Driver 2 Review

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Driver is a game that introduced players to a unique gameplay concept and the result is an impressive and ambitious title for 1999. It’s an open world game that centers on car chases and was ahead of its time. It ended up being a commercial success and like many successful games, it did spawn a sequel. Developed by Reflections Interactive and published by Infogrames, Driver 2 was released for the PlayStation in November, 2000 and a port for the Game Boy Advance was released in 2002. The PlayStation version was reverse-engineered and made into a PC port titled ReDriver 2. For this review, I played the PlayStation version and PC port which I will refer to as the PC version going forward. You can download the PC version for free but for legal reasons, installation does require the game’s PlayStation disks or more specifically, the ISO or BIN/CUE files of the disks. And it should be noted that the PlayStation version is two disks.

The story puts the player back into the shoes of officer John Tanner. Now working with the Chicago police department, he and his partner Tobias Jones are trying to track down a man who goes by the name Pink Lenny. The duo are sent undercover to investigate recent gang violence and its connection to Pink Lenny which takes them to multiple cities including Chicago, Havana, Las Vegas, and Rio. Much like the first game, Driver 2 aims to deliver a cinematic experience clearly influenced by movies and shows from the 1970s. The cut scene presentation looks and feels more polished and detailed this time around. The character models and animations look much better than those in the previous game and the cut scenes do a good job conveying the cinematic style, tone, and atmosphere the developers were aiming for.

Before really diving into the gameplay, I want to talk about the PC version and how it compares to the PlayStation version. To put it simply, the PC version is the exact same game except it runs on PC. Same game modes, same missions, same storyline, same gameplay – but on PC. It does support widescreen resolutions and controllers, the draw distance has been increased, some bugs were fixed and in general, it looks and runs a lot better than the PlayStation game. It also supports mods but I didn’t install any. For the most part, I would say the PC version is the way to go. Besides what has already been mentioned, load times are faster, the game will autosave after completing missions, and unlike the PlayStation version, it doesn’t require the player to switch disks at any point. The only issue I encountered in this version is that the Quick Replay feature does not show you the gameplay at different cinematic angles like in the PlayStation version. The camera remains behind your vehicle or Tanner. That’s been my experience, anyway.

The gameplay in Driver 2 is very similar to the first game. The big difference here is that Tanner can get out of vehicles now. He can run around on foot and steal or commandeer most vehicles he comes across. Other than that, those familiar with Driver will feel right at home. The damage and felony systems return and you’ll spend most of your time in vehicles. The actual driving controls well and feels great, vehicles still have a good sense of weight, and there’s a bigger variety of vehicles in Driver 2. Trucks, ambulances, police cars, and buses are all drivable and even appear as AI vehicles on the roads adding some more realism to the cities. Controlling Tanner on-foot does feel a little clunky by today’s standards but I eventually got used to it. You can’t really do much when on-foot except run around and change vehicles. Once nice feature is that you can eliminate your Felony status by simply getting out of the car.

Driver 2 does come with multiple game modes including a multiplayer mode which I didn’t get to try. Undercover is the story mode and Take A Ride allows you to explore any unlocked city without any objectives or time limits. I would recommend playing through the Undercover mode first so you can unlock the cities in the Take A Ride mode as well secrets including cheats and two race tracks. You can race around them and try to set record lap times. You now have the option to select one of multiple vehicles before jumping into a city in the Take A Ride mode and each city does include a secret car to find and unlock for use in the mode. Driving Games also returns and all of the games or sub-modes from the previous game do make a return. I still prefer the more action-oriented ones like chasing cars and losing cops and trying to survive for as long as possible against extremely fast and aggressive police cars in the Survival mode.

Once again, the Undercover mode plays out through jobs or missions. Unfortunately, there are no hideouts, voicemail messages or mission paths like there was in the first game. Instead, it’s a linear path through the story, you just go from mission to mission. Each city is essentially a big open world and most objectives are timed so you don’t have a lot of time to explore in the Undercover mode but that’s what Take A Ride is for. Compared to the first game, I will say Driver 2 features better mission variety and more exciting missions in general. You’ll have to tail and chase vehicles, hijack vehicles, plant bombs, and evade police and gangsters. You fail a mission if your vehicle is wrecked or you can’t complete the objective in time. You can watch replays of your gameplay and create your own little car chase films in the game’s Film Director mode. Unfortunately, during my time with the PlayStation version, the Quick Replay feature broke on more than one occasion. By that I mean it sometimes doesn’t show what actually happened.

I think Driver 2 is a more challenging game than the first. I’m specifically referring to the Undercover mode and I did have an easier time getting through it in the PC version. However, Driver 2 has more sucky missions and I do think the cops and gangsters can be a little too aggressive. Just like in the first game, I left the cop difficulty on the Medium setting and they will not only rubber band to you but sometimes end up right on your back bumper and it can become annoying. One mission in Havana requires you to hijack a truck and the most challenging thing about it for me was shaking the fucking bitch of an escort. He sticks to you like glue and will knock you all around the road.

One of the missions in Vegas requires you get a vehicle off the train tracks before the train rams into it. You are timed, of course, and at first, I thought the the timer indicated when impact will take place. No. It’s just the time you’re given to complete the objective or mission. The train will hit the car before the timer reaches zero and it’s a short window so you can’t really make any mistakes. Needless to say, it can be frustrating. Then there’s the boat jump mission Rio. The objective is to drive across the city and plant bombs on a boat and then drive off the ramp on the boat and land in the docks area. I attempted it many times and failed because of an invisible wall preventing me from landing and according to the internet, this may be a bug. It was only after I launched from a burnout was I able to make it but I can’t confirm if the burnout is required or I just got lucky. Either way, there shouldn’t be an invisible fucking wall there. That’s just terrible. For what it’s worth, I didn’t have any problems with this mission in the PC version and beat it on the first try without the burnout.

Rio is the final city you visit and I would say most of the missions here suck mainly because they give you little to no room for error. Several give you such a short window of time that I often made it to my destination with only a few seconds to spare. These missions will not only require you to speed and evade police but also take very specific routes otherwise you just won’t make it. Rio is where the boat jump mission is set and is also where one of the worst missions I have ever played in my life is set, Chase The Gun Man. This is one of those missions that makes you wonder if it was actually playtested.

You have to chase and stop a vehicle within a time limit. The time limit essentially determines how difficult it will be. If you keep restarting, you will see the time limit changes. You’re better off attempting it if it’s above two minutes because there’s a chance you can actually make contact with the vehicle and even get in front of it before getting to the mountain pass part which is a very narrow road with a lot of traffic. Ramming into the vehicle at certain angles will cause your vehicle to bounce which can be very annoying. Not only can it be extremely difficult to catch up to the vehicle but it sometimes has infinite mass for no reason other than to piss off the player. This is what annoyed me the most. I actually witnessed the vehicle crash into other vehicles on the road, sending them flying into the air, obviously so it can maintain its speed. It is an outrageously disgusting design choice and I would highly recommend using GameShark or Code Breaker to cheat your way through the mission rather than torture yourself trying to complete it legit. Seriously, it is horribly designed and blatantly unfair.

Each city in Driver 2 looks and feels distinct and they are partial recreations of their real world counterparts. I do think the cities here are more immersive than those in the previous game. They are quite big and feature iconic landmarks, buildings, along with on and off ramps, freeways, tunnels, bridges, and many curved roads. They feel like actual urban locations. Vehicles and pedestrians populate the roads and sidewalks, AI vehicles mostly obey the rules of the road and most of the little details that made the first game immersive can be found here along with some new stuff like a bigger variety of vehicles which I think helps make the cities feel more realistic as mentioned earlier. Another nice neat little detail is that cops now stand around roadblocks. They don’t actually fire guns or anything, they just stand there and then scatter as you plow through.

When it comes to the presentation, I do think Driver 2 is a great looking game for the PlayStation. Yes, the pop-in is rampant and some of the muddy textures and blocky character models during gameplay do expose the game’s age. The PC version’s visual improvements are immediately noticeable. The presentation is much cleaner and as mentioned earlier, the draw distance has been increased and the pop-in, while certainly noticeable, isn’t as bad. As for the music, Driver 2 does feature some funky tunes that fit the style the game is going for and also contains some licensed tunes heard during cut scenes. On the technical side, both versions crashed on me once and the frame rate would tank hard during many sequences in the PlayStation version and it remained stable in the PC version.

Ultimately, I like Driver 2 even though I do find it more frustrating than the first game. The variety of vehicles, ability to get out of vehicles, switch cars, and lose your Felony status are all great and it is an ambitious and impressive title for its time. But it’s not perfect and I think it’s more flawed than its predecessor. It could have used some more playtesting because some of the missions here are unnecessarily difficult and in several instances, for the wrong reasons. One is just outright cheap and unfair. Some of the time limits seem way too short, you can fail missions for bullshit nonsense like an invisible wall for example, and AI vehicle behavior is sometimes questionable. I’m able to forgive many of the flaws of the first game because of its age and the technical limitations of the PlayStation and I can forgive most of those same things in Driver 2. I’m just taking issue with some of the design choices. The core gameplay is relatively unchanged but it seems like the developers tweaked certain things in an effort to add more variety and challenge but the result isn’t always fun. I think the difficulty spikes are much bigger here and the gameplay can cross over into infuriating territory, and the more time I spent in that territory, the harder I found it to forgive and ignore.

I would recommend Driver 2 because even with its issues, it’s still a fun game. I would also recommend the PC version over the PlayStation version just for the technical improvements alone. In my opinion, most of the game’s problems lie with the mission design. If you can get passed that, you’ll see it retains what was great about the first game and it takes you to new cities, gives you more variety, and manages to successfully capture the spirit of the car chases you see in films and television shows. Definitely check it out.

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