I’ve got fond memories of Driver on the original PlayStation. Before GTA turned into the sprawling 3D series it is today, Driver offered the best open-world driving I’d ever experienced. The draw distance was horrible, the frame rate choppy and the gameplay samey, but high speed pursuits and escapes through city streets were irresistibly good fun. Gameloft has got its hands on the rights to develop an iDevice version of the game, tuned up the visuals and delivered an impressive action movie-style driving game.
As in the PSOne original, you play undercover cop Tanner, who is trying to infiltrate a criminal organisation while posing as a talented driver. As you can imagine, this results in more criminal activity than honest police work, but also presents you with plenty of breakneck driving, swerving in and out of traffic, speeding down narrow alleyways and more handbrake turns than even The Stig could manage.
Unfortunately, you can’t mow down pedestrians, shoot enemies from close range with shotguns or anything else that would take place outside of your car. It might be a fairly old-school game design, but being able to focus purely on skilful driving makes for a refreshing change. If you’re after a game with the violence of the GTA series, you’d be better off with Gameloft’s Gangster: West Coast Hustle.
Where this port suffers is in the change from a dedicated console controller to on-screen touch or tilt controls. Tilt is how most iDevice driving games are best played, but here the sensitivity just doesn’t quite feel right, making the virtual d-pad option the best choice. There are definitely times when the controls feel like they’ve caused you to crash or fail a mission, even if most of the time the blame can be leveled at your own lack of getaway driver skills.
From a technical point of view Driver is truly excellent, offering a large open city rarely seen on the iDevices. The streets are packed with vehicles and it runs at a surprisingly smooth frame rate given what’s going on. It’s not a completely smooth ride, but more than good enough. There’s also an excellent Seventies funk soundtrack, giving the game an authentic cop show feel.
Driver struggles at times to work here as well as it did on a dedicated games console, but it’s still an excellent port that has managed to retain the majority of what made it so much fun back in the day. If you prefer your open city action games to be more about driving than mindless violence, Driver shouldn’t be missed.