Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Driver '76 review

Name: Driver '76
System/s: PSP
Developers: Sumo Digital
Publishers: Ubisoft
Release Date: 5/8/07

I have been a long time Driver fan ever since playing Driver 2: The Wheelman Is Back for the Playstation 1, back when it came out. I dumped hours upon hours into that game, playing it on and off for years. Sometimes I go back and play around in it to this day. After playing Driver 2, I purchased Driver 1: You Are The Wheelman it was more original for it's time, but it didn't grab me like Driver 2 (Which coincidentally the first free roaming game which allowed for large 3D cities, the ability to steal vehicles and walk outside of your car.). DRIV3R came out later, and although it was horribly glichty and unfinished, I put close to the amount of hours I had put into Driver 2 into it. Later Driver: Parallel Lines came out, which had different characters, a different setting, and vast changes to the franchise. I liked Parallel Lines, and dumped many hours in it, but it was a very different game then they previous.

Ubisoft bought the original developers from Atari, who had been responsible for the mess that was DRIV3R, and for miss managing Reflections (The company responsible for Driver). To recoup the cost of the purchase, they released Parallel Lines on PC, and made a spin off for PSP, named Driver '76.

I remember being very excited for Driver '76, because I had wanted a Driver game on PSP, but in the time leading up to release, I had forgotten about it, and only remembered it upon seeing it in a store, and purchased it.

The game follows Ray, a somewhat minor character from Parallel Lines, giving him a little bit more back story, which is hinted at in Parallel Lines. Sadly, the plot itself is the worst in the series, being one of the most generic video game stories I've ever seen. The story doesn't make any logical sense with plot holes, and very 2D characters. It's hard to take the game seriously, even if the game wants you to.

The story is told through comic book style cut scenes, which are similar to Max Payne, or Portable Ops, though in a more Spider-Man ish American style. They are actually pretty well done, with things down to ink dots shown, sadly, the content isn't very interesting, with boring dialog, and cardboard cutout characters. Every twist of the story can bee seen from a mile away, and nothing will surprise you, except how bland Ray's back story is.

The gameplay is pretty much a port of Parallel Lines, but with a confusing control scheme, doubled up buttons, and missing actions. You can no longer look to the sides of you, crouch while on foot, and the camera is horrible to use on foot. In general, it feels like the control scheme wasn't given much thought, and due to that, it suffers. The gameplay is also brought down by controls hampered by non-pressure sensitive buttons, making it impossible to not burn out, or turn slightly. Often you over steer due to the twitchy steering sensitivity. While in general, the core mechanics are good, from Parallel Lines, the controls on the PSP version all but destroy what was once good.

The graphics look, for the most part okay, pretty much simplified Parallel Lines toned down. While the graphics are okay generally, there are some strange things, like Lines in the middle of the road being 'off' and buildings not connecting correctly. The character models, and characters animations suck, with less frames then the original game. The car animations still stay intact, which is nice.

The music is pulled straight from the first half of Parallel Lines, with no new songs, and all the bad songs from before, only to skip a song, you now need to pause the game. The soundtrack has a lot of good songs, but they are drowned by a lot of really boring songs that ruin the atmosphere when in a car chase, and just don't belong in the game.

The voice acting, besides Ray and his friend Slink is horrible, like, some of the worst I have ever seen. It sounds like the people had no experience acting and aren't right for the roles they play. One of the chinese people sound like someone doing a offensive chinese accent. It's nice to say Ray and Slink's voice actors return, but they weren't amazing to begin with, and can't save the show. The sound effects in the game are also ripped straight from Parallel Lines, and were good before, and are still good now, nothing really to complain about.

The amazing felony system from Parallel Lines, which was probably the most unique thing about it, has been reduced to rubbish, with instead of meters, you wither have it, or you don't. The felony systems also fails due to the removal of the safe houses, and only way to get rid of on foot felony. The open world with no menus and everything accessed in game has also been put down, in favor of menus, which is a shame.

The collectables in this game do nothing at all, making collecting them utterly pointless. The removal of cheats also puts a dent in replay value. They did add a multiplayer mode, but it has serious lag issues, that make the 2 players playing not experience the same thing. Sometimes one player is alive on his screen and dead on the other players, in general, avoid the multiplayer.

Overall, it's a shame they didn't focus a little harder on this game, because it could have been amazing. Oh well, keep your fingers crossed for a *real* PSP Driver game.

What I liked:

Returning Voice Actors:
It was nice to hear Slink and Ray's original voice actors, even if they weren't top notch.

Solid Gameplay Returns:
The core gameplay mechanics from Parallel Lines are here, even if not full intact.

Full City From Parallel Lines:
Has the complete city from the first half of Parallel lines, which is huge, and amazing on a handheld.

Cutscenes Look Cool:
The comic styled cutscenes are cool to look at, it's a shame what was going on was better.

Nice Amount Of Side Missions:
There's a nice amount of side missions which include racing, destruction derby, payment collecting, and more.

What I didn't Like:

Horrible New Voice Actors:
The new voice actors are so bad, it's painful, it sounds like they are not actors at all, and they are just terrible at playing the roles assigned to them.

Characters Are Not Likable:
Even the returning characters aren't very likable, saying bad jokes, and just not being anything but annoying and dumb.

Story Is Generic:
The story in this game is just horrendous, not only is it generic beyond words, but there are plot holes, and the overall story is just bad.

Doesn't Use Set Pieces Provided in Parallel Lines:
There were a few hints in Parallel Lines to Ray's past, but none of them were used here, making this whole game completely pointless. Plus, the city is pretty much exactly the same between this and Parallel Lines, despite years of time passed.

Multiplayer Is Horrid:
Multiplayer is so bad, it's not even worth playing. Not only are the modes worthless with only 2 players, but the lag is so bad, one person can be still diving around on one screen, while dead on the other.

The game is really glitchy, and not in a good way. Sometimes cops see you and don't chase you.

Bad Controls:
The controls are not well thought out, and hurt the experience more then almost anything else they did wrong. Not being able to steer slightly, makes you hit things when trying to drive in a straight line all the time.

Missing Features:
They took out things that held the formula together in Parallel Lines, like the safe houses to remove felony, and the ability to crouch and look left and right while driving.

Very Little New Content:
The game may have most of the content of the first half of Parallel Lines, but it really has very little new content, which is a real shame, and makes buying this almost un-worth it if you've played Parallel Lines.

Very Easy:
The Driver series has been notorious for being difficult, with the first three games having a mission the bordered on impossible, Parallel Lines was a lot easier, but still was a little challenging, this game however is far too easy, with only a few missions making me even retry.

Horrible AI:
You could almost say there is no AI, since the cops will often drive in the wrong direction after seeing you commit a crime, and the AI doesn't dodge while you shoot at them. In general, the AI is just horrible.

You could beat the game in a few hours, with the main story being like 4-6 hours long. For a free-roaming game that's disgraceful.

Freezing And Slow Down:
The game freezed on me a number of times while I played through it. Often the game just stops while you are driving for a few seconds, and you think it's crashed, when everything starts moving again. This doesn't happen only once in a while, it happens more like at least once a mission, and that's unacceptable. Often with very little acting on screen, the gameplay slows down to extremely choppy framerate, making it harder to play.

Collectibles Are Pointless:
There is no reason to collect the collectables, as they do nothing at all. It's sad that there's a whole multiplayer mode for trading them, since there's no reason to even have any.

Overall Scores:

Presentation - 6/10: The cutscenes are cool, and the menus work, but from then on, it's downhill.

Sound - 6/10: While there's a lot of good music, and the sounds are great, the voice acting is so bad it's painful, and there's also a lot of music that doesn't fit.

Gameplay - 6/10: Though the gameplay itself is alright, the controls, and gltiches bring it down a large amount.

Lasting Appeal - 4/10: The single player is only a few hours long, and the multiplayer is not playable. The only saving grace is Take a Ride, but even that is broken.

Overall Fun 4/10: I just felt like the whole game was wasted, the whole way through, everything about it could be done better, but as it stands, it's really just bad. Nothing about it is good enough to set it aside as anything other then garbage.

Driver '76 is not recommendable by Jon God.

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