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SummaryDRIV3R with different graphics
The GoodNow, I've said it so many times in my racing mobygames reviews that I'm a total nut for American muscle cars from the 60's and 70's! Indeed, Driver, the first game of the series, was a real classic and one of my favorite games ever, despite it's ridiculous difficulty! I still remember how exciting it was to roam the streets of Miami in a truly American police-action movie style and having the hub caps of my car flying all over the place as I drifted on those 90 degree (only) corners! On the other hand DRIV3R, being a total GTA-clone, was not such a successful approach, in my opinion, to it's predecessor. But the whole series has a cult thing and feeling attached to it, that just can't leave you untouched: take it for it's gangster feeling, or simply for it's vintage racing qualities, the Driver series has a candy for everyone's taste in it's bag!
Driver Parallel Lines does not have to offer anything new in terms of gameplay; You're TK (that's the hero's name), a young scum gifted with the talent of being a good driver and thus you're trying to make it big through New York's underworld. In order to do so you have to drive around the city, do all kinds of nasty jobs, avoid being caught by the cops, steal new vehicles and shoot down a few people that come through your path at the wrong time.
The action takes place in the streets of New York in two different eras: 1978 at first and then 2006. A huge playable map is laid out for you to explore. Of course you have the freedom to roam freely the city's streets but the main story's missions have a linear path which you must follow successfully in order to complete the scenario. Talking about the scenario, here you have the good old gangster story where has TK in 1978, being an 18 year old kid with the ambition to rule the streets of New York. There he meets 5 other members of NY's creme de scum; namely Slink, the Mexican, Bishop, Candy and Corrigan who is the dirtiest of the pack and also the team's leader. So when the action gets hot and the girls get hotter, TK is framed by the rest of the gang and is sent to jail, which brings us 28 years later in 2006 when he's released. Now TK wants to have his revenge on the fore mentioned people who framed him. So with the help of Ray his old time friend and auto-tuning garage owner, TK is out on the streets once more to take his blood back, only a lot older now, but still with a thriving driving talent.
The first thing you must do is acquire a set of wheels to get you going. And since you're destined to be a top gangster it would be such a depraving act to buy a car :) So the only way you can do this is by stealing any vehicle you see around and you fancy. With this you can either cruise freely on the streets, take on some 'side jobs' to earn some money or go on with the storyline's missions to complete the scenario. The player has the freedom to finish this on his own pace, and take up on the storyline missions whenever he/she desires to. In fact, taking on up some side jobs helps on the cash flow, as this is the only way you can earn money since the storyline missions don't have any earnings in general. There are several kinds of side jobs available: being an assassin, stealing specific kind of vehicles, taxi driving, being the get away transport of some bank robber, street racing or circuit racing. Every side job has three levels of difficulty to choose from and the higher the level of difficulty the more you'll earn.
There are loads of vehicles to be driven and acquired and these come in many kinds: sports, coupes, sedans, trucks, bikes, ambulances, fire engines and even race cars get unlocked when you finish first in circuit races on medium or high difficulty levels. All of the vehicles you've acquired can be stored in Ray's garage which is also the place to buy tune-ups for your rides or ammo for your weapons. The game's cars resemble many real models but obviously due to licensing reasons they are not named after the real models and some features have been altered. For instance in the 70's, 'Bonzai' resembles a Toyota Celica, or 'Venom' reminds a lot of DeTomaso Panteras whereas in the 00's inspiration for the 'Teramo' must came from the TVR Sagaris.
Since the gameplay is laid out a'la GTA style, apart from being able to drive around, you also have the ability to walk around and shoot if you have any ammo. Weapons and ammo are being acquired from your dead enemies, being the police or rival gangsters. When you grab a new kind of weapon it will always be available to you as long as you have the money to buy ammo for it. Some missions require the player to get out of the vehicle and go gun blazing on foot. That works nicely as you have an auto-targeting lock feature; you just have to lock your target and shoot him down offering to the player a nice no-fuss shooting gameplay. The same auto-targeting feature is available when you're driving around. That way you can shoot at enemy cars and stop them.
In general the storyline based missions are rather difficult, some being more difficult than others, but not devastating, or nowhere near the impossibility of the missions in the first Driver! Most of the time a method of trial and error is needed to figure out how to complete a mission. For this, there's always a mission restart option if you fail, or during the course of the mission if you feel that you're done for, pressing escape will bring up a menu that enables you to restart the current mission. Thankfully when you restart your health and car condition reverts back to the state when you've originally begun the mission. There is no way of setting the difficulty level of the storyline missions, so the player has to take things as they come, but eventually after a few or more retries of the missions you will be able to complete them. There's a good difficulty curve in this game, sometimes it gets very frustrating but it is addictive and will have you coming back for more. Also the mission tasks have a good variety and a very good shooter/driver combination that won't bore or tire the player easily.
Another thing to be noted as positive is the many differences between the two eras, where every little detail changes in order to bring out the era change. The first thing you notice is the brown-ish shades of the city in the 70's where, in 2006 the city becomes more of a grey shaded mass. Also the HUD changes: in 1978 you have analog dials and counters displaying things like your speed, the nitro boost quantity left and your vitality, where in 2006 all these dials become digital in a cool looking blue colour. You'll also notice a change in every menu you come across through the game: orange coloured for the 70's and silver-cyan for the 00's. Further changes you can see are the people on the streets, the shop signs and decoration and of course the cars. Finally the difference in prices is really evident, as in 1978 you would need 1000 dollars for a new bodywork, in 2006 you need 10000 dollars. In general the prices in 2006 for everything are 10 times up those of 1978.
The thing that I loved most about Driver Parallel Lines is the nostalgic element it emits, especially during the 1978 era. Everything, from the garage that you store your vehicles to the actual streets is having an abundant flavour of retro. Not to mention the great music on the radio in that era! You can listen to all kinds of funk and disco-boogie stars of that era including tracks from the legendary Roy Ayers, Lalo Schifrin, Labi Siffre, Blondie etc. I just pumped up the volume during the 1978 and it worked perfectly for me!
Furthermore, once you've completed the storyline missions and solved TK's case, you get the option to change into any era that you fancy. This is simply beautiful! For instance if you, like me, loved playing the seventies era, you can change back into that. Not only that, but now you will have at your disposal all the vehicles that you've acquired in 2006, plus the few extra ones that got unlocked upon the story's completion. Once you've selected an era to transfer into you also get the chance to replay the storyline mission of that era.
The BadOne of the most frustrating elements of Driver Parallel Lines is the control of the cars. It is so sudden and awkward that at times it's only luck that will get you going. Once you get going above 80mph any attempt to change your direction will have your tail waving like mad, making the car uncontrollable through traffic. Of course every vehicle handles differently and the best ones are the race versions of the street models, but these are available only in your garage once you have unlocked them, and their abuse costs money. Really the vehicle control should be more smooth. As it is right now, playing it with the keyboard proves to be a really frustrating experience. Now that aspect alone is more than enough to ruin the whole game.
Although the vehicle types are varied, at the end of the day it's only a very few of them that you'll want to use for your missions or your side jobs. Most of the missions require that you have a fast and strong car and only two or three models from each era can get up to speed quickly. All the rest are nice to be there and be available to be driven, but I really see no point in using them on a mission. Some more useful vehicles would be nice, 'cause having 3-4 different SUV models with a top speed of 75mph that comes after a minute of having your foot floored to the gas pedal is not of use in this game.
The graphics of the game are certainly not the best I've seen. The game looks really dated by today's standards. In fact it really looks like it was built on the DRIV3R engine with a slightly different graphics package. It seems that no big effort was done to give Parallel Lines a fresh and modern graphical approach. Having little side effects such as blurring the vision when speeding and screen flash when crashing is not bringing the game any credible graphical value either. Finally, the modeling of the vehicles and surrounding is nothing much really, I've seen far better cars in games that got released two or three years ago.
Finally there only two ways in which you view the action: either as third person or from a bumper camera. Although I'm not used in playing racing games viewing the action from a third person perspective, in this game it worked out ok for me. The bumper camera is simply a waste of time cause it doesn't give you a clue about the mass of the car, which is useless when racing through traffic. Still, I really expected a bonnet mounted or a cockpit camera for it to work 100% for me.
The Bottom LineDespite the terrible car control and the limited car selection that actually comes to use, despite the dated graphical look, Driver Parallel Lines is a sweet and addictive title that has some good driving and shooting elements in it. Of the two, I would say that the shooter elements are slightly better implemented and satisfying than the actual driving.
Certainly it is not thrilling as the original DRIVER was and it is not any more original than DRIV3R, since it is based on the same GTA-clone gameplay and aspects, but Parallel Lines is quite a nice title to spend a little time on and enjoying because of the nostalgia it emits, if you're into that kind of thing. I doubt that it will last anything longer than 2-3 weeks on your hard drive though. Furthermore if GTA was really your thing then this one is one of the better clones that I've played, so you might want to add this to your GTA clone collection.