Driver: Parallel Lines PS2 Review

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under PS2, Retro Content, Retro Reviews

Driver 3 may have been a commercial success, although it was met with hostility from critics and gamers alike upon release. This wasn’t entirely surprising as the game was marred by stodgy on-foot controls, which made things overly frustrating outside the vehicles. However we certainly didn’t think the game was as bad as many had suggested, but there certainly was ample room for improvement.

Now comes the lower key release of Driver Parallel Line, which has wisely seen a release minus the massive hype of the third game. Hype is a dangerous thing, which can do more harm to a game then good if it doesn’t live up to the skyscraper expectations paved out in the months before release.

Absent this time around is maverick cop, Tanner (replaced by a criminal wheelman known as The Kid) as well as the popular director mode. Reflections obviously wanted to start afresh with the franchise, and have even taken the game back to its roots somewhat. This has resulted in more driving and less legwork, which has reasserted that “Driver” moniker.

Another weak element of the third game was the dreadful storyline, which made very little sense. The Parallel Lines plot is a definite improvement, and one of the shocking turn of events may even be talked about for months to come (you probably already know what we‘re talking about, although if you don‘t, and you‘d rather avoid plot spoilers, run on ahead to the next paragraph). This genius and would-be shocker comes half way through the game as TK (the games new main character) is banged up in jail for 28 years. It’s an effective plot device, which results in half the game being set in 1978 and the other in 2006. It’s a shame that Atari couldn’t have kept this shift in era quiet, as the contrasting time periods of New York city would have come as a major shock to the player. The differences are instantly palpable, as the characters you grow familiar with suddenly look aged and the inhabiting vehicles and buildings look much more modern in 2006 opposed to 1978.

Like Driver 3 the game seems to be doing its best impression of the GTA series, although to a somewhat lesser extent. Mandatory on-foot sections are now occasional rather than regular, and nowhere near as frustrating as they previously were. Shooting is now set in the more traditional manner, and a reliable lock-on system is much better than running around with a big crosshair on the screen and trying to line your shot up. These sections are also often rife with health packs, which all collectively comes together to make things more bearable. The fact that you can no longer jump or swim proves where Reflections focuses were placed.

Yes the driving was where the series earned its recognition, and Parallel Lines remembers what the meat and potatoes of the franchise was in the first place with an emphasis on behind the wheel action. The physics are still wonderful, and being able to shoot whilst driving is a nice added extra, working much better than one might expect during missions that involve car chases.

That brings us nicely onto the Police and the heat meters that fill up as a result of committing crimes. The difference here is that not only have you got a single meter to keep empty (if you are trying to lay low that is) but two instead. Committing crimes on foot will arouse the attention of the cops, but a separate meter for your current driven vehicle also makes you popular with the police following a few hit and run situations. It’s possible to ditch a hot vehicle when the police aren’t looking and then proceed to watch them drive by, just as long as you haven’t been committing any on foot crimes that renders your face known to the police. If you abandon your motor and you are wanted on-foot, then even if you hop into another vehicle avoiding the cops is a necessity if you want to assure that they don’t see your face through the window. This is helped somewhat by the potential purchase of tinted glass from garages, here you can also store your vehicles, soup them up and even quickly relocate to select areas of New York City.

We still think that Driver should have remained about driving rather than trying to enter the dangerous GTA territory, but even if trying to mimic another game is unnecessary this latest instalment of the Driver series is a step-up from the previous game, boasting tidier on-foot controls and a plot that spans 28 years.