After the critical and commercial success of “Driver” developer Reflections Interactive released the sequel “Driver 2: The Wheelman Is Back” in 2000 for the PlayStation. Would the sequel be a smashing success like the first entry? The Wheelman is back and so is TigerChainsaw for this Driver 2 review!
Driver 2 Plot:
Tanner is back from the original Driver. As an undercover cop who helped bring down a crime organization in the first game as the wheelman, Tanner is hired again to go undercover. This time, Tanner will be infiltrating two deadly gangs with help from his partner Tobias Jones. After a gruesome murder leaves a Brazilian gangster dead, Tanner tracks down information on the murder that involves a man named Lenny who is a Chicago money launderer. Lenny has been working for a gang in the U.S. but has made a deal with the Brazilian gang to come work for them.
After a few missions in Chicago, Tanner and Tobias travel to Havana, Cuba where it’s rumored that Lenny is working. Lenny’s ex-gang is run by a man named Caine and his hitman Jericho who are working on tracking him down. It’s revealed that Lenny has left Havana on a boat headed to San Diego where he’ll travel to Las Vegas afterward to do some more work.
Tanner takes off for Las Vegas hoping to catch Lenny there but instead captures Jericho and uses him as a negotiation tactic for a truce. Teaming up with Caine, Tanner works for him in Las Vegas while securing more info on Lenny. Tobias has been working undercover for the Brazilian gang for their leader Vasquez who has been working closely with Lenny. They discover that Lenny and Vasquez have left for Rio, Brazil. Jericho and Tanner continue to work together as they close in on Lenny. Tobias’ cover is blown and he is shot by Vasquez’s men. Tanner and Jericho rush to chase down Lenny before he takes off in a helicopter. They damage the helicopter as it takes off with gunshots. As the helicopter stutters to safety, Tanner turns the gun on Jericho and reveals he’s an undercover cop. It’s assumed that Jericho is arrested by Brazilian police as sirens in the background grow louder. Tanner takes off to chase the damaged helicopter. He finds the wreckage and arrests Lenny closing the case and shutting down one of the most wanted men in two separate gangs.
Driver 2 Gameplay:
The first Driver shined with the car damage and physics of driving. Like Driver 1 (Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York) Driver 2 features four cities that you’ll visit and drive around. This time as mentioned in the story you’ll be burning rubber in Chicago, Havana, Las Vegas, and Rio.
This is where Driver 2 outshines the original. Chicago wasn’t much to look at but I felt like I was really visiting Havana, Las Vegas, and Rio. With Havana, it had cars from the 1950s just like the real country does due to the U.S. embargo on shipped goods to Cuba. As someone who has been to Las Vegas a dozen times, I loved driving the city on the PS1. I was very impressed with how they were able to create recognizable landmarks from Vegas including the strip with the Eifel Tower, the Pyramid, and the Pirate Ship, all real landmarks from Vegas that were fun to drive by. I’ve never been to Rio but I got a sense of the culture there with the exotic beaches and colorful sidewalks.
Another upgrade from the original Driver is the number of vehicles in the game. Instead of just cars, the game now features trucks, vans, buses, limos, and various cars to drive bringing a more realistic feeling to the game. The biggest upgrade to the gameplay is the fact that Tanner can get out of the vehicle and steal other cars. If your car sustains too much damage, just hop on out and grab another. Remember, this is before Grand Theft Auto III, so this is highly impressive. This earns high points in my Driver 2 review!
Those were the highlights of the upgraded gameplay, now let’s take a look at what I found annoying. I give the developers credit for taking Tanner out of the car and giving him the ability to run around and flip switches or steal cars, but controlling him on foot may be the worst and most awkward feeling ever. I lost out on several missions because Tanner wouldn’t run the way I was directing him. It was terrible with the joysticks and wasn’t much better using the directional pad. If you are going to install a groundbreaking game mechanic, make sure it doesn’t suck!
The next issue I had was the slowdown of the gameplay. Driver 1 suffered a few times from overpopulating the screen with cars which it’d slow the gameplay down but that was every now and then. In Driver 2, the slowdown effect was constant and in almost every mission. There were missions that I played through with the cars crawling by as my own vehicle struggled to accelerate. It just seems like the game had too much going on for the PS1 to handle it all at once in a smooth sequence.
Perhaps it was because I didn’t own Driver 2 in my childhood, but I noticed right away that the difficulty setting was much higher than the original. That’s not a bad thing as I said in my review of Driver 1 that every mission I beat on the first or second try but in Driver 2 the missions are much more difficult, don’t get me started on chasing that truck that tosses bombs out the back. I felt like when I beat a mission it wasn’t from my driving skills but out of pure dumb luck. You just had to get lucky that the cops or whoever was crashing into you missed you during that playthrough.
Driver 2 kept the fun mini-games that I loved in the original but threw away the amazing game menu from the original for a boring standard menu that comes with every game. They also got rid of the ability to select missions or take a break. If you wanted to go for a ride you’d have to exit the main game and go back to the menu. In the original, you could go to your hotel room and have a few options which was a nice touch. That’s all gone now, unfortunately.
I was able to beat the game but was left wanting more from the story. Gone was the interesting characters from Driver 1 with too much personality, replaced by dull typical gangsters. My Driver 2 review craved more content as it wasn’t satisfied.
I have thousands of memories of Driver 1 from my childhood but not many from Driver 2. I had a few friends that had the game but aside from playing it for a few hours with them, I had never given the game a shot until now.
Driver 2 Review Score:
Driver 2 adds a few upgrades to the gameplay and enhances the vehicles and cities that you drive in giving it a fun and realistic feel to the game. Unfortunately, they also subtracted a few things that made me fall in love with the original game. Put them both together and you get more subtractions than additions with Driver 2 acting as an original game instead of a sequel. It’s a fun game still with plenty to offer but I prefer the original.
Driver 2 scores an 8 out of 10.
What would you write in your Drive 2 review? What did you think of Driver 2 when it first came out? Were you excited to steal other cars? Did you enjoy the story? What was your favorite city to play through and did you have a favorite mission? Let me know your thoughts and memories of Driver 2, I’d love to read them!