Back in the 1999 a little title called Driver was released on the PS1 and although a great deal wasn’t exactly known about how the game was going to turn out, it was clear that once people played it, they would realise that a new, fantastic series was born. I can still remember to this day when I bought Driver from a local independent game store and rushed home to play it after spending weeks and weeks beforehand looking at previews, reviews and any other screenshots I could find in various magazines due to the huge anticipation of playing a game that I’ve hyped myself up for massively.
Once I had played the game for a few hours and sat back to take it all in, it wasn’t the fact that Reflections Interactive had done something totally new, it was more of the fact that the game was a breath of fresh air to play and was massively entertaining to play. It grabbed you and pulled you in and the more you played it, the more addictive the game become. At the time, I thought to myself ‘this could be one of the best gaming series of all time!’ but somehow that didn’t exactly plan out the way I was expecting (more on this later).
The original Driver game was released on the PS1 in Europe on July 2nd 1999 and was a huge success. Critics loved it, gamers loved it. The game had some fantastic reviews from magazines and also other media outlets within the press circle and it even won a award at E3 1999 as best racing game in the ‘Game Critic Awards’ category so clearly people liked what they had seen/played.
After the success of Driver, Reflections Interactive released Driver 2 for the PS1 on November 2000 and again the series had some great success but maybe not as big as it was for the first Driver title but still, people were fascinated by the game and wanted to get to grips with it like they did with the first title in this new up and coming series.
Driver 2 was pretty much a carbon copy of what made Driver successful but the developers decided to add something a little different to mix it up as this time your character, Tanner could leave his car and explore the environments on foot but this part of the game really didn’t help in any way as there wasn’t a great deal to do apart from walk around as no action scenes were possible while Tanner was out of his vehicle. Tanner could do small things when out of his vehicle but it wasn’t anything that would have helped the story progress in any way and it wasn’t really necessary. Plenty of reviews at the time stated that they didn’t feel Driver 2 had moved on that much from the original title and to some extent that’s true but, the game still felt like a dream to play and it still had that magic that Driver had when it was released back in 1999.
On to a sad day in gaming, the release of Driv3r (Driver 3) which was released on Sony’s newer format, the Playstation 2 in June 2004. One word can sum up Driv3r and that is, shambles. One of the best gaming series to date in my eyes just died when i played that terrible, terrible version of a series that I had grown fond of over the years. Everything was wrong about the game, the combat, the vehicles, the ‘on foot’ missions, the glitches (including cars falling from the sky) and pretty much everything in between. The soul that the previous two Driver games had just somehow completely vanished and it’s still a mystery to this day when Reflections Interactive decided to change a winning formula so much. I can understand why they would want to improve certain parts and maybe add new ideas into the game but when you change it so much that the game doesn’t feel like it’s part of the same series anymore, you know that you’re doomed. Driv3r received some very poor scores indeed by publications all over the world and the sales were average at best and this must have shown the developers that something was not quite right.
So onto now and next-gen gaming. At some point a new Driver game will be released by Ubisoft after they acquired the rights to the series and also for Reflections Interactive as well. I’m hoping and praying that Ubisoft do the right thing and make it in the same classic style as the original Driver titles rather than go down the Driv3r route. I’m all for new changes in games but if there was one game I would love to see keeping its classic gameplay, its Driver. If they can somehow change the game and keep the same classic style gameplay, then it has to be done right or not as all as I think fans of the series deserve another Driver game to be proud of. If there is one developer though that would do a mighty fine job, it’s Ubisoft and I’m confident that they could bring the series back to life when the new Driver title hits. Fingers crossed they can bring the magic back which is what the series deserves.