Developer: Macsoft/Infogrames (product page)
Price: $29.99 (list)
Requirements: G3-based Mac with Mac OS 8.6, 128 MB of RAM (including virtual memory), Rage Pro or better.
Trial: Feature-limited (only one mission), 31.7 MB
You assume the role of an ex-race driver turned policeman who goes deep undercover to infiltrate organized crime syndicates across the country. You turn in your gun and badge for the keys to a 70s muscle car and the chance to build a reputation for fast wheels and cool nerves among the law-breaking elite. The game features a wide variety of missions, most of which are courier- or chase-oriented, following location or time objectives in a race around realistically-modeled US cities while avoiding police pursuit.
The installation process was relatively painless, with all game files deposited into a single folder. There are two game applications, one for Glide 3D cards and one for all others. You also need InputSprocket and QuickTime to play. You don’t need the game CD to play, so pop in your favorite CD of driving tunes for maximum gaming enjoyment.
Look and Feel
Originally released on the PlayStation a while back, the graphics suffer somewhat from the passage of time, lacking the polish of the newest generation of games. Atmospheric changes and effects (day, night, thunderstorms, etc.) are good, but I would like to see more attention paid to the car, since it’s the focus of the game.
There are several cities in the game, all modeled after real-life street layouts (but squared-off for the sake of geometry). You begin with Miami and San Francisco and unlock other cities as you progress through the game. Although you start with just one car, you’ll receive calls from garages as you advance through the undercover missions. At the garage, pick your current car from a growing assortment. Make sure to switch to newer cars as they become available, to improve speed and handling.
Avoid police cars; they hurt!
There are several gameplay options, including open city driving and trial runs of each basic mission type, but the game’s focus is the undercover missions. You start in Miami behind the wheel of a bulky Nova look-a-like, doing courier and getaway work for the local dirtbags. The early missions are simple: drive to a location within a time limit, then to another location while eluding cops and without wrecking your car (these goals go hand-in-hand, as cops are very good at wrecking your car). The missions add story elements, but you don’t have decision-making power outside the available missions, so it’s all about the driving.
Real gamers don’t use turn signals.
During the mission itself, you drive around the city and follow on-screen directions, checking the miniature and full-city maps to locate your destination and plan your driving route. If you fail a mission, you have unlimited retries, which you’ll frequently need in the higher levels. You return to your hotel after some missions (where you can save your progress), but sometimes set out immediately for follow-up missions. This can be trying on the nerves, since you may need to pass three or four challenging missions in a row before you can save your game again.
Though most missions are of the “drive from A to B to C” variety, there are also several chases, car thievery, and some taxi “intimidation,” where you drive like a crazy person to freak out the passenger (in other words, it’s just like a real taxi ride). Each car handles differently, but they generally improve speed, acceleration, and handling as the game goes on.
Slip through oncoming traffic to shed police pursuit.
The game display is simple, defaulting to a behind-the-car view that works well (and warns you of police in close pursuit). There’s also an in-car view, in case you like close-ups of your crunched hood. The Damage and Felony meters in the upper left are crucial to game play, since your car is wrecked if you hit too many things and police cars become more plentiful and aggressive as your felonies increase (so if you speed or hit things, don’t do it where the cops can see you!).
Slip between the cop cars to evade roadblocks.
The mini-map in the lower right corner shows a two-block radius around you; press Escape and you can access the complete city map, which will prove essential for the long-range destinations of later missions.
Follow the mini-map’s grey arrow to your destination.
Driver includes a “filmed” action replay of your mission for those who like to add that “Streets of San Francisco” feel to their driving. There are tons of replay features to fiddle with, including alternating viewpoints, stationary cameras, and so on. You can also store your replays to savor in your golden years.
Check the back window to see who’s tailing you.
Driver’s play control is simple enough to play with a keyboard, but you could certainly use a game pad or driving wheel instead. Basically, you have forward, reverse, stop, peel out, and turn (no gear shifting or part upgrades). The Escape key pauses the game and brings up the in-game option screen.
Catch air off the steep San Fran hills.
There are two problems I have with Driver, the first of which is Training. Undercover mode starts with a training session, which drills you on driving skills and maneuvers in a one-minute timed session. You must pass the training session before you can start to play, which gets frustrating quickly. It is useful to learn the different driving moves, but requiring that first-time players pass this first is, in my opinion, unreasonable. At least the PlayStation version showed you which buttons to press during the training demo—the Mac version is not that kind. For help on the training, see the Infogrames Driver FAQ. If you’re a first-time player, plan to spend at least an hour on training.
That annoying training mode.
My second problem is the cars’ handling, which is very loose, especially considering the successful physics models of driving games like Carmageddon. I can’t say I’ve driven any 70s muscle cars personally, but I’d give Chevy a piece of my mind if my real car slid this much. The responsiveness of the later cars improves, so I guess that’s the game’s way of rewarding progress. Unfortunately, the equivalent in an action game would be progressing several stages through a game before your character learned to duck. It’s just a bad gameplay concept.
Driver is a quality action racing game, although it’s lost some of the showroom shine and new car smell since its original release. While it dabbles in each, this isn’t the game for the diehard racer or plot enthusiast. If Racing Days R and Carmageddon had a child, this would be it: the thrill of cruising the city and dodging traffic mixed with a modicum of real-world game design. Driver has decent replay value, as you can try out the missions you missed the first time around, and should perform well on any G3-powered, 3D-enhanced Mac model.
Finish the game to unlock the Jaguar and a special city.