PS2 REVIEW: DRIVER: PARALLEL LINES

Driver: Parallel Lines...IS a contender. It's not perfect, but it definitely has its charms. by Cole Smith

April 17, 2006 - The comparisons of Driver: Parallel Lines to GTA are unavoidable. This fourth installment of the Driver series is best described as a blend of the two games. It has the familiar Driver mechanics with a GTA-inspired gameplay. There's still a lot of racing but there is plenty to do outside of your vehicle as well.

As far as variety goes, developers Reflections Interactive have certainly delivered. I know that there are those purists that would prefer that the series focus on racing, since that's what the premise of the series originally but you can't fault a company for trying something different with a tired concept that may have run it course. There's a lot of money to be made courting the GTA crowd and I would be in there like a dirty shirt myself if I had the option. The developers went out of their way to not make Parallel Lines appear like a GTA rip off, but once you enter into the neighborhood you're going to have to dodge the slings and arrows. At the same time they could have upgraded the Driver engine as the controls and physics are too similar to past games.

TK is the star of the show. He's the driver. He makes his living chauffeuring the criminal element to and from jobs. It's New York City in the late 70s and TK is enjoying life in the fast lane. He's got money, babes and all the sex, drugs and rock and roll that one man can handle. He's also in for plenty of action with car chases, shootings and other missions. With the soundtrack from the era including tunes from Bowie to Blondie, the cool fashion of the era and the big muscle cars, the essence of the Seventies is recreated to good effect. But things change. TK is framed and sent up the river for nearly 30 years. It's 2006 when he finally gets released and he's really pissed. I would be too if I went from Alice Cooper to hip hop. Bent on revenge, TK makes it his mission to find those responsible for his incarceration and deal them some long-awaited justice.

There is only big story mode in this game. Everything is contained within. It's one huge adventure where there's seldom a dull moment. There are some really difficult missions, some which are all but impossible to complete the first time through. This trial and error style of gameplay is not my favorite but it's more of a side dish than the main course. The developers have a knack for mixing things up. This is evident by the nearly 30-year time span that takes place in the game as TK spends the best years of his life behind bars. When he gets out things are a little different. Although the city remains largely unchanged, the vehicles are fast and lighter. Definitely a big change from the bulky, heavy mastodons of the 70s. You'll notice that the fashion also changes and depending on your age or taste, you'll notice that the music takes a turn for the worse.

There are some 80 different vehicles available in this game including cars, trucks, vans, busses, limos, motorcycles and even tractors. All of the vehicles handle exceptionally well. They are incredibly responsive and once you get the hang of powersliding you'll be able to race through the streets and turn corners at top speed. Outrunning the cops, as in previous Driver games is not difficult. Just outdistance them and take a few corners and they'll forget all about you. Since the game is free-roaming you can even take some shortcuts through the parks. For some reason the cops get confounded on grass. The police just don't seem to like to break the law, even when engaged in a full-out pursuit of a murderous thug like yourself that is obviously a threat to the public's safety.

There are lots of pedestrians on the streets but it's really the traffic that you have to look out for. Pedestrians will slow you down for a second as you either run them over or send them flying through the air. It's overkill to be sure and detracts from any kind of realism established by the excellent cinematic cutscenes. Fortunately the vehicles are responsive enough to dodge both pedestrians and traffic at high speeds. The motorcycle is the fastest of the vehicles and it can be really thrilling to drive through the streets of New York. There is a huge map of the city and while its size is very impressive the buildings are repetitive and the textures are very rough looking. If you're paying attention to what you're supposed to be doing you probably won't notice these flaws but it's my job to point them out to you just to ruin your fun.

Stealing cars, getting in and out of them, targeting and shooting are all very simple commands and usually require the use of only one button. There is an in-game training mode that is disguised as part of the story. It will put you in the middle of a police chase and teach you the ropes as you go. With your weapon drawn you can lock-on to targets and strafe at the same time to avoid being hit. You can also freestyle it by taking the targeting system off. By leaning out of the window of your moving vehicle you can now shoot when you drive. This is a great feature and adds some dimension to the gameplay. Since missions are divided into driving and on-foot activities, there are separate wanted meters that will determine the level of your criminal activity in either area. One meter will determine the level of crimes committed with your vehicle while the other meter is for crimes that the cops actually see you commit. If you see that the coast is clear you can practically do anything that you want and get away with it. What the cops don't see won't hurt them - or you. But if they see you they will be on your ass - and this includes speeding. If you can't outrun them, you can always try to switch vehicles or run away on foot. As long as you do it out of sight this will typically throw them off.

The one thing that I hate about the game is that after all the cool 70's music, we are subjected to this present day crap that is so one-dimensional the CD that it's released on only has one side - ba doop. But seriously folks…The cutscenes are great. They really tell the tale with gusto. The acting is very good and the writing is good enough to base a movie on. Graphically the game lacks polish. It has a gritty cartoon look to it that is obviously influenced by Vice City. The vehicle damage looks very cheesy, as the cars just seem to leave part lying around instead of displaying realistic crumpling and particle effects at the time of impact.

Overall the game is not in the same league as GTA. It tries too hard to emulate the series than to find its own original niche. It could piss off fans of both Driver and GTA due to the unoriginal gameplay and shift in direction but there's no reason the average gamer can't have a ball with this game.

Features:

  • Driver: Parallel Lines is an entirely new story with over 40 diverse missions as well as on-the-fly mini-games such as destruction derby and cops and robbers
  • Pulse-pounding, non-stop driving action with Hollywood-style car chasing experiences
  • On-line play that supports up to eight players in numerous play modes that span the entire city
  • Highly intuitive character control, improved physics and an expansive arsenal of weaponry
  • An incredibly detailed photo-realistic New York City 'living world' city to explore
  • Seamless open mission structure integrated around the central storyline with no load times what-so-ever
  • Incredible vehicle damage system with unprecedented detail and level of destruction
  • 80 drivable vehicles including cars, bikes and trucks, each with authentic physics; features comprehensive vehicle tuning with performance and visual customization

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Driver: Parallel Lines (PS2)
3.1
Graphics
Tries too hard to look like Vice City. Textures are low res and buildings are repeated like a Hanna-Barbara cartoon.
4.0
Control
Most of the commands only require one button. The vehicles are incredibly responsive. Very fun to drive.
4.2
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceacting is good and the music from the 70s really captures the mood. Today's music just can't compare to the classics as you'll see for yourself if you play this game.
3.5
Play Value
Aside from a few mini-games you won't find yourself compelled to revisit the mean streets of the Big Apple.
3.6
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: PS2 (shown), X
Dev: Reflections
Pub: Atari
Release: Mar 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best