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DRIV3R Xbox

Published by Atari
Developed by Reflections
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

DRIV3R (Driver 3) is one of those highly anticipated games of 2004 that many will rush out and buy because of how enjoyable it's prequels were. The original Driver was popular because of the exciting car chases it contained, which at the time no other game came even close to. Whilst fans of the series have waited a long time for this game it's fair to say that compared with the previous two games DRIV3R is something of a major disappointment. This may seem a rather strong statement with which to begin a review but there's quite a substantial chunk of the game that's just not what it should be and there's no point in beating around the bush now is there?

DRIV3R puts you in the shoes of Tanner an undercover cop. Tanner (also known as the Driver) is an unorthodox cop who likes to take risks and do things his way rather than sticking to the rule book. In DRIV3R Tanner will have to crack a global car theft ring. A mysterious buyer has ordered 40 stolen cars and it's up to Tanner to find out who this mysterious buyer is and to put a stop to all the organized car thefts. The only way to do this of course is to mingle with the criminal element and to find out as much as he can. Tanner's efforts will see you move from Miami to Nice and also Istanbul. Such a plot should be the perfect excuse for DRIV3R to do what the Driver series does best (breathtaking car chases) but unfortunately it doesn't work out that way.

DRIV3R is made up of driving and 'on-foot' sections and the biggest problem is that neither element has been particularly well done. First of all we'll look at the driving elements as this is what most gamers will associate with the series. The main problem is that the handling just doesn't feel right. It's far too sensitive and feels all wrong. At times it feels like you're floating and don't really have any grip on the road. Having played more than my fair share of driving games on the Xbox I have to say that the driving in DRIV3R is definitely amongst the worst I've experienced on the console. For a game that relies on exciting car chases this is a major problem. Then there are times when you get out of the car and Tanner is on-foot. Again it feels all wrong and completely unsatisfying. Had the game combined the car handling of PGR 2 with the FPS controls of Halo we might have had something very special indeed but we don't and the two different elements of DRIV3R have been poorly implemented and the resultant combination is altogether disappointing. The level of artificial intelligence you'll come against is also pretty pathetic and when Tanner is out of the car the enemies he'll face seem completely devoid of intelligence.

The biggest problem though is that whilst the game on the whole is disappointing you'll want to carry on with it as the story is fairly interesting. Had this not been the case it would have quite easy to simply slate the game and condemn it completely. There are over 25 missions in the game and once you're past the first frustrating few (the frustration is a result of a couple of factors not least of which is the sloppy controls), you'll find the story quite interesting. Aside from the story mode you also have a free mode and you'll also have access to several mini-games such as Quick Chase, Quick Getaway, Trail Blazer, Survival, Checkpoint Race and Gate Race. These mini-games could have been enjoyable had the car handling been much improved. Budding film directors might be pleased to know you can make your own action sequences during the game and add special blur effects to the sequence and so on, although doing so will effectively abort the current mission you're on. It's not a deal clincher by any means but it's a nice touch that some might appreciate.

The disappointment doesn't end with the game play either. Graphically DRIV3R isn't what it should be and neither for that matter is the frame rate. To add insult to injury you'll see pop-up galore (of both cars and scenery) that can further add to the dissatisfied feeling you'll get with the game. The quality of the cutscenes are rather good, although they are choppy in places, but it comes as a small consolation given the other problems that exist. Some of the animations seem to take an age too. Making Tanner (incidentally Tanner is controlled from a third person perspective) get into a car takes far longer than it should as you're forced to watch the same old laboured set pattern of animations rather than a typical rush to get behind the wheel. Of course given the graphical problems it's easy to say that the game has had a sloppy port from the PlayStation 2 version. I don't know whether this is the case or not but the game doesn't appear to make full use of the Xbox's resources.

The one piece of good news with DRIV3R is that deaf gamers are well catered for. Subtitles can be enabled, which is great. Objectives are shown in text too. Your mini-map will show you where you have to go. If you're a large distance away and the green dot (which marks the goal location) is out of view, a cone of light will guide you in the right direction. What was really great to see was that in the cutscenes if a phone rings or a shower is being run etc., red captions are shown to inform you of this fact, which is very impressive to see and isn't something you come across in many other games.

PC gamers will have to wait until the end of the year to get their hands on DRIV3R and in our opinion it's a shame that the Xbox version hadn't been held back until all the problems had been corrected. Poor driving and on-foot sections of the game seriously damage what might have been a great game. The Driver and GTA series were once held in high regard but whilst the GTA series has gone from strength to strength, the Driver series has taken a sharp nosedive with the release of DRIV3R. There are just too many problems with the game for it to be anything other than mediocre at best, which is a complete disappointment for those who have waited for so long to a sequel to Driver 2.

Overall Game Rating: 5.2/10
Only serious Driver fans will be able to see past the game's many shortcomings. If you can look past the poor performance and poor controls you might enjoy the unfolding story but definitely give it a rent first.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The game is subtitled and it's great to see captions in the cutscenes.