If you've been saving your pennies for what could rival Gran Turismo as the greatest driving game of the '90s, look no further than Driver: You Are The Wheelman.
Man, does it rock! Driver is the type of game that makes you wish you had a seat belt on the chair you're sitting in as you read this. There's never a dull moment as you try to loose the cops on your tail, at the same time trying to achieve your goal within the time limit.
To look at the basic plot of Driver, one might think of it as the "anti-Grand Theft Auto." In other words, you're performing crimes but this time it's to ultimately aid law enforcement -- not your pocketbook. Of course, the gameplay is considerably different as well as you zoom through the cyberly reproduced streets of Miami, San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles. But the most important difference between the two is that this profanity-free game doesn't aim to shock -- it aims to entertain.
And entertain it does quite well. Don't be surprised if you find yourself up into the wee hours of the morning saying, "I know I can beat this mission this time!" Of course, you might eventually have to give up, as the game is very much on the tough side.
Especially intimidating is Driver's opening round, a "simple" test in which you must prove your abilities to your future employers by achieving a variety of moves within the confines of a parking garage and inside of 60 seconds. Don't be surprised if it takes you two or three hours just to master this section. As with the actual missions you will soon embark on, strategy is just as (if not more) important as a mastery of your controls. (Speaking of which, if you don't have a joystick or gamepad with at least four buttons, you now have the excuse you've been looking for.) You'll eventually begin to develop a route that, combined with the skills you gain through mere practice, might just ensure success (the key word there being "might").
As your actual missions begin, don't expect things to get easier. In those in which I managed to succeed, it was never by more than a few seconds (once I even left 0.03 seconds on the clock!). Again, strategy is of the utmost importance. Should you drive slowly past the cop so that he doesn't chase you or is time too much of an issue at the moment? Decisions like that -- often made within tenths of a second -- could mean the difference between driving a wrecked-up clunker or driving your way to success.
Complementing the great gameplay of Driver are graphics so realistic that you might even think you're watching a rerun of a '70s cop show (well, if you watched them on your computer anyway). The only downside to this is that you need a primo computer (by 1999 standards anyway) to handle such realism. Even with a 400-megahertz CPU, I had to tone down the detail and frame-rate. But the game still looked amazing!
Another cool thing that you can do is watch the replay of your escapade. You can even look on from a variety of angles, a smile crossing your face when you come to the part where you tricked the cop into crashing, leaving him in the dust. It's hard to beat that. Kind of like Driver on the whole.
Graphics: Absolutely gorgeous! They look so real you might confuse them for a '70s cop show.
Sound: There's a very nice hum to your vehicle and other good sound effects as well. However, the repetitive voice-overs of cops ("Suspect heading east!") leave something to be desired.
Enjoyment: A word of advice: If the weather's beautiful when you buy this game, wait to play it for a while. You might not be headed outside for a LONG time!
Replay Value: Aside from being very long, the game lets you choose your missions. In other words, even after you beat the game you can always come back to new ones! There are also several driving games that can keep you occupied for quite some time.
People who downloaded Driver (a.k.a. Driver: You Are the Wheelman) have also downloaded:
Driv3r (a.k.a. Driver 3), Driver: Parallel Lines, Driver: San Francisco, Need for Speed Underground 2, Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto 3
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