Released June 30th, 1999 for the PlayStation, Driver was developed by Reflections Interactive and published by GT Interactive Software. The game stood out for its realistic car physics and damage. I wouldn’t be surprised if Grand Theft Auto III drew inspiration from the driving in Driver with the detailed city landscapes and busy streets. Driver is a treat, and it’s a game from my childhood. I’m excited to speed away with this Driver review.
What’s the objective of Driver? Well, you are an undercover cop named Tanner who is an ex-race car driver, so naturally, you’re great behind the wheel. Tanner gets informed by his Police Chief that he is going undercover to become a wheelman and infiltrate a dangerous gang. During my Driver review, I had to keep track of all the double-crossing or hidden agents from the plot. I’ve never been good at keeping track of these types of plots, but I tried my best.
Like many police movies, Driver mirrors the complicated plot intertwined with politics. I’ll give a short scoop of the story. Tanner infiltrates a gang in Miami through a pimp named Rufus. Our boy Rufus gets popped by his girlfriend, and his boss moves to San Francisco. Tanner follows and begins working for him while discovering that the gang he is working for is planning to assassinate the President of the United States because their leader is running for President. Tanner’s missions take him from San Francisco to Los Angeles, to New York.
The majority of the story is about Tanner completing missions that will help build a case against the gang and identify the criminal bosses. In the final mission, Tanner drives the President of the United States as thugs, police, and double-agents for the FBI chase his car. Tanner saves the President before turning in his badge, believing that his boss is in on the arranged hit.
Everything that should be in a video game is in Driver starting with the main menu. Games today don’t have interactive menus. It’s always New Game, Continue, and Options. Boring! The interactive menu scored huge points in my Driver review.
Driver’s menu is tailored to the game, it’s not just some boring backdrop, it has character. It has mini-games, cheats, and it has an option just to drive around, which I took advantage of many times. It was fun just to explore and see where I could drive the car or hone my driving skills. This is what I miss about games, you know it’s a video game. Games today take themselves too seriously now, and I know I sound like an old man yelling at a cloud but part of the reason I enjoy video games is that they aren’t real! Driver doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you understand that right from the menu because there’s even an entire section just for cheats.
The menu is top-notch but so is the preview video, another lost art of video games. When you used to wait a minute at the main menu, the video game would play a video that would sort of hype up the game. I don’t think many games do that anymore, but let’s go ahead and watch the Driver video that plays at the beginning of the game.
The world of Driver feels like a real world, it feels lived in with its interesting characters and busy city life. Your missions will occur in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Each city is different from its structures and cars, really making you believe you are in unique areas. You’ll also get a new car in every city so get used to driving it while you’re in town!
The biggest complaint that I hear is how tough the tutorial stage is which is essentially the first mission. Tanner needs to impress some thugs into letting him be the wheelman so he takes them to an underground parking lot where he needs to do things like 180s, slamming on the breaks, and zooming in and out of pillars. I remember playing it and beating it maybe after my third try and that was as a kid! It wasn’t as difficult as everyone makes it sound, so if you can’t beat that, I’m sorry but you suck.
I mentioned the characters in Driver, and boy there are some good ones. Not only are you treated to cut scenes after completing a mission but in-between missions you can take a break by returning to your hotel room. This little hub is where you can save your game, take a ride, or select your next mission by listening to your answer machine that is filled with job offers. This brings up another thing that makes Driver so great, it has replayable value! If you skip one mission during your first run, you can select it on the second run. One thing that had me laughing out loud was the messages on the answering machine from wrong callers. Sometimes you’d get a message from a Chinese delivery man and his accent was hilarious. That attention to detail really made Driver come to life.
Here’s my one complaint with Driver, I recently replayed it for the first time in almost 15 years. As a kid, I could never beat it but I could get pretty far. As an adult, I had no problem cruising to the end mission. There was only one mission that I failed on the first attempt, the rest I was able to complete on the first try. The final mission, however, is almost impossible to beat. The difficulty ramps up so extreme that I was shocked when playing it. I must have replayed the final mission close to 50 times. Think about that! That’s so many restarts. In fact, the poor PS1 that I’ve had for 20 years froze on two different occasions. I will admit that I didn’t properly beat the final mission, I used a cheat code to become invincible to beat it. But what could I do? After 50+ attempts I was fed up with how unfair the mission was!
The final mission has you taking the President of the United States into a parking garage while the secret service and police chase you. You have to be PERFECT to beat this level and I came so close on numerous attempts only to be crushed by police with the end goal just a few feet away. Cheat codes activated!
Driver was a game that my neighborhood friend had. The same kid that had Blackthorne for the Super Nintendo also had this game for the PlayStation. Once I started playing it at his place, I knew I had to get it. I had recently gotten a PlayStation for Christmas after begging my parents for it and they had gotten me two games with it. Rampage and NFL Xtreme 2. Probably not the best games in the PS1 library but they kept the attention of a fourth-grader.
The third game that I ever got for the Playstation, was Driver. One night my Dad and I went to Meijer. Now for those who are not in the Midwest, Meijer is a supermarket store similar to Walmart. So my Dad bought it for me and all I could think of was playing this game on the way home. I grew up in a town of a little over 2,000 people, so if we went to the store, we drove a half-hour to go to the store. As a 10-year-old kid, sitting in the car waiting to get home seemed like an eternity. Once we got home, that eternity grew longer because my oldest sister was using the tv watching the movie The Body Guard, I’ll never forget it. So I’ll forever associate that movie with Driver as I waited another 45 minutes for it to end before kicking my sister out so I could use the PlayStation.
I have so many fond memories of playing Driver but it wasn’t until I decided to review it that I actually beat the game. I could always reach the last city but the missions to a fourth-grader became increasingly difficult in the final stages.
The main game was tons of fun but so were all the mini-games. I loved running from the police and watching the replays. The car damage back then was so realistic and it was satisfying to relive it through the replays. I’d spend hours just playing running from the police, so much fun! If I didn’t want to finish my Driver review and move on to the next game, I surely would have kept replaying the mini-games.
Driver Review Score:
This game is the complete package, a near-perfect game for the original PlayStation. Amazing gameplay, immense attention to detail, a fresh story, and addicting mini-games made Driver a must-have. The controls are a little rough today, but I still loved replaying it. I highly recommend playing it if you haven’t.
Driver scores a 9.7 out of 10.
What would you write in your Driver review? What did you think of Driver when it first came out? Did it blow your mind like it did mine? Did you have fun running from the police or did you spend hours watching your replays? Were you able to beat the tutorial or were you able to beat the final mission without cheating? Let me know your thoughts and memories of Driver, I’d love to read them!
If you’d like to own a copy of Driver you can purchase a preowned edition on eBay for $5-$10.