DRIV3R is a good game. It has some serious design flaws, but it is a good game. Think of is as a nice juicy New York steak, and somebody smothered it with cheese sauce. That's DRIV3R. If you can get by, or scrape off the cheese sauce, you'll find a meaty game you can really sink your teeth into. I'm betting that a lot of folks won't get past the sauce, however.
DRIV3R delivers the Zoom, Zoom!
Driving in DRIV3R is one of the best experiences you'll have on your console this summer. The controls are great, the cars, motorcycles, boats, 18 wheelers and, ugh, scooters offer tons of variety and heart thumping good times. The car based missions are some of the most creative I've played. From your standard getaways and chases, to an amazing level where you have to race to steal cars and drive them into the back of a moving semi-truck, ala Knight Rider, you'll be constantly challenged and thoroughly entertained. Unfortunately, they make you get out of the car as well.
Now most of the fellas in DRIV3R are rendered pretty stocky, and Tanner is no exceptio. But come on, go on a diet or something, 'cuz brother, you are s-l-o-w. Tanner not only runs painfully slow, but he swims slower than my nephew, who's four, and wears water wings. Yes, we are all impressed that Tanner can swim, and even drown, but pick up the pace.
Which way did he go?
DRIV3R Screen Shot
Unfortunately, the AI is mentally as slow as Tanner is running, or perhaps more accurately, strolling. Let me give you an example. An AI buddy and I are laying the smack-down on a warehouse, the dude walks right in front of my machine gun, he's dead, mission over. Try it again, this time 3 enemies walk into my machine gun fire (I'm not moving!) they die, mission accomplished. Add to the fact that the levels are so linearly scripted that if you blow up a car that an enemy needs later, it magically reappears. Thrown in the occasional ability to see through walls you get close to, as well as enemies magically walking though walls (rare, but annoying), and you see why nobody walks in L.A. It's boring and frustrating.
Two development teams?
Now here's the rub. DRIV3R's graphics are amazing. The car levels are insanely fun and well designed, and the game has so much extra polish that it shines like your mother did when you announced you'd finally be leaving the house.
The cut-scenes, menus, intros and music are Hollywood quality. Really. They wanted it to feel cinematic, and the pulled it off. Right down to the fact that when you 'continue' your game you get .."Previously in DRIV3R", and an impressive narrative review of the game thus far ensues. They hired an impressive cast to do the voice work: Michael Madsen as Tanner, Mickey Rourke as the sinister Jericho, Michelle Rodriguez as the sexy Calita and Ving Rhames as Tanners partner, Tobias Jones. Unfortunately, they must have run out of quarters early in the recording sessions as the only voice you here with any regularity belongs to Michelle Rodriguez. Despite the fact that Michael Madsen (of Kill Bill fame) is the voice of the main character, you'll go several levels without hearing a peep from him.
The mystery is how can a game have amazing driving, stellar graphics, tons of shine, and atrocious walking levels? I honestly think the 'B-Team' must have been stuck with the unsexy job of designing the foot levels.
But it's just so cute!
DRIV3R Screen Shot
I had a cat once. He truly was the most beautiful, funny, loving little Persian kitty on the planet. Unfortunately he liked to pee everywhere. Tried it all, the vet, multiple boxes, treats, hypnosis, nothing worked. DRIV3R reminds me of that cat. I love it, I really do, but there are some things you just can't live with. Now I lived with that cat for a year, and I'll probably play the heck out of DRIV3R, but I'm a glutton for punishment. You have to ask yourself, are you more apt to like a well rounded game, or an amazing game with some glaring flaws. DRIV3R is the latter. But it gives us hope for 'DRIV4R' or 'Driver 4 Hire', or whatever they call it. If they fix the walking levels, they'll have a top ten hit, easily.
In the end, I opted to be a tad bit generous and give DRIV3R four and not three and a half stars. It has some pretty big flaws, what it does bad, it does pretty bad, but what it does well is simply amazing. I like to think of it as one of the finest driving games out there, packaged with a crappy third person shooter.
DRIV3R carries an ESRB Rating of Mature for violence. There was no language, but a couple of suggestive themes. All in all, no worse than any PG-13 movie I've seen.