Best Games - Driver : You are the Wheelman
Driver is filthy. It looks filthy. It sounds filthy. The slap base, funk soundtrack is filthy. The 70s exploitation storyline is filthy.
The driving is absolutely spotless.
That’s a very good thing, because the only thing you do in Driver, is drive.
There are a lot of driving games, but they tend to be racing centric. You might race around virtual versions of real tracks with virtual versions of real cars, or you might race on fictional tracks with fictional cars. No matter the combination of those, you will be ‘simulating’ a sport. Getting from one place to another, in competition with other drivers. That means you are primarily using the car to travel forward as fast as possible. There are other ways to use a car.
Driver is a semi-open world game based on real locations, where you may as well be playing as the car. There is a story, involving you taking on the role of an undercover cop, but there are no real opportunities for you to interact with the world outside of a car.
The game is called Driver, and you drive.
What driver did, that only Grand Theft Auto 3 would do a few months later, was to treat a car as a way of navigating a space. Going flat out at all times isn’t the way to beat the game. Turning, sliding, going in reverse, and even driving casually at the speed limit are all tools you will need to master in Driver. Since you are, allegedly, an undercover cop and not an autonomous vehicle, keeping a low profile is pretty important. Why draw the wrath of random patrol cars when you don’t need to.
None of that would work if the driving didn’t feel right. There is a weight and momentum to the vehicles in Driver that is extremely satisfying. You spend most of your time in American muscle cars and huge boxy sedans with chromed steel bumpers. These aren’t twitchy sports cars that stick to a track. They want to keep moving in whatever direction you propel them. Sometimes that means driving up a curb or through a park or crashing through other cars.
There are other modes that task you with either chasing or evading other cars, and despite the developers putting time into the mission based story mode, these are where you will have the most fun playing Driver. This is what the game is really about. Using a car to navigate a space in any way that a Playstation game from 1999 could muster.
There is something to be said for exploring a mechanic fully. Using all of the available verbs. There are more verbs when driving a car than just racing, and all of them can be fun. Games that set up playgrounds for that sort of mechanical exploration aren’t super common, so when they come along, we should celebrate them.
Driver is about driving, and it’s one of the best games.