Ok, I gotta admit, I love the Driver games. The first game was the reason I bought a PS1 all those years ago. The sequel introduced horrendous pop-up and the ability to get out of your vehicle for some ‘on foot’ action. Where that led was to GTA3. People slated Driv3r, because it couldn’t match up to GTA3: true, but I still loved it on its own terms. And then finally Parallel lines came along, again to mixed reviews but surprisingly, again I thought it was great – the Wii version being the best of the bunch.
So now in 2011 we have Driver: San Francisco hitting the home consoles, and a whole different adventure for 3DS – Driver: Renegade 3D.
The game is set in New York City, with events taking place some time between Driver 1 and 2. John (where did that come from?) Tanner is the main man once more and after years of undercover work he’s decided to just take matters of crime into his own hands. The city is run by mobs and Tanner goes off the record, turns renegade and is hellbent on taking out the five crime lords who control it.
Start up the game and you have two modes to choose from, story or career. Start the story and you’re presented with beautifully drawn cartoon mag style cut-scenes with voice-over acting which is fairly good, but a touch on the blue side. It is at this point you think to yourself ‘hang on’, and immediately look at the age rating on the game box – the amount of swearing busting out of the speakers is just plain ridiculous, and unnecessary come to that. A 16 PEGI rating – PARENTS BE WARNED!
Your first chase mission is typical Driver fare: follow a car and dont let it out of your sight. Cool, I’ll take in the views, see how the car handles, do a few handbrake turns etc, basically just enjoy the ride experience. The first thing you notice is a complete lack of traffic – and this is supposed to be New York city – I think in total I saw two cars on the opposite side of the road the whole mission. Not exactly a great start. The handling also is not too hot: it’s just not ‘Driver-enough’ in the way the back end kicks out every time you lightly touch the handbrake while cornering, making drifting almost non-existent. So that’s the very essence of Driver missing from a Driver game. Wierd.
There are of course other missions besides Chase. Among the other mission types are Race, Scare, Demolition, which admittedly offer a tiny bit of variety. But the AI is something that has to be seen to be believed. One particuar mission sees you destroying bad guy cars by crashing into them, though some investigation quickly discovers that you don’t actually need to – simply stay put and they drive into you destroying themselves. Hardly challenging.
There is a new feature though: The Rage Gauge, which fills every time you take out an enemy, or by jumping, drifting or risky driving. By pressing the A button it gives you a speed boost (not that you can tell) and makes you that little bit less resilient to damage, which is always handy.
Graphics wise its marginally better than an N64 with an ok 3D effect: not as good as Ridge Racer 3D, but fine. The draw distance is fairly poor and skyscrapers literally build themselves in front of you as you travel down the road. The gameplay area is fairly big however, and the map on the lower screen is easy to navigate when you’re planning a route. But…..
…….You actually spend very little time on a mission. There are only 20, and they only last between 30 seconds to a minute apiece. Honestly! You get 2 minutes of cutscene to every 30 seconds of gameplay – and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this ain’t gonna cut the mustard. Things started to improve around mission 15 but all-in-all, I sat through the entire story in about 2 hours. There has to be more that this surely?
Moving onto career mode: you have an overview map of the city with different races you can enter, using cars you have unlocked in story mode. You collect points, level up and with that the challenges become harder as you progress. These races are variations of the missions you do in story mode and still don’t last very long unfortunately.
Something to note is a lack of free-roam or ‘take a ride’ mode from previous games. This would have been a welcomed addition so that you could actually drive around and do your own thing, which would add an extra level to the gameplay and something else to the package, but no dice. Shame. There is also no multiplayer mode, although you can trade details of your career mode with other 3DS users through streetpass, which however you dress it up is a poor substitute.
The soundtrack throws in rock, techno and funk, as well as easily the most annoying in-game voiceovers I’ve ever heard. (John) Tanner screams out tough guy lines such as ‘keep it coming s***head’ plus my personal favourite – ‘end of the line you S.O.B!’. Oh dear!
If you’re after a racer on 3DS you’d be best to head to Ridge Racer, and if you already have that then save your cash for Mario Kart. Either way you’ll get a far better experience than from Renegade.
Now I’m off to play Driver: San Francisco. Which, I’d suggest you do too, rather than invest in Renegade, which has unsurprisingly been released to far less fanfare than its console sibling.
Driver: Renegade 3d is available to buy now.