Driver was first released in 1999 on the PlayStation by GT Interactive Software and was developed by Reflections Interactive. The game was critically acclaimed at the time of release and for me, marks a turning point in driving games in this era.
The game, set in 1970s America, follows the exploits of John Tanner, a race driver turned cop with the NYPD. His experience with driving earns him the job of going undercover to infiltrate organized crime as a wheel man. Bosses give Tanner a number of different jobs including tailing other cars, stopping them altogether, smashing through restaurants, delivering cars or intimidating taxi customers. and stopping and following other cars. The game follows Tanner from San Francisco to L.A. and back to New York as he gains the trust of the gang bosses and ends up uncovering some dirt about the FBI themselves.
The story, although fun, isn’t where the game shines though. It’s in the gameplay. It’s this element that made Driver a stand out game for me. The developers Reflections Interactive, were also the developers for the Destruction Derby games. It was these games that kicked off things like vehicle damage in car games. The cars would get more and more banged up until they were totalled. The good bits from the Destruction derby games were taken and expanded on in Driver. Nowadays everyone takes car damage and car physics for granted, but when Driver came along these things weren’t common features. Your car and every other car in the game could be damaged, and in a far less linear fashion than with the DD games. This could be use to your advantage in escaping cops or gang members. The physics in Driver was an accomplishment and paved the way for many other games to follow. Check out the video below to see what I mean. You may laugh, but in 1999 this was jaw dropping.
There was something in Driver that even GTA 5 only recently got, Director’s mode. After each level players could make a video of their gameplay. Often with fantastic results. I am sure people spent as much time using this than the actual level in many cases. These could be stored and viewed in Car Chases mode later. Car Chases was one of a few different modes that could be played if you wanted to change things up a bit, these included:
- Undercover – The Story mode
- Car Chases – This is where you store your Director’s Cuts, and where pre-installed movies exist to get an idea as to how to make movies.
- Training – Made up of the Desert and Garage test areas
- Cheats – Self explainatory
- Driving Games – An assortment of games that derived from the core game, including Pursuit (Chase and destroy a cop car), Getaway (Lose a cop), Cross-Town Checkpoint (Hit all of the check points in the city and earn a top score), Trail Blazer (Follow the path of flags in a limited amount of time), Survival (Stay alive as long as possible while a posse of super-aggressive cops try to destroy your car), Dirt Track (Test yourself against a ghost in a time test on dirt).
- Take A Ride – Free roam basically
As you can see, there was plenty to keep everyone occupied. This is one game that sticks out to me when great PlayStation games are talked about. I am surprised at myself for not covering it sooner really! Have you played Driver? Or any of the sequels. Let us know!