Having successfully emulated the Grand Theft Auto formula with Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, Gameloft now turn their attention to a timely remake of the game that started it all: Driver. And thankfully the granddaddy of open world crime sims screeches onto iPhone/iPod Touch largely unchanged since the good ol’ PSone days.
Apart from having had a subtle graphical makeover, this appears to be the Driver I knew and loved back in 1999. Meaning the game follows the same great undercover cop infiltrating a crime syndicate storyline, the 70’s car chase movie aesthetic and feel is retained, and the 4 cities on offer are absolutely enormous (each easily dwarfing Gangstar’s titchy by comparison map).
But this respectful approach to reissuing a classic also has its downsides, the bouncy physics return, you’re still confined completely to your car (Tanner didn’t get to stretch his legs until the sequel), and the now legendary rock-hard difficulty level and murderous police AI are carried over from the original.
As a result in some areas Driver does show its age, and most likely will divide modern gamers opinion. Even as a former avid player of the title, weirdly, my windscreen shattered and black smoke belching from my engine, there were a few times I had to remind myself that jumping out of my car and jacking a new ride just isn’t an option in this pre-GTA era title.
That said, once I got (back) to grips with the game, I soon fell in love all over again. The story driven section is as compelling as ever, and the sheer quantity and depth of missions coupled with a lengthy running time blows away most other iPhone titles that aim for console style quality (Gameloft’s own output included).
Evading the law is a real thrill-ride; hurtling down bustling city streets, smashing through garden fences and causing all sorts of vehicular carnage as you go is just as fun as I remembered. Although the extreme difficulty of some missions means you’ll have to tackle them numerous times.
The new control set-ups are well suited to Driver’s mingling of careful driving sections and balls out chases, while the graphical polish spruces up the blocky grey environments of yesteryear. However on a side note: the K-Billy’s Super Sound of the Seventies style soundtrack adds authenticity, but the endless funk and soul on the 3 radio stations gets repetive after prolonged play, and you’ve got to wonder why Gameloft has removed the option to play your own music from their most recent titles (this and Skater Nation).
Overall though, this is a brilliant modernisation of a classic. And if, like me, you’ve been around long enough to recall the PSone/PC original, Driver 2009 is definately a 100 mph trip down memory lane worth taking. However if you’re of the GTA/Gangstar free roaming generation this 10 year old title may leave a little to be desired.
iFanzine Verdict: For gamers of a certain age Driver is an absolute joyride! So step back into Tanner’s boots and party like it’s 1999.