Driver - as hard as you remember?

Is Driver as hard as you remember?

Last Updated on April 23, 2024

Driver is a beloved driving game on the PlayStation with one of the most infamous tutorial levels on the platform. You can’t have a conversation about Driver without someone mentioning they never escaped the intro garage, but was it really that bad? I’ll explore that notorious section and the rest of the game in this review.

The Driver series had an excellent start

Driver Review – As hard as you remember it?
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

For the uninitiated, Driver is a mission-based driving game by Reflections which came out on PlayStation in 1999. You play as an undercover officer called Tanner and accept jobs of increasing difficulty from your humble hideout. I spent most of my time in the story mode, but there’s also a Free Ride mode where you can drive around and take in the sights.

Those sights are pretty impressive by PlayStation standards. Cars are surprisingly detailed, as is damage like smashed hoods and broken tail lights. The map is a mixed bag; you can certainly tell one location from another, but it is quite bland in places, which is no doubt a system limitation.

Driver’s inspiration from 1970s movies is very clear from the get-go, and it comes complete with a thematically appropriate soundtrack. I’m not sure what genre it is, but it slaps, and the soundtrack is full of bangers.

Is this what it’s like to drive a Muscle Car?

Driver Review – As hard as you remember it?
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

For a game where you spend the vast majority of your time behind the wheel, the driving mechanics must be on point. I’m pleased to say Reflections absolutely nailed it on all fronts. Your car feels heavy but responsive, and the engine literally growls when you stop at traffic lights. Auto Handbrake is turned on by default, which makes the vehicle dramatically slide around corners. You can turn this off, but I prefer it, and the roads are wide enough for ridiculous power-sliding.

The car handling is a little slippery but perfectly complements the ‘movie car chase’ vibe. On that note, chases with police are thrilling. Cops are relentless, and that slippy handling is handy when trying to escape. My only gripe with the police in Driver is how inconsistent they are. Some are easy to outrun down a straight road, while others are like trained racing drivers. This may be intentional, but I failed plenty of missions after an unfavorable encounter with the best driver on the force.

Driver Review – As hard as you remember it?
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

The only time you’re not in your car is in the Hideout between missions. While the furnishings for the first hideout leave a lot to be desired, you can check your messages here and pick your next mission. You’re often given a couple of choices, and it’s great that you have an alternative option if you get stuck. There are also some random messages where people have dialed the wrong number, which is a hilarious inclusion.

The cops are out to get you

After cruising around the streets for a while, one thing that really impresses me is the police. This isn’t like GTA, where the cops won’t do anything unless you commit murder. In Driver, you’ll get chased if you drive a little too fast or on the wrong side of the road. You’ll even get booked if you run a red light! I thoroughly enjoyed driving around in my muscle car, seeing what I could get away with.

Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

In fact, simply driving around is so fun that there’s even a movie editor in the game where you can direct your own chase clips. It’s pretty primitive by today’s standards, but I could happily spend hours in this mode. It’s a welcome break from the challenging missions and a terrific addition to the game.

Relentless difficulty from the moment you hit the gas

As I mentioned at the start of this review, the training stage for Driver has a unique legacy. Before playing the missions, you must finish a mandatory tutorial stage in a garage. You’re tasked with completing a list of maneuvers with a strict time limit. If you crash a few times or run out of time, it’s game over.

Driver Review – As hard as you remember it?
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

I honestly thought we were all dumb kids when we played Driver in the 90s, and that’s why it was so tricky, but nope, the training stage is brutal. The time limit is unforgiving, but the worst part is how inconsistent the challenges feel. The Reverse 180, for example, seems to require near-perfect execution. The 360 spin wouldn’t trigger until I spun at least 1080 degrees, and other challenges like the ‘Slalom’ are just unclear. I beat the training area after five attempts, but this part of the game is absolutely as hard as you remember.

The difficulty extends into the missions themselves. There’s almost zero margin for error on some stages. One near the start of the game challenges you to reach a rendezvous point at a dock, but you’ll never make it in time unless you’re full-throttle the entire way. You can only check the map from the pause menu, so you must also memorize the route. The level of challenge is all over the place, and the unforgiving timer means you can fail missions after a single mistake.

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I actually appreciate the brutal difficulty. The training mode is too much and rightly earns its reputation. Beyond that, I enjoy the rush of beating tough missions, and Driver’s unforgiving difficulty makes chases genuinely thrilling.

Driver: Driver is a complete package and worth playing to this day. Car handling is remarkably well done for a game released in 1999, and if you can endurethe difficulty, Driver is a joy from start to finish. Anthony

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