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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.]

As the dust settled after the carnage that ensued from the colossal car crash that was Driv3r, the announcement of a new Driver game was met with tepid trepidation in contrast to the days where it would have been tremendously exciting news. I was naturally predicting that the next game would be called DrIVer however, so the news that it would carry the Parallel Lines subtitle instead created a lot of intrigue about the possible direction the series was heading in.

Things became even more interesting upon the knowledge that everyone’s favourite wheelman Tanner, the long-standing protagonist who was previously left for dead during the climax of Driv3r, had been replaced with an anonymous hippy youth donning a pair of slick sun glasses. It was all a sign that the franchise was about to undergo a significant overhaul: drastic repairs were needed if it was to be ever taken seriously again.

Founder Martin Edmonson subsequently left Reflections following the relentless backlash that Driv3r suffered, leading to the company being reformed in a deal with Ubisoft thus creating Ubisoft Reflections under the new leadership of Martin’s brother, Gareth Edmondson. But was the damage already done?

Well, for a start Reflections presumably hired more competent quality control personnel, as Parallel Lines was thankfully devoid of the long list of bugs and glitches that made Driv3r such an unnecessary hassle to play at times. Mercifully, those pesky lamp posts could also finally be dismembered.

Parallel Lines rightfully attempted to go back to the roots of the original game by placing the emphasis back on what has always mattered most: the driving. Retaining the renowned rigid handling model with a few new tweaks, this saw a rapid decrease of tedious on-foot action, which was a huge blessing for those who laughed at Tanner’s crab characteristics in Driv3r, although in saying that the animations in Parallel Lines were only marginally better at times.

Still, the on-foot sections were far less embarrassing than Tanner’s plodding performance, benefiting from improvements made to the AI and shooting dynamics by giving players a choice of lock-on and precision aiming. In fact, TK could also shoot and drive simultaneously, a feat that Tanner didn’t manage to pull off despite Driv3r’s misleading cover art.

The ability to shoot at your fleeing target added a new dimension to the game’s abundant car chases, making them all the more pulsating, but the auto-targeting system was sadly not as sharp as it could have been. The car chases were also further improved by a new felony system that based your traffic crimes on the vehicle you were seen in at the time, meaning your felony level would disappear as long as you abandoned your car once you lost sight of the fuzz.

The entire cast of characters we had grown accustomed to over the years were nowhere to be seen. Instead, you played as a rookie 18 year old crook simply known as The Kid who, predictably, worked as a getaway driver for bands of hoodlums with tall hair. While TK was certainly no substitute for Tanner, it brought an entirely new tone to the series as you were playing as a criminal rather than an undercover cop.

In keeping with the franchise’s origins, Parallel Lines was set in a 1970’s rendition of New York, a location that was last seen in the first Driver game back in 1999. Reflections has always had a knack for replicating real-life cities in video games, but they surely outdid themselves here – the towering scale of the Big Apple was rendered with astounding realism.

The only drawback was that the geography of Parallel Lines was restricted to just one city throughout its duration when previous Driver games typically included three or four cities, but this allowed them to focus on the finer details. The traffic, for example, saw a noticeable increase in density in order to accurately portray the grid-locked streets of the bustling New York traffic and the draw distance (a consistent blemish in Driver’s otherwise polished graphics engine) was refined so that no unwanted pop-up was evident. Until GTA IV, this was hands down the best portrayal of NYC you could find in a game.

In an unexpected and game changing twist, the semantics behind the Parallel Lines suffix suddenly became clear at the mid-point of the game. As TK becomes framed for kidnapping and remanded in prison, the plot abruptly fast forwarded from 1978 to his eventual release in 2006, evolving into a grisly tale of revenge. It soon becomes clear that the world is a very different place 28 years onwards – a scene in which TK struggles to grasp the remote of a modern widescreen TV is almost moving.

The transition was superbly executed and really helped to make the otherwise insipid plot and mission set much more invigorating. What’s more, the shift in decades had a profound effect on the gameplay aesthetics, as the once orange tinted scenery was replaced in favour of a more garish grey to depict the modern age.

Vehicles transformed from monstrous muscle cars to luxury saloons, the pedestrian’s sense of fashion became less eccentric and even TK’s walking animation visibly changed from a hippy groove to a more subdued stroll. Parallel Lines was also the first Driver game to feature a licensed soundtrack that played like a radio station during gameplay – to reflect the changing times, the likes of David Bowie were replaced by the monotone mumblings of the Kaiser Chiefs. If nothing else, it served as a depressing reminder of how much the music industry has slumped in so little time.

Despite the improvements however, to me Parallel Lines didn’t feel like a true Driver game for the most part. Of course the absence of Tanner was a primary factor, but the tweaks made to the gameplay in an effort to revitalise the franchise consequently diminished Driver’s soul.

This was most evident in the adopting of a new free roaming mechanic that was largely akin to GTA. Whereas before missions were solely undertaken in the Undercover mode leaving leisurely drives to Take a Ride, here everything was implemented into a seamless open world. On paper it may have sounded promising, but in practice it just didn’t fit into the established Driver world and felt distinctly out of place.

Additional mini games could also be found scattered around the expansive map, but they again lacked the convenience of the instant access found in previous Driver games. Speaking of feeling out of place, one mini game revolved around dedicated track racing which was previously uncharted territory for the Wheelman. It was easy to see why though, since Driver’s city driving physics felt considerably unsuitable when placed in a track racing scenario.

But that wasn’t the biggest crime that Parallel Lines committed, because it removed my most cherished Driver trademark that always kept me playing for hours: the Film Director. Being able to cobble together your own rendition of Hollywood car chase films has always been a hallmark of the series, so it was a massive disappointment for hardcore fans to see it omitted. It was reportedly removed in order to improve the performance of the game however, which turned out to be a profitable sacrifice considering how much better the frame rate was.

All in all, Parallel Lines made a good conscious effort to revitalise the stuttering series, but the end result amounted to a game that lost some of its personality in the process by trying too hard to mimic GTA’s conventions, consequently adding itself to the piling list of failed GTA clones. Martin Edmondson had nothing to do with the project following his departure, and it showed. Then again, you could say that this direction was a natural and necessary evolution.

Parallel Lines also spawned a PSP prequel known as Driver 76, which essentially ran on the engine from Parallel Lines with a new storyline set in 1976. For a PSP game it was technically proficient, but as a new entry in the Driver series it was lacking in innovation if you had already played Parallel Lines.

And so, after following the trail of tyre marks engraved by the Wheelman across the globe, we have reached the end of our road trip right back where we started in San Francisco. Driver: San Francisco is currently set for release early next year after an unfortunate delay, marking the first entry for the series on next generation consoles. Martin Edmondson is now firmly back in the driving seat as well, meaning you can forget that Parallel Lines ever existed – move along TK, Tanner is back in town.

Since its debut at E3 2010, San Francisco has already made a name for itself thanks largely to its innovative Shift mechanic that allows you to switch instantaneously between cars without ever leaving your vehicle on-foot. It seems to have divided the fans however, with some scathing at the removal of out of the car action while others have applauded Shift’s execution and ease of use.

The fact remains that the original Driver was never about being out of the car and excelled in what it set out to do. The series went into decline as soon as they introduced the on-foot mechanic which made it lose focus, so it’s natural that Reflections want to revert back to the glory days. Shift therefore sounds like a fair compromise, but my only reservation is the way in which it has been woven into the plot concerning Tanner’s coma. It just sounds too supernatural and preposterous, but its full context remains to be seen.

From the gameplay footage seen so far, my personal gripe lies with the vehicle selection, which now includes licensed cars for the first time. For a game set in San Francisco, there is a strange abundance of European cars populating the streets including Abaths and Alfa Romeos, along with rare supercars such as the McLaren SLR and Pagina Zonda Cinque – only five of these were made in reality so its placement as a civilian car is glaringly unrealistic. So far, the car list would seem more appropriate in Test Drive Unlimited than Driver, but I can only hope for a better balance in the final game, particularly as Reflections has always ensured the car selection is spot-on in accordance to the location before.

With the Wheelman now hopefully on the road to recovery, the anticipation for this belated series reboot is mounting. I wholeheartedly cannot wait for Driver‘s next generation revival – let’s just hope history doesn’t repeat itself from the bleaker days of the past. My only worry is that, due to the level of competition over the years, the expectations for a game of this genre are far higher than they were 10 years ago, meaning that the back to basics approach may not cut it in today’s industry.

Driver: San Francsco will therefore be an important milestone in the series history, as no Driver sequel has managed to fully capture the spark of the original so far. This is your last chance for redemption, Reflections.

That’s it for Driver Month! I hope you have enjoyed the ride. Drive recklessly.

  1. avatar verygoodyear

    I never played PL. I think the stench of Driver 3 (fuck you whoever thought of “Driv3r”) just put me off the franchise. I can’t say I’m that excited by the new one either. The out of world stuff just seems too much of a gimmick. We’ll see I guess.

    Nice piece.

  2. avatar Khoserken

    I think Parallel Lines was slightly better than D3. The removal of the bugs and glitches and the slightly better on foot controls (the lack of jumping was a bit a annoying though) made me have a better experience. But yeah, I really missed Tanner and especially, the Film Director.

    Also, I cannot wait for San Francisco. It looks very interesting, albeit the amount of European cars in the game is a bit strange. And the Shift mechanic seems to be very innovative. Hopefully, as innovative as the first game and the on foot from the second game.

  3. I never played Parallel Lines but you seem to be ribbing it awfully hard here. It was different from previous Driver games but honestly it needed to be. Driver 3 was panned hard and 2 was a disappointment. Basically it was change or die. I won’t fault them for copying parts of the most successful open world/sandbox game. It may not have felt like Driver 3 but honestly most people would consider that a good thing.

  4. avatar Dr. Doom

    I will probably not be buying San Francisco, due solely to Shift. Thank you, Reflections, for making me waste 6 years of my life waiting for Tanner to return.

    Good review, though.

    • I’m reserving my judgement until I’ve played it myself. Hopefully using Shift won’t be mandatory if you don’t like it though though, so I probably won’t end up using it in a lot of chases.

    • The way you describe it Martin shift would only make sense if Tanner were tooling around in the car from Crackdown 1 :p

    • avatar Khoserken

      @Martin

      I read somewhere that it’s not obligatory to use Shift all the time. It’s only obligatory to use it on a “tutorial” mission.

    • avatar Antonio

      I totally agree with you. I am VERY disappointed, and this is not something that can be fixed easily. They should fire whoever came up with this stupid idea before they have another one. I can’t even find the words to express how disappointed I am with them because of that. :(

      I will however buy and play the game because I’m a huge fan of the series.

  5. avatar Blobber

    I’ve got some serious issues with this section, as there are many conclusions you jump to that are far from established and other points that are just flat out wrong. For starters, the driving model in PL was not retained from previous drivers- that’s Driv3r you’re thinking of. PL’s was the first one that tried making the cars handle differently.

    You can still have someone shoot from your car in Driv3r.

    Having the crime based on the particular vehicle that caused it was nothing new- this dated back as far as Driver 2. The only new thing PL brought was the suspicion meter, which is what you should have talked about.

    There is no basis at all for saying this was the hands down best New York portrayal- Many would cite GTA3, True Crime New York City, Mafia and other games as doing it better and far more interestingly.

    From what I hear, the first half was far more alive and invigorating than the second half. Many cite the revenge story as predictable and boring with bad music.

    Parallel Lines isn’t even close to the first one to use licensed music. Even Driver 2 had them, and it was a huge selling point in Driv3r’s marketing.

    We started in Miami, not San Francisco.

    There is no basis that the mere presense of on foot lost the focus. Far more likely that it had more to do with the bad controls of on foot and the use of foreign cities and bad framerates and worse graphics.

    Finally, out of place cars are nothing new. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

    • I would say the driving model was tweaked here and there, but the core characteristics were still there to make it a Driver game.

      From what I remember, you could only shoot out of the car in the dedicated quick chase mode and it was with a passenger as opposed to Tanner like on the cover.

      The suspicion felony meter is what I was referring to.

      The location will always be a matter of opinion, but I felt it was the best representation for its time that depicted the modern day NYC in terms of graphics, traffic density and scale.

      Again, each to their own there but I personally found the plot twist more interesting.

      In terms of licensed music, I meant that Parallel Lines was the first to use it during gameplay like a radio station.

      I was referring to the first Driver game’s San Francisco setting to tie in with the next game.

      I think if they hadn’t have included on-foot then the issues you cite wouldn’t have been as prevalent.

      I just think that Reflections take a lot of pride in their maps and car models, so for me having out of place cars in the city would take away from the immersion.

    • avatar Thena

      Wait, I cannot fathom it being so sratightfroawrd.

  6. avatar Jamil

    What’s wrong with having a bunch of European cars in San Francisco?

    It appears to be set in the modern day and I really don’t have a problem with a bunch of non-American cars in America.

    • How many Abarth 500′s and Alfa Romeos do you see in San Francisco?

      I wouldn’t mind so much if they were less frequent, but from the videos released so far they appear to be on every street, so hopefully the final game will be a bit more balanced.

    • avatar Antonio

      It’s just wrong! That’s not what the real city in, you know, real life, actually has. It also makes it look like it’s not a Driver game. It shouldn’t only have sports cars either, in fact I’d really like if there were plenty of NORMAL road cars just like all other Driver games. (Even though Parallel Lines introduced some new supercars which BTW I didn’t like, but still they were still veeery rare in the game)

  7. avatar Arron Gumbrell

    I missed the director mode for 4. Hope it been inproved for the new game.

  8. avatar Antonio

    I hate this whole “coma” thing. This is not what a real Driver game would be like. I would even go as far as to consider shifting cars while playing the game as cheating.

    Come on, in one of the videos the guy is playing as a cop pursuing a suspect, then all of the sudden he decides he wants to take the big 18-wheeler going the other way and crash into the suspect, ending the pursuit. That was really ridiculous, awful, and terrible. I have always LOVED the Driver series, it had been my favorite series for a long time, but now they have screwed it. Parallel Lines doesn’t really look like a Driver game and Driver San Francisco came in to finally make it even worse: they’ve screwed up the story, making a super-hero Tanner which, while IN COMA, saves the world from enemies of the police, goes around changing through very limited editions of super cars that don’t even belong to the game’s city and do whatever stupid things necessary to quickly arrest a suspect (flying to a truck and using it to hit the suspect’s car? Going up the skies to see the city from above and find some new criminals to arrest with his super powers? hit a petrol station and explode your car, “die”, and then switch cars with someone else on the street? YOU’VE GOT TO BE JOKING, PLEASE! What about the lives of the people you just randomly pick the cars? What’s going on in Ubisoft? They should fire whoever came up with this stupid idea before they have another one.)

    Oh, come on! A 7-year old child would do a better job at a plot than these guys have done from what we’ve seen until now. And I used to love the Driver story!

    Either way, as a huge fan of the series, even if they manage to screw it up even worse (I can’t imagine any way it could get worse) I will still purchase it and play it. I’ve waited a long time for a new Driver game and I still believe they can’t screw EVERYTHING, so there’s got to be something good in this game.

    • avatar Max.Thunder

      TOTALLY AGREE, Driver should go back to his roots, with an inmersive storyline, cool cutscenes, realistic handling and damage of the cars, awesome soundtracks, photorealistic graphics. Bring back the realism of Driver series, that’s what i liked Driver series, because it was way more realistic than GTA.

      Now Driver SF looks like game for kids, the game is rated for Teen, it must be a joke. The graphic engine looks awful with those bright colours everywhere, it looks a copy of NFS Most Wanted, Undercover or Midnight Club L.A. The trailer of the game looks crappier than the cutscenes of the previous games which looked more like a film.

      I like licensed cars, multiplayer, that Tanner, Jericho and Tobias are back, the cockpit view, but i don’t like the Shift feature.
      About the cars, the should put more ordinary cars, this isn’t Dubai, seeing the pics and videos I don’t agree seeing in the streets a lot of Zonda’s, Bugatti’s,Alfa 8C Competizione, Bentley’s, and some vintage cars like Challengers and GT 500′s, it’s rare to see those cars on San Francisco streets, they should put less exotic and luxury cars, and put more ordinary american cars, with a bit of muscle cars.
      With the licensed cars i think that it will be less damage on the cars because of the fact that they are licensed.

      I don’t like that you can’t get off your car, the Shift feauture looks that Tanner is a kind of ghost, it’s weird and i don’t like it, they should have done like in Driver 2, to change the car you should get off your car and pick up another car.

      Finally, WTF happened with the characters? They are totally different but the game is set only a few months of Driv3r. Tanner looks younger and Tobias Jones even has more hair (picture). Maybe they have done medical surgery.
      http://bulk2.destructoid.com/ul/176100-e3-10-first-look-at-ubisoft-s-driver-san-francisco/DRVSF_CA_001_MissionLookingForTheKidnapper-620x.jpg

      Also WTF happened with the continuation of the storyline of Driv3r, Tanner wants to find the buyers of the cars, after that Calita says that the cars go to Russia. So i don’t why the game is set in San Francisco. The should be set in Russia, according to the ending of Driv3r

      My alternative short storyline of DrIVer
      http://www.drivermadness.net/forum/v2/viewtopic.php?p=28346#p28346

  9. I was worried when I first heard about the ‘shift’ idea, and ok it does seem abit out of place, as do the amount of european cars on the streets of San Francisco, but after watching a few of the preview trailers I cannot wait for the game to come along.

    San Francisco looks brilliant, as do the classic physics of the cars we have become used to in the Driver games. And Tanner the original star is back, the game is really going back to it’s routes and I think it is going to be great.

  10. avatar Anonymous

    Well Driver 3 had great concept by roaming on foots and steal cars but one thing let the game down was game poor garaphics after playing GTA’s games on PS2 Driver series creators should have provided better graphics, same in Parallel lines they had every thing only lake of better graphics but in this new game San Francisco they have provided better garaphic but they didnt provided the roaming on foot feature, fucing eaither the makers are dumbs or what that they dont understan that the people would love to see Tanner wallking on streets on foot and shooting around, this could have given an outstanding profiable point to a game. well lets see how does he new featue work on new game.

  11. avatar Leave a Reply

    ????

  12. avatar ivan

    este juego es genial tios

  13. avatar bloomi bolokov

    Licensing Alfa Romeo and Abarth, neither of which are available in America at this moment in time was just ludicrously inane. That would have been as silly as having Studebakers in Nice or Holdens in Istanbul.

    Having seen the cars in the video, it ruined any shred of interest I may have had in buying this. I liked the second and third game’s locales for free-roaming/sight-seeing and SF is a city that appeals, but having it populated by numerous cars unavailable to the American market ruins the attempt at reality and makes you wonder what else they got horribly wrong.

  14. avatar anonymous

    i love driver PL more then driv3r R.I.P THE KID

  15. avatar Lopez

    Parallel lines was awesome, but I never got a chance to play Driver 2 or 3. So I was comparing it to other free roaming games and it was the best apart from GTA. If not Driver is better than some GTAs. I had it for Wii and the controls where perfect.

  16. avatar draiver

    draiver paralelo lines e u melhor jogo da vida e mais e melhor do que gta ne

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