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Retrospective: Driv3r

As brilliant as it was literate.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

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.

The early bird catches the girls wearing only their pants.

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:

  • Undercover
  • Take a ride
  • Driving Games
  • Options
  • Quit Game
Oh good, a countdown timer in a game that barely functions.

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.