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[This month is officially Driver Month here on Gamer Limit. Join us as we embark on an exhaustive road trip in a series of retrospectives for the Driver franchise in the run-up to Driver: San Francisco.]

It would take four long years before another Driver game would burst onto the scene in an intoxicating cloud of smoke, ready to serve its pining fans after Driver 2. To help quench this thirst, Reflections introduced Stuntman in 2002, a game that that played on Driver’s affinity with cinematic car chases by starring you as a charmless Hollywood stunt driver on fictional film sets. In Stuntman, you were required to perform death-defying car stunts in a series of stringently timed scenes for some upcoming action movies.

While the obvious film parodies were fun to watch, the game ultimately pushed the limits of trial and error by constantly demanding precision driving and was, above all else, infuriatingly difficult. As Reflections’ debut for the next generation of consoles however, it served as an effective appetiser that showed great promise for what was to come in the Wheelman’s next outing.

With the avalanche success of Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, it’s fair to say that the next generation of Driver had an awful lot of catching up to do. Expectations were running high, especially with the impending release of San Andreas the same year just to add to the pressure. As a result, many were hoping that the third instalment would be everything that Driver 2 should have been, given the advantage of the extra graphical muscle thanks to next generation hardware. Instead, what we were given is widely regarded as one of the most disappointing game sequels in the whole of video game history.

Suspicions of the game’s fate were aroused by merely reading the title. It would have been logical, you would have thought, to simply name the third Driver game as “Driver 3,” perhaps including a subtitle for added effect, but instead the developers went down a ruined road and came up with the most unforgiveable of gimmicks. “I know!” someone in a last minute meeting exclaimed excitedly, “let’s jazz it up a bit by replacing the ‘e’ with a ‘3.’” “Mmm,” the boss responded, “what a splendid idea. Driv3r! It appeals to the current l33t speaking youths, so they’ll love it. If Wip3out can do it then so can we!”

This decision was met with significantly less enthusiasm on my part. What were they thinking? Driv3r. Go on, try to say it. “Driv-three-er” – that is how I always pronounce it, and I still loathe that name to this day. And yet initial promotional material referred to the game as “Driver 3,” so the late name change was hard to fathom. This tragic typography coupled with the woeful box art depicting Tanner shooting out of a car window (a false statement considering this was not possible in the final game) set amidst a yellow sea of empty space set the tone for the game. Something was radically wrong.

Now don’t get me wrong – as a devoted Driver fan there was plenty to admire, as Driv3r did a lot of things right even if elementary spelling wasn’t one of them. Watching the initial announcement trailer back in 2003 made me tingle with the same childish excitement that I felt with the original video for the first game.

The said trailer commenced with a huge semi-trailer truck filling the screen, which for the time was a captivating prospect because no sandbox game had allowed you to drive a truck with trailer before. This theme of showing the game’s newfound vehicle variety continued with a brief glimpse of Tanner riding a motorcycle: unfamiliar territory for Driver but common ground for GTA: Vice City. Even boats were featured.

Fears that Driver had forgotten its roots soon subsided after the belated arrival of a Mustang-esque muscle car taking center stage and sliding about all over the place, reinforcing the franchise’s flair for exaggerated cinematic handling. Mercifully, this remained true in the final game, resulting in the largest roster of vehicles to date that were a joy to drive with distinctly different handling characteristics. It simply wouldn’t be a Driver game without the trademark soggy suspension and heavy handling.

The punishment you could subject your car to saw similar advancements, with improved damage effects including visible crumple zones, shattering windows, and detachable bumpers, doors and bonnets. Impressively, bullet holes would remain precisely indented on the bodywork for the first time in a game, and vehicles would now explode after too much abuse, with the frame of the car splitting into several fragments rather than a solid burnt-out shell.

The choice of locations was also spot-on once again, this time reverting back to the beaches of Miami from the original game along with the previously unexplored locales of Nice and Istanbul. Each city shone with new lighting techniques that provided unique and distinctive colour palettes, along with intricately detailed architecture and the usual array of destructible scenery. Oh, and you could finally run over the pedestrians, thankfully.

Driv3r certainly wasn’t without ambition, either. In keeping with its reliance on Hollywood finesse, a lengthy advertising campaign in the form of a short live-action promotional film was launched in the run-up to the game’s release. Directed by Sean Mullens and airing exclusively on the Driv3r website in weekly parts, the project was known as Run the Gauntlet, which revolved around Tanner’s pledge to deliver a car that results in, you guessed it, a high speed car chase loaded with spectacular stunts.

For fans like myself of Hollywood car chase sequences, the three-minute short was marvelous to watch despite the god-awful dialogue, although you couldn’t help but wish they would produce a feature length Driver movie – such a project has been teased since 2003 but has since been put on hold, sadly. Renowned Hollywood talent such as Michael Madsen and Iggy Pop also joined the voice cast, with Madsen taking the leading role of Tanner, and the soundtrack was similarly graced with note-worthy artists.

All of this amounted to a solid driving experience that would lead you to think that Driv3r was a terrific triumph. And indeed it was, right up until the moment you stepped out of the car. Wait, we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

While Driver 2’s poorly executed on-foot controls were almost forgivable due to the fact that they were used sparingly, Driv3r made the mistake of making it a central component of the gameplay that led to the mass critical backlash that the game was subsequently subjected to.

In a concerted effort to match GTA’s popularity, Tanner was suddenly equipped with weaponry, but the shooting mechanics were shockingly dire beyond belief. Admittedly, the grenade launcher was at least fun in its ability to cause havoc, but gunning down enemies felt forced and rather awkward thanks to the lack of a cover system. Meanwhile, stilted animations made Tanner amble around with all the dexterity of a constipated crab crippled with arthritis.

Then there was the lousy AI, which often led to enemies standing still until you approached them at close range – it’s hard to recall a game that featured worse enemy AI for its time. And then when you finally shot them, the brainless foes didn’t shed a single trace of blood. It was stark confirmation that while Reflections were exceptionally talented at creating exuberant car models and driving characteristics, they were not only incapable of spelling their own game correctly but also evidently inexperienced with programming third-person shooters.

The advent of weapons made the game severely lose focus since it felt as if mission objectives carried just as much shooting as they did driving. More often than not, the missions that made up the game’s undercover mode were an absolute chore to trawl through with each uninspired shootout becoming identical. The driving portions didn’t fare much better, either, owing to some fiendishly timed objectives and scripted traffic events that were solely designed to make you swear very loudly at the screen. Mind you, this was nothing compared to the immovable lamp posts of death that could single-handedly prevent you from completing a mission should you plough into them.

Still, there were at least some fleeting glimpses of brilliance in the mission design. The Speed-inspired Booby Trap whereby you had to maintain your speed above 50 MPH in order to avoid an explosive surprise was suitably enthralling and reminiscent of the Hollywood thrills the series strives to replicate, and the trashing of a Miami shopping mall made it impossible not to imagine you were driving the legendary Bluesmobile whilst wearing dark sun glasses.

Sadly, the plot was largely uninteresting; amounting to a string of nonsensical, though polished, cut scenes that illustrated Tanner’s latest mission to infiltrate a notorious rig of car thieves. What was interesting, however, was that the game’s intro acted as a flashback of Tanner’s final showdown with Jericho, concluding with Tanner being rushed to hospital after a gunshot wound. As the staff desperately try to revive our hero, Tanner’s fate is left uncertain when the EMG machine flat lines and the game begins six months earlier before ending with the same scene.

Driv3r was also notoriously plagued with a host of unfortunate bugs and glitches to the point that I could easily write an entire article listing every last one. Featuring everything from sinking vehicles to flying pedestrians, it’s staggering to think that this game managed to pass quality control. Even the film director, one of my favourite features of the Driver series, wasn’t let off, often playing entirely different footage to the sessions you had just played. The fact remains that Driv3r was fundamentally broken as a result of being rushed to a deadline.

Reflections has always had a bit of a rivalry with Rockstar Games and GTA, but this feud fully blossomed with Driv3r. The case in point was of course the hidden enemies known as Timmy Vermicelli, an obvious jab at Tommy Vercetti from Vice City. Humorously, Timmy was shown to be wearing arm-bands in a joke aimed at the fact he would instantly drown when introduced to water, in comparison to Tanner who now had the ability to swim.

Rockstar would have the last laugh however, as CJ in San Andreas could not only swim but dive underwater. What’s more, a cut scene in the game deliberately poked fun at Driv3r’s failings by having characters subliminally hurl abuse at the game during a cut scene, asking how “Refractions could screw up so badly.” In fact, you could say it was Rockstar that started the whole feud in GTA III – a mission entitled “Two faced Tanner” started with a clear message to Reflections about a “strangely animated undercover cop“ who was “useless out of the car.” So true Rockstar, so true.

And herein lies the problem: Driver was playing catch-up to GTA instead of focusing on what it did best. Truth be told, the market had seemingly moved on from the simple days of 1999 where Driver was a revelation, so it’s easy to see why the pressure was on to compete after Rockstar stole the spotlight. Nevertheless, Driv3r remains a potent and infamous example of the hype train becoming derailed, and it ultimately suffered the consequences of its rushed upbringing with a strong and unforgivable wave of negative press and disappointed fans. As Tanner was left for dead at the end of the game, sadly so was the once untouchable series.

Pull over next week for a look back at Driver: Parallel Lines as Driver Month concludes on Gamer Limit.

  1. avatar Arron Gumbrell

    I had some fun with the game. In fact i brought the game twice when my first copy stopped working. The game was fun in places but over all it was a mess. Director mode was still amazing as seen in my video link below

    And i even went as far as making a full length movie of the game which was more fun wathcing than playing.

    Overall couldn’t agree more with what you said. Could have been a amazing game if they just spent more time developing it.

  2. avatar Khoserken

    The game was obviously rushed. And it’s all Atari’s fault. They made all that excessive marketing and then had those financial troubles and so on. I still like this game, but obviously it was very disappointing.

    “the on-going debate as to whether Tanner lives or dies is set to continue in Driver: San Francisco as he remains in a coma.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember Martin Edmondson saying that Tanner lives and that his coma is due to that accident in the trailer, and not due to the shootout in Istanbul.

    • Sorry, I forgot about that. Seems a bit inconclusive to the Driv3r plot unless San Francisco mentions it elsewhere.

    • avatar Max.Thunder

      yeah, he survive in Driv3r, in Driver PL there are proofs of that, see them in my vid.

    • avatar Kerem

      The primary dvreir is the person who drives the vehicle the most, or has possession of it the most. The secondary would be other people who drive the car on occasion. To be a secondary, you must be listed as a part time/secondary dvreir on the policy. Depending on your secondary’s dvreir license, your rates could be much higher, not change. If the person is under 25, and particularly male, your rates will increase substantially. Defensive driving classes help reduce your rates, for each person who takes a class and passes.

  3. avatar Dr. Doom

    Driv3r was awesome to me, whether people liked it or not. I was 12 and this game was FRICKIN. AWESOME.

    In fact, if my Xbox still worked, I’d be playing Driv3r to this day.

    • avatar Ebrar

      Apparently even people in the bnesusis have no idea what they’re talking about. You do not need any disclaimer on a text walkthrough copyright, and you can sell them to whomever you please. It is your creative work, not the work of the game company. Sheesh. If I give you the answers to the questions in a textbook it isn’t copying anything from the text (at least nothing that is protected by copyright) so (a) I don’t need permission, and (b) I can sell them to anyone for any price I choose.On the other hand, if you MARKET something that appears to have the same trademark as another company in the same bnesusis area, it could be a trademark infringement , but not copyright.If you take a video of a game and add stuff (for a walk-through), you would need a license to distribute the derivative work you have created using someone else’s creative game video. Without a license it would be a federal crime to sell one.

    • avatar Leyto

      Just wait. Popular channels get that way thrguoh time; it isn’t exactly instant. People are always interested in playthrguohs, so eventually you’ll get some more viewers. My advice: don’t troll other people’s videos and channels and spamming them with Hey check out my videos! It’s actually quite rude and inconsiderate, and also leaves a bad impression.

  4. avatar Suryat

    I rented this game and brought it back the same night to swap out for a different one. The number spelling thing also bugged me so much that I didn’t even pay attention to Left 4 Dead until after it was released (not knowing 4 was the number of survivors).

    • avatar Eva

      Multiple occupants + cohlaol/drugs increase the possibility that something bad will happen. According to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study, crash rates for teens rise significantly as the number of passengers increases. This is especially true for the most inexperienced drivers: 16- and 17-year age group. Don’t drink and drive!

  5. avatar Max.Thunder

    Driv3r was an awesome game, it was very innovative with realistic damage system, realistic handling of the cars, photorealitic graphic engine, an awesome plot that could inspire a good film,etc That was far away of that time, compared to the shitty cartoonish game called GTA, which had more glitches than Driver series, also is unbelievable that reviewers put so low scores to Driv3r, and a very high score to games like GTA III or GTA SA without considering the glitches and poor graphics of those games. Also i can’t believe how Driv3r was chosen the worst game of the year and GTA SA the best of the year.

    I can’t believe you saying “Sadly, the plot was largely uninteresting” and “So true Rockstar, so true”.

    Even now Driv3r is an impressive game because it needed very high specs, ahead of its time. Even now, GTA IV can’t be equal to the car handling and damage modelling of Driv3r.

    • I expressed that Driv3r was very good in the aspects you mentioned, but you simply cannot ignore its flaws that ultimately led to its downfall. I do think some of the critics were overly harsh though. I was also referring to Rockstar’s jab at the wonky walking physics.

    • avatar Max.Thunder

      I think that most glitches made more funnier the game, i loved the survival mode, lots of funny glitches

  6. avatar Aidan

    I loved this game, me and my friend played it day in day out, and both had copies, it was extremely fun and worth it for the funny glitches (like where the pedestrians spawned mid air, sometimes on top of buildings)

    And never forgetting Timmy Vermicetti!

    • avatar Eugene

      Can I become a petanrr on YouTube even if I have video game walkthroughs?Ok so I wanted to start a video game channel on youtube. But some point in that time I plan to be a youtube petanrr. But I heard you can ONLY if you include Instructional and Educational commentary in the videos if you want to get paid for the videos. Is this true because youtube said it in fine print. Or you can only get paid for the videos only if you get permission?Thanks guys i really want to do this.

  7. avatar Driverguy

    I dont care what anyone says, this was the best driver in the series, and one of the best agmes ive ever played, it will always remain in my top category. I WAS dissapointed with the combat aspect…because it was flawed and unrealistic….but the drving aspect was golden. As with the first two it served as a great trainer for anyone who wanted to try their hand at a racing game, and the most memorable moments in my gaming career is driving through the beautiful miami in all the classic cars. Parallel lines was a joke, and i hope that the new game isnt modernized and gay like i saw in the trailer, now that atari isnt publishing and reflections ahs merged with ubisoft.

  8. I agree, Driver 3, sorry I mean Driv3r was a brilliant game and never deserved the critisism it recieved.
    For starters the graphics and the physics of the cars were amazing for a game back then. The damage system was brilliant, and would still rate above many driving games produced after it. You could smash through traffic and cos plenty of carnage, even the drivers of the other cars, would suffer fatal injuries in serious collisions.
    Me and my friends would spend hours taking it in turns driving around the beautifully crafted cities, in the various cars there was to choose from. The game was beautiful.
    The story mode could easily have been taken from a film. It was fantastic, as were the cutscenes.
    Looking back the on foot sections, maybe weren’t the best, but I never complained, it never even crossed my mind, as was having such a good time playing the game, using the grenade launcher to disrupt the day to day life of the civilians. If I remember rightly, you could even walk into the bridge booth in Miama and lift the bridge with cars on it. There was so much to explore, and the addition of boats and bikes was a worthy addition too!
    Driv3r is perhaps the best game in the series, it kept all of the best bits from the previous games and added so much more, which was just what us, the fans and gamers wanted.
    Lets hope San Francisco becomes a ‘classic’

  9. avatar guest

    I enjoyed reading this series of retrospective articles about the DRIVER video games. I like the writer’s skill with words and the way he evokes memories of playing games from the DRIVER series. For me, those memories are still being created because I still play all of my DRIVER games. I think people say a lot of stupid stuff about DRIV3R, and it was a disappointment to read one of my favorite game writers fail that same way here.

  10. avatar vince

    it’s funny some of you guyz says that driv3r was the bad game.
    well, i like the realistic vehicle damage and handilng at driv3r.
    i gotta admit it that the on foot is not good.
    but that wont stop me causing problem like killing peds, destroying vehicle, war with cops..
    and i like when tanner walks and hold handguns or uzi or mac 10 in his hand, quite cool to me..
    i don’t mind with tanner’s animations like running, rolling, but jump isn’t really great, but still good.
    i remember when we open car’s door, a same sound like driver 2, hhe.
    i rate this game 10/10
    why? coz this game has good story, good cutscene which have kick gta series in my heart..

    • avatar Micheal

      There are different kinds of self taenrns. There are pure self taenrns that you either rub on or spray once, and it lasts for about a week and then rubs off. I don’t recommend applying a self tanner every day. Once a week at max. And yes, if you accidentally put more on in one area, it will show darker. It works because they are chemicals that stain skin. Kind of like Iodine. I find more self taenrns to look more orange than not, but “Salon Bronze” gun and spray has worked the best for me without looking orange.There are also regular lotions that have a hint of tanner in them. Jergens has a pretty good one. You can apply these kinds of lotions every day, but I recommend every other day because as the chemicals build up on top of your skin, it may get too thick and rub off and then you’ll look spotty. You will not get lighter if you do it every other day. You’ll maintain your color but steadily add darkness. And no, lotions are pretty blendable so you don’t have to worry about having darker spots if you add too much. The tanner is pretty subtle.I hope you find this helpful.References :

  11. avatar Darya

    Anyway it was, awful or owesome, it is always loved by me and my brothers. But I do agrre the boxart was a big lie! It was CJ’s ability not Tanner’s!!! and, I hope Driver can Remember its roots via San francisco! I am waiting for it!!!

  12. avatar ham

    where i can download the game

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