Driving into trouble.
When the Driver series slammed onto the original PlayStation, it managed to corner a pretty nice market for itself. Turning the gamer into a getaway driver, the series thrived when it home in on recreating some of the most iconic action movie set pieces experiences. With demand high, a sequel was inevitable. That game arrived in the year 2000 – called Driver 2.
One thing you can’t fault about this game is the scale of its ambition. For a late-day PlayStation One offering, it certainly goes all out in trying to break down limitations. It offers four fully playable cities which the gamer can explore at their own leisure, or play through the story missions. These include Chicago, Rio, Havana and Las Vegas. Each is distinctive in it alright with unique aesthetics and car sets – helping to create a sense of unique environment in each. Certainly if we were grading this game on quantity, it would take home the gold star.
But alas, Driver 2 pays for this ambition in sheer disappointment elsewhere. Most notably, these cities are largely devoid of things to actually do. This is a critique that many of these early 3D open world games suffer from – but Driver 2 suffers insanely from it. Free roam is effectively a gallery to go up at the world that the developers have created. You’re kind of left wondering what the point of it all is. Given that you can’t run down pedestrians and the like of proper side missions – the game feels like an empty playground.
It’s also clear elsewhere that the game had to make sacrifices to exist at all. Notably while the games scale has increased, the graphics have taken a notable step back from the original outing. It’s a bizarre compromise that ultimately trashes some moments in the game, as the draw distance and the frame rate collapse without warning. It’s clear the PlayStation One struggles to keep up with the high-end demands of the game, with long loading times blighting many of the story mission cutscenes. Even back in the day, these were notable; in 2017 though – it’s downright unplayable.
It gets worse when the screen fills up with police cars. At times the world seemingly disappears beyond the edge of your bonnet as the game desperately tries to keep up with the demands. Cars pop out of nowhere and ruin your chances of successfully completing missions full stop when they turn your experience into a horrifying bumper car experience. The streets of your chosen city are also usually empty – with the game unwilling to populate its streets in case you end up rampling up the action.
But the fun doesn’t end there. One huge addition between the two Driver games was the addition of on foot sections in the sequel. Now you are free to step out into the world and take on challenges outside of your four-wheeled friend. Sadly you may want to stay inside the car as the world outside is a horrifying reality. Your character moves through the world like every joint on his body is made of rubber, flopping around like a bag in the wind.
Combat in these sections is universally awful, resulting in almost certain death. It makes some sections of the game insanely tedious – adding to the other problems already mentioned. Certainly this was an ambitious idea but, with Grand Theft Auto 3 months away, it’s easy to look back and wonder how the hell gamers on PlayStation One ever accepted this level of awful.
It also must be said that the story missions are incredibly dull. the variety of missions on offer are laughably thin on the ground. Most missions see you driving from A to B, sometimes with a timer and sometimes with police chasing you. No matter what the scenario, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be engaged by the time you hit the second city. This isn’t helped by some alarmingly sharp difficulty spikes, which will see you racing against the clock a one mission, then taking a Sunday stroll the next.
Up to now this article has been pretty depressing, so what’s actually good about this title? The driving controls are actually fairly decent. They don’t rival the best on the console (Dedicated racing games beat this a game heavily) but given the context of the action set pieces, the controls are robust enough for you to get some enjoyment out of them. Certainly jumping over drawbridges and making fleeting escapes can be hugely fun when the game wants to play nice.
The reality is that Driver 2, while a technically impressive game for its time, isn’t a good game. Unlike the original Driver , which was focussed to the point of pure adrenaline, Driver 2 falls well short of that bar. In growing to a huge scale, the game takes numerous steps backwards – relinquishing the outright excitement that made the original so fun.
It’s a terrible shame – as there’s so much potential here. But Driver 2 is a victim of its own ambition – a lacking game that neither has the parts to stand out, nor the polish to appeal to anyone but the series most hardcore fans.