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Driver: Parallel Lines Review

Published April 5, 2006 by |

The development of the latest game in the Driver series has been surrounded by two inevitable questions. Firstly, could it escape from the enormous GTA shaped shadow that now dominated a genre it helped to create, and secondly, could it possibly be any worse than Driv3r? The answer is a resounding no for both of them.

There’s no doubt that Driver: Parallel Lines has rectified many of the mistakes of it’s predecessor. Everything from the graphics to the handling of the cars is now infinitely better, and it retains one of the only saving graces from before: the incredible-looking cut-scenes. This time around it also has a much better storyline and this is one of the areas it manages to get one over on GTA, from your first meeting with pimp-daddy Slink you’re thrown into a world of crime, corruption and betrayal all set in New York City circa 1978.

This seventies setting means Driver: Parallel Lines has far more style and funk than Driv3r ever had, and it nearly rivals Vice City’s 80s look. There is also a more interesting protagonist this time around; there are only so many times Tanner could play the ‘Undercover Cop’ role after all, so enter stage left: ‘The Kid’ or TK as he’s known to his friends. He’s a pretty skilled driver and comes to New York to meet his old friend Ray, and eventually finds work as a getaway driver for the local gangs.

As you play through the game you’ll become involved with some pretty nasty characters introduced by Slink and after one of the local drug lords is kidnapped and murdered, TK is used as the fall guy and spend the next 28 years behind bars. When he gets out, the game returns to a modern day setting, complete with new cars, weapons and locales, and TK sets out to get revenge on those who framed him for murder. The script, animation and voice acting are all top quality and the high production values means you’ll be gripped to the story far more than in GTA.

So how else does it compare to Rockstar’s game? Driver: PL’s world definitely has less opportunities for sandbox play than GTA; there are less side missions and nothing like the stunt bonuses or Ambulance missions. There’s less freedom to do what you want and the game world is smaller (about double the size of Vice City) which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the city’s design is far more solid and detailed than in GTA, although I’d say Liberty City and the other cities featured in GTA have more character. Graphically, Driver trumps GTA in nearly every way, with more detailed cars, greater draw distances and less of the slow-down and pop-up that detracted from San Andreas. The soundtrack, featuring 70 licensed tracks from 1978 and present day also gives GTA a run for it’s money and has a pretty good set to rival Vice City’s spamtastic selection.

Where Driver falls sort is in the missions and actual gameplay; GTA is far more fun to play and has more variety. There are only so many different ways you can dress up a mission where you drive something from A to B or have to take out a specific target which is a problem that is going to affect this particular genre more and more. Still some of the missions are carried out with such style that you hardly realise you’re doing essentially the same thing over and over. This is particularly noticeable in the game’s tutorial which while well integrated (And thankfully not set in a car park) are virtually the same as all the game’s of this type; memorize the streets and local landmarks, learn how to shoot/follow someone etc. Seeing as everyone already knows how to play these types of games I think it’s about time we were given the option to skip these tutorials and get our teeth into the main game.

Control wise, Driver gets it mostly spot on. The handling for each of the cars is well-tuned and each one feels different enough, while out of the car, TK moves along at a fair pace although he’s not as speedy as CJ or Tommy Vercetti. What is disappointing is the lock-on system; GTA has slowly got better but none of the genres big hitters have yet managed to implement a successful targeting system. It means that, yet again, some of the on foot missions are more frustrating than they need to be and really lets Driver: PL down in it’s final few missions.

So is it better overall than GTA? Not quite, but it is the closest any competitor has managed to come so far and does have better presentation. Does it eradicate the awful Driv3r from our memories? Almost; it is a far better game in every sense and it is genuinely fun to play, but it still fails to fix some of the problems from the original. The AI of enemies and pedestrians is pretty bad and parts of the game world lack character.

Still with the funky 70s and gritty modern settings, Driver is a big enough game to keep you entertained and his has some really good missions towards it’s finale. Whether you enjoy it more than GTA will come down to personal preference but this will provide a lot of fun for those willing to give it a chance.