So I ran this guy over. I guess I didn't like the look of him. He gets up twice, but I pop him back down again until he runs out of getting up juice. This causes the police to arrive, two of them. They screech to a halt nearby, get out of the car and then stand still. One stands in front of his police car, which proves a mistake when a van crashes into the back of it, causing the policeman to be run over by his own abandoned vehicle. The other cop reacts by sprinting off down the road, remembering himself, then turning around and running back, colliding with the bonnet of another van and running madly on the spot. The previously squished cop gets up, charges off down the road, and starts shooting his gun at a passing taxi.
So the cab driver gets out, shoots the cop dead then runs toward me, firing. I shoot him, for my own protection, causing two more cops to instantaneously arrive and kill me on the spot.
Welcome to Driv3r. A game that almost equals Soldner for levels of mad-faced brokenness. And that's not a compliment I hand out lightly.
How Driv3r managed… Actually, no. See, even all these years later I still can't do it. Eight years ago, in 2003, when we first saw what Atari had planned for marketing this game, everyone was horrified. Surely not? Surely putting the 3 in the place of the 'e' was a joke, not a serious plan. And still seven years since release, I am not willing to do it. It's Driver 3. Because Drivthreer DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.
How Driver 3 managed to be this bad is a mystery. It was made by the same team behind the previous Driver games, the same team that had been making games since 1984 and the same people who had made Shadow Of The Beast, for goodness' sake. Atari threw so much money at the marketing that you have to believe someone somewhere must have thought it was good (you could slightly misinterpret that sentence, and think I was suggesting something about certain magazines' review scores, but you would be SO WRONG to.) How Reflections could have been squatting down to lay such a steaming turd is beyond my understanding.
Because Driver 3 gets everything wrong. It gets things wrong before it even starts. Driver 3, on PC, is a game of such extraordinary arrogance that it enforces some ghastly music on you as it painfully slowly installs. When you can eventually load the game it then gives you a mouse so unwieldy that hitting the options from the menu is a game of luck and skill more interesting than the one that lies beyond. The PC controls default to two hands on the keyboard, with almost no display options to fix the horrendous graphics. And what a menu it all comes from. You can choose from:
- Take a ride
- Driving Games
- Quit Game
Which one contains the game itself is not explained. It hides, it turns out, behind "Undercover", where you'll be transported into a magical Hollywood world of intrigue and action. The Hollywood that produced Catwoman, that is.
The cast Atari got on board was pretty impressive. Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames, Michelle Rodriguez, Mickey Rourke and Demetri Goritsas. Although poor Demetri's name is spelt wrong in the credits, because it's that sort of game. They all offer their disinterested voices to smeary CGI sequences that have absolutely nothing in common with the missions that slot between them. The game clearly has a plot but caring about it would require the sort of effort I'm too old to muster. I think the cop is undercover, and then the men want to shoot the other men.
Driver 3 is a game that offers all its joy when you don't follow the mission markers. Follow them and its hideous, hollow ways surround you like the ghost of a car wreck, haunting your gaming soul. The missions are either about driving to or from a place or shooting some mans until you drive to or from a place. Each half offers its own laughable controls, impressively managing to make the on-foot sections even more abysmal than the car handling.
Vehicles drive like angry shopping trolleys filled with cannonballs being precariously pushed along a bowling alley. But on foot is when you get to enjoy your character (I'm sure he has a name) stumbling around like a man having his first go at walking on a trampoline covered in marbles. The animations are genuinely amusing, best enjoyed during the in-game cutscenes when you can see the robotic walk-dance performed at its finest.
Missions are hilariously unfair, the deranged AI constantly cheating, instructions impossibly vague, and obviously there are no useful checkpoints. An absolute favourite has to be the PC exclusive level where you're instructed to "KILL TICO", but if you try to do so at any point before the very end you instantly lose. He's in a boat, you're on a bike, and you're chasing him. So jump into a boat on the shore, right? Wrong, you lose. Get far enough ahead and shoot him from a bridge over the river then? You idiot, he's indestructible! You were meant to keep sliding around on the impossibike until you reached a point that triggers a cutscene, without trying to kill him at all! How they could have kept this level from the Xbox and PS2 players is criminally selfish.
So don't do that. Don't follow the voice-over that appears from nowhere after the first mission is over and picks up a story he didn't start. In fact, before things get properly juicy, don't follow the instructions of the very first mission.
Because during your first trip to the police station, presumably on your way to work (the game forgets to tell you who you are, what you do, etc), the game world hasn't quite woken up. Here you can massacre civilians without punishment, launching yourself into a murderous frenzy. And why wouldn't you enjoy an early morning rampage around the city when all the women are walking around in their underwear? Knickers and a vest - that's what the modern cuboid zombie lady likes to wear.
Finish the assigned task and now things really hot up. This is when your errant actions on the streets entice the attention of those crazy coppers and their Keystone antics. And it never disappoints.
Getting run over is always great. Sometimes you'll slide along the road under the bumper of the car, lying comfortably on a journey that can only be ended by the AI driver suicidally launching himself into a lamppost. Other times you'll get stuck inside the car's bonnet, your torso poking through the top as you glide along. Eventually you'll pop out and find yourself standing on the roof of the car, just like in life.
And it just keeps on giving - if you understand giving to be when someone kicks you hard in the face and then offers you the shoe. A game where you can complete a mission, and then get killed by an explosion within the following cutscene is something very special indeed.
Clearly no one should have ever spent money on Driver 3. But if you ever see a copy languishing in a bin or hiding behind a china teapot in the shape of a country cottage in a charity shop, I implore you to pick it up. I'm so happy I still have the review copy I was sent when it first came out, and I'll treasure it always. Absolutely one of the worst games of all time, and one everyone should have in their collection.