Remember, in the 90's we did not have YouTube tutorials like we do now.

When the game was new, I tried near a hundred times without success. Now, I can pick up that controller and be through that garage and on to picking up bank robbers in less than 2 minutes. Burnout, hit the brakes, reverse, 180, do a lap, slalom around the columns, and do some doughnuts. That is pretty much it. The genius in that level is the fact that it is so damn simple but so many people were stumped. Just like a good platformer that trips you up until you stop playing for a month, one day it just makes sense and becomes the easiest thing you've ever done.

Daddy, what's a slalom?

Hey man, watch the paint!
Hey man, watch the paint!

Did you figure out the garage on your own?

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Mission: Improbable

Most games are and were linear, painfully so in most cases. Driver was fairly linear but did allow you to choose which missions to accept. I have always liked the idea of playing the same game multiple times with different experiences based on your in-game choices. Mission selection was pretty crude but you have a choice nonetheless. Some missions only come available when you complete certain other missions. You really have to play through a couple of times to play every possible mission.

Let's not forget the presentation either; voicemail. You must listen to your messages to determine which missions to take. It does give a bit of realism to a pretty terrible looking game (maybe not terrible for the time). Basically, a shady character leaves you a message telling you what they want and you choose to accept (or decline). There are times when you have a couple of messages/missions available. To add humor, sometimes you get messages from people dialing the wrong number, go realism.

Leave a message... BEEEEEEEEEEEEP

... your mission, should you choose 'accept'...
... your mission, should you choose 'accept'...

Roll Out!

I have played many driving games; arcade style, racing, simulation, etc. I appreciate a game developer giving me the option to just drive around and not enough games do that. Driver lets you do just that, they call it 'Take a Ride'. You start with 2 levels (if you haven't completed the game) to simply drive around. You can obey traffic laws or just cause straight up mayhem, until your car is wrecked. If you complete the game however, there are 4 levels in total and you get cheats to play with. I must say, stilts for the win. The maps available are of pretty good size too. Miami has some good straight open stretches with great cornering possibilities, San Francisco is great because of all of the hills that notoriously flip your car.

It isn't that Driver was the only free roam driving game but it was one of the best (in my opinion). Especially when you consider that 3D games were so new they were still covered in fetal goo. The physics were atrocious but that only added to the fun of sliding around corners trying to avoid smashing everything (or trying to smash everything). They tightened things up quite a bit in Driver 2 but it still has that same great feel. Running from cops was always fun when you have nowhere to be and anywhere to go. Having a burnout button was definitely a good call and I'm glad they kept that in Driver 2 as well.

Which did you like better

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Was that a speed-bump?

This One! NO, That One!

There aren't many vehicles available but each map has a different car. Some missions even have you driving a different car, sometimes a taxi, sometimes a cop car. The coolest thing about that is the fact that every vehicle in the game handles differently. Some cars will corner better, not slide as much or turn tighter, while others are faster or brake better. For a driving game that is not a simulator this is unheard of. Most of the time, the different cars in a game are either faster or slower without much variation when it comes to handling or braking. Again, the physics are atrocious in this game but that is part of the charm.

There is one mission in Miami that I used to play over and over just because I like the way that ugly red car handles. Sliding through grass (taking out some fence along the way) is easier to control in this car than probably any other in the game. One level includes a mission to steal a cop car which turns out to be faster than the other cars in the game. Who doesn't love hauling ass straight into a wall where the road ends unexpectedly?

I think I missed the turn.

Practice for the Wheelman Olympics

So, let's say that you don't care about playing through the game. You can always take a ride or you can play one of several mini games. What driving game is complete without driving mini games anyway? Driver has a few things for you to do when you aren't out tearing up the town.

  • Pursuit is pretty literal, you chase and stop a car within the allotted time.
  • Getaway has you escape cops as quickly as possible. This is great practice for much of the game, as you'll spend a great deal of time running from cops.
  • Cross Town Checkpoint puts checkpoints on the map for you to reach one at a time, as quickly as you can.
  • Trail Blazer has you tackle checkpoints in pretty rapid succession before the time runs out.
  • Survival. A savage and blood thirsty swarm of cops are after you and all you can do is survive for as long as possible. Not really good practice for anything, just crazy fun.
  • Dirt Track has you running laps on a dirt track, taking care to leave the cones intact and beat lap times.

Let's not neglect the fact that from the start you are allowed to free roam in 2 pretty big ass cities. Miami is always a blast and San Francisco never disappoints. You can turn on the game, having never played before, and actually get plenty of enjoyment without unlocking anything. That being said, if you are going to play the game then I highly recommend playing and completing the campaign to really get the full experience. Enjoy the replays, while you're at it.

Practice Aim, Take Off Speed, Launch Angle... OOH! Wrong Game, Sorry.

Just Drive

Who would've thought that a game called Driver would simply be about driving? That is literally ALL you do in this game. Every mission has you drive, every side game has you drive, even in free roam you just drive. They kept it interesting, though. Missions would have you pickup bank robbers and drop them at a safe house, drive a car to a disposal site, tail a person, scare someone with an insane taxi ride, steal a cop car for later use, wreck a persons car, drive through restaurants to destroy them. Hell, one mission has you follow a boat after a dude tries you rip you off.

Hey neighbors! Where's your boat?

The maps in this game are of an impressive size, especially for a PS1 game. There are plenty of places to go, there is plenty of air to catch, and there are countless ways to flip and total your car (the cops can help with that). No matter what you decide to do, you are always driving. You don't waste any time with vehicle customization or avatar creation. You don't have to take 20 tests to get a license only to need another license that's harder to get, only to then need another license that is impossible to get. You don't have to run and gun or gather up funds to unlock more of the city. All you do is drive, with the exception of the replay 'Film Editor'.

Don't You Be Flipping Out

Don't forget to flip the bacon!
Don't forget to flip the bacon!

70's Car Chase Anyone?

That's right, some disco-esque music, a couple of fastbacks, a few pissed off cops, and hubcaps will roll. This entire game is a 70's car chase. From the second the main menu comes up, you are immersed in that 70's vibe. To this day, I still get the music from Driver stuck in my head. That Disco theme loaded with wah pedals and brass, the way the characters talk during cut-scenes, the hubcaps even come rolling off if you corner hard enough (sometimes even if you don't).

To me, this game is better than any YouTube car chase compilation. There is a Quick Replay option that allows you to view your gameplay much like a movie. The developers went as far as giving us a 'Film Director' where you can really customize your replays. The Film Director allows you to add and change cameras along the timeline of your replay however you want. Direct the camera to be a first person view of the driver, a chase camera to follow what your pig-tail is doing, stationary cameras for all kinds of possibilities. This game is like the movie 'The Driver' had a threesome with the movie 'Superfly' and 'Bullitt'.

There is Actually a Story Going On.

Even if you don't care, there is a story behind the madness. The coolest thing about the story for me is that you don't even need to follow along to be able to complete the game. You can randomly select missions when they come up or even just keep selecting the first one available every time. Eventually, you'll get to the next city, you'll get the next set of jobs, you'll get a few cutscenes if you wish to keep up, and you'll get closer to finishing the game.

Reader's Digest Has a Whole New Meaning

Eat that story, CHOKE ON IT!
Eat that story, CHOKE ON IT!

I am going to jump straight to the end of the game here and SPOILER ALERT for the last person in the world to play the game. One of the hardest (possibly the hardest) missions in the game is the very last one. You essentially end up kidnapping the president from harm which results in some pretty dramatic driving... in the rain. That being said, the president compliments your driving as you go, if you do fairly well. If you manage to get where you need to go and do indeed save the president, you are blessed with a couple of cutscenes to complete your journey as a wheelman/undercover cop (plus all of the cheats for the game too).


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