Driver, originally released in 1999 for the Playstation, has been ported to the iPhone by the folks at Gameloft.
In Driver, you play an undercover cop trying to infiltrate the criminal underground. Ironically, the majority of the game is spent engaging in all sorts of illegal activities.
In Undercover mode (the game’s version of story mode) there are about 40 missions to complete and the objectives are varied enough to keep things relatively fresh. One minute you’re a getaway driver and the next you’re crashing into storefronts, destroying public property and so on. There’s also a Free-Style mode for just driving around and a Training mode to get you used to driving. The Driving Games mode offers seven mini games to play like Getaway, Cross Town Check Point, and Survival. Each game is different and offers an entertaining diversion from the main game.
Your driving adventures will take you to the streets of Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. The city maps are spacious and give an open-world style feel to the game akin to Grand Theft Auto. The major difference is that in Driver you’ll never get out of the car.
While the graphics have been updated from the original game and look better, they’re still not really up to par with other high-end games on the iPhone like Need for Speed Undercover or Asphalt 5. The sound effects are satisfactory but by no means exceptional and there are a few radio stations to listen to while driving—though the slim selection will get old pretty quick.
Unfortunately, Driver has a learning curve as steep as some of San Francisco’s most dangerous hills. The handling is rather touchy and the car drives like a huge boat with the tail end swaying back and forth. It’s takes some getting used to, but after a while you get the hang of it. There are three different control schemes to choose from: Joystick, d-pad or accelerometer. As far as steering goes, the d-pad option was the best due to the touchy handling of the car. There are four buttons on screen for the brakes, gas, peel out and hand brake. The peel out button makes you jam the gas and peel out while the hand brake is good for doing 180s. With each control option the buttons are placed in different areas of the screen but they all universally felt cramped. Still, the buttons have some useful functions. Tapping on the “speedometer” icon activates cruise control if you want to go less than full speed. There’s a mini-map in the upper left side of the screen that shows the way to your next destination and pops out to full screen when tapped.
Despite its unique story and famous name, Driver was a less-than-exciting ride and felt a little dated especially when compared to some of the other top racing games in the App Store. With so many shinier and more intuitive titles out there, this model might be better left in the used car lot.
[Tim Mercer is a technology enthusiast, graphic designer, and blogger, whose blog, digital-artist-toolbox.com, offers free resources to the digital artist and graphic designer.]