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LONG BLOG

How Did You Screw This Up? Special Guest Edition

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It seems that my tales of sequel woe have proven inspiring, so today while I'm off studiously working on my next installment, we have a Very Special Guest entry from my good pal Klimpod.

-ZX


Objectively speaking, the original Driver was a flawed game at best. First off, it had shitty graphics.



Then again, what Playstation 1 game didn't? (Correct answers include: Chrono Cross, FF 9 and maybe Metal Gear Solid.) But it was more than that: the missions got repetitive, the difficulty curve was all over the place, and the storyline was by turns pathetically clichéd and rambling. You play an undercover cop who apparently has no problem with playing wheelman for bank heists, mob hits, and general lawbreaking without any sense of the usual "ends justify the means" excuse... who also has a former cat burglar ex-girlfriend you only find out about in the last couple missions, and has no role at all in the story except to provide the main character someone to ride off into the sunset with.

But these problems are mere cupcakes compared to the Black Forest cake (w/ extra chocolate) of difficulty that the The Tutorial From Hell™ presented.


* It asks you to perform nine maneuvers...
* ... without explaining how you actually do them...
* ... without hitting a wall, car, or pillar in a full parking garage...
* ... in less than 60 seconds.
* Oh yeah, you can't play any missions before you complete it.


When the real game is about a thousand times easier than the fucking tutorial, then you need to brush up your game balancing skillz. Thank Jebus for GameFAQs -- I actually beat the tutorial out of sheer iron-willed self-hatred, though there was a code to skip it.

That said, the game fucking rocked.

It did one thing and one thing extremely well: car chases.



Whatever your mission happened to be, it really always boiled down to: lose the fuzz. The cops would get pissed off at you for stuff that their brethren over in the GTA series wouldn't blink at: running a red light, for example, or exceeding the speed limit -- only there was no speedometer in the game! And the cops never tried to actually arrest you. They were out for blood, and wouldn't rest until your car was an inoperable heap of smoking scrap iron.

So your only choice was to outfox the cops. There was a couple golden tricks you could always use (that, of course, the tutorial didn't teach you) to lose them, because once cop cars got close to you, they'd start mirroring your moves exactly. Dive around an oncoming car Crazy Taxi style and you'd hear a satisfying smash of glass and metal behind you as some retarded doughnut-chaser got his just desserts. It was an intense, fun experience, and so all the previously-mentioned flaws really didn't matter.

The game also had an excellent replay feature, where you could edit movies of your chases with a variety of angles and save them for later viewing, as well as the perennially enjoyable Survival mode, where you started off with a pack of 6 cars chasing you at maximum angerosity. Eventually I got good enough to drive the entirety of the San Francisco level in Survival. The clunky ass polygons of the Golden Gate Bridge spelled victory.

Driver 2 was inevitable.



It introduced:


* better graphics, I guess
* more distinct levels -- Cuba was pretty nice, actually
* no fucking tutorial
* totally pointless ability to get out of your car
* ability to climb into another car, which I guess makes getting out of one less pointless
* inability to get out of your car if the cops are chasing you (srsly)
* curved roads (not kidding about this either)
* framerate issues


It was alright but not especially... better. The same tricks used to evade cops in Driver 1 worked in the sequel, and the missions weren't that much different, so it felt more like an expansion than a sequel per se.

Then... well, there would eventually be Driv3r (pronounced, as Wikipedia points out, either as 'Driver 3', or 'Drive-three-er'). But that wasn't until four years later. In the meantime, we got Stuntman for the PS-dub.

Stuntman dropped the car chases in favor of a seldom-used game mechanic: Do Exactly What The Hell I Tell You Oops Hold On While I Reload Some Shit Off the CD for the 23rd Time. It was awful. The idea was that you were a stuntman on various movie shoots, and had to follow directions from the director in order to make the scene work. Fuck up even a little and it was time to restart, which meant staring at the load screen for another interminable wait.

I rented the game and took turns playing it one afternoon with a friend while we both drank Guinness. Simulated drunk driving is always fun. Stuntman was not, and it doomed the Driver series to mediocrity. There was a little old game called GTA III that offered a similar driving experience, and about five thousand more interesting things to do too. Freedom in gameplay had triumphed. Colbert would be proud.

Still -- I miss Driver. The truth is that the GTA series's car chases have always been inferior to Driver's. There isn't the same sense of a battle of wits and reflexes that the Driver series managed to capture; the cops may be after you, but it's not particularly hard to lose them. There were no body shops in Driver, only your own skill at the wheel.

PREVIOUSLY

Part I: Master of Orion Edition
Part II: Star Control Edition
Part III: Ultima Edition
Part IV: Tactics Edition
Part V: X-Com Edition
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About ZargonXone of us since 2:37 PM on 10.19.2007

Since the day my daddy handed me an Intellevision, I was set on the path of the gamer. I've got a special home for gamers with history that you can check out right now: Spectacle Rock
Mii code:[email protected]


 

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