Gaming Disasters: Driv3r

The first in a new feature exploring some of gaming’s biggest disappointments, we take a look at the much hyped Driv3r.

Driv3rAtari/Reflections InteractiveRelease Date: 5th April 2004What the critics saidIGN:€œDRIV3R falls on its face; lacking in every area except that sector that Reflections has always been good at, the skidding, slamming, destructo-style-car-driving area. But even there it's tired.€Eurogamer:€œIt could well be reflected upon as one of the biggest disappointments in the history of videogames. No title has ever been so keenly anticipated, so massively hyped and yet such a catastrophic mess. To play Driv3r on a sunny day in June is about as devastating an error as realizing you've just put your winning lottery ticket through the wash.€GameSpy:€œThe only reason this muddled offering isn't getting one star is the impressive car physics and cities. But we can't forget the single-player game that's over in less than three hours€GamingRevolution: €œThe on-foot action is simply awful due in no small part to the terrible control; Tanner runs around with the mobility of a Mack truck. His move repertoire consists of a duck and roll straight out of the William Shatner School For Actors With Bad Backs Trying To Do Their Own Stunts and an absolutely useless jump that clears about eighteen vertical inches. It's laughable€

Back in 1998, the first Driver from Reflections Interactive challenged the capabilities of the Playstation by offering a fully 3-D open-world stuffed with intense car chases - evoking gritty 70s cop films like Bullet and The French Connection. It became a smash hit for publisher GT Interactive and was revolutionary in its detail, including highly destructible cars, four huge cities including New York to Miami and even a film director mode, for budding movie makers to create beautifully constructed car chase sequences. But aside from this excellent debut, Driver as a franchise, has struggled to retain both its quality and its relevance. 2000€™s Driver 2 expanded on the first game by allowing players to commandeer vehicles on foot, forerunning Grand Theft Auto III€™s carjacking action. Sadly, Driver 2€™s achievements were drowned by its many failures, including a number of crippling glitches and visual problems which drained the potential fun out of the sequel. This however, was nothing compared to what would become one of the most anticipated and overhyped gaming disappointments of all-time. Following the poor reception of Driver 2 and the increasing popularity of rival series Grand Theft Auto, Atari and Reflections would spend four years developing a follow up - intended to bring the series back to the forefront of gaming. It was clear that to compete with Rockstar€™s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, great effort would need to be taken to create the most realistic and immersive open-world yet seen in a driving game. Much like earlier games in the series, players wouldn€™t be restricted to one city either - the next game would take place in Nice, Miami & Istanbul. With a lengthy development time of four years, anticipation couldn€™t have been higher for the long awaited sequel. The preposterously named Driv3r looked set to take the superb driving physics of the series and put them into a game which would be just as enjoyable in its on foot sections - with Tanner now able to shoot, climb and explore buildings. Other features which were then lacking from Grand Theft Auto were also touted, such as the ability to swim and the return of the series€™ trademark film director mode. Edging closer to its release date. Atari began an intensive assault on the public with an aggressive advertising campaign; the hype for Driv3r was immense. Initial impressions were strong as well, with the graphics looking far more impressive than those of other open-world games, as well as early trailers showing off the intricately detailed car physics.
Atari even had Ridley Scott€™s production studio shoot a series of short films titled Run The Gauntlet to help promote Driv3r€˜s upcoming release. As well as these shorts, a special making of promo was created - narrated by the voice of Tanner himself, Michael Madsen. The promo focused on the realistic vehicle handling and attention to detail, with little emphasis to the on-foot sections€. The reasons for which would soon become clear. Released on the 5th April 2004, it was immediately clear that Driv3r - after all its promises and lofty ambitions - was an unfinished mess. In trying too hard to overtake the popularity of GTA, the series had lost its way and tried to do too many things without doing any of them well. The on-foot shooting sections in particular were astonishingly bad, with clunky controls and laughably shoddy animations. In another misjudged move, Reflections decided to mock GTA by spoofing Vice City€™s Tommy Vercetti, with hidden gangsters dotted around the map in Hawaiian shirts and named Timmy Vermicelli.
Driv3r wasn€™t simply a bad game however - it was a bad game with a great one trying to break out. Had more time and effort been spent on polishing the game before release, Driv3r could have been much better than it ended up. Buried deep within the mess, Reflections had successfully created some superbly detailed environments, while the driving physics and realistic damage can't be faulted. As well as inherent problems with the controls, graphics and gameplay, Driv3r is perhaps one of the glitchiest games ever to have gone to market. I literally don't know anyone who played Driv3r and hasn't experienced some sort of hallucinatory glitch, ranging from Tanner suddenly flying through the air like a drunken Superman, tap dancing on boxes in a infinite loop or even my personal favourite, slipping over on the surface of speedboats, hitting his head and killing himself. But strangely it€™s this unintentional pleasure to be taken in its broken world that makes it something of a guilty pleasure for me. I€™m sure that i'm not alone in this, but few other games are consistently funny in their shoddiness - especially when the in-game film director mode can be used to document the bizarre glitches in all their glory. Hours of fun could be had simply trying to find all of the glitches and creating shambolic short movies which would become mini epics of Driv3r€™s accidental brilliance. Seven years later, the series has managed to regain its former glory with Driver: San Francisco - a back to basics reboot which focuses strictly on the speedy car chases that made the original so enjoyable. But while Driv3r will be remembered as one of gaming€™s biggest disappointments, it€™ll always have a special place in my heart as one of the most lovable bad games of its era. _____________ For our review of Driver: San Franciscoclick here. What are your memories of playing Driv3er ?

Cult horror enthusiast and obsessive videogame fanatic. Stephen considers Jaws to be the single greatest film of all-time and is still pining over the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. As well regularly writing articles for WhatCulture, Stephen also contributes reviews and features to Ginx TV.