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Driver 2 Advance

Review By:  Josh Fishburn

Developer:  Sennari Interactive
Publisher:  Infogrames
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Racing/Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  N/A
Date Posted:  11-19-03

The original Driver for PS1 was a revelation; an armchair fantasy for everyone who wanted to be Steve McQueen careening through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt.  Driver 2 was a disappointment.  It felt unfinished and slowed down inexplicably.  Here we have the surprising Driver 2: Advance.  My surprise had everything to do with this game being on small scale; I didn’t think it could be done.  I was partially right.  Although Sennari Interactive gets a lot of things right, the game never really escapes the curse of the handheld.

Not that they didn’t try; this is an ambitious game that attempts to do everything that its PS1 daddy did.  The cutscenes (great looking still shots with rolling dialog) are particularly excellent.  Once again you play as Tanner, an undercover cop out to solve the mystery of the moneyman.  The story has been done a million times before and the characters are cookie-cutter, but you probably won’t be playing this game for the story anyway.  The great gameplay is what this series has always fallen back on and unfortunately this is where Driver 2: Advance suffers the most.

First and most obviously, the game is SLOW.  The graphics do not exactly slow down, but the cars are bricks.  Add to this that many of the missions require that you drive across the expansive cities (either Chicago or Rio) and you have a game that is sometimes fun and other times yawn inducing.  The story is divided into thirty missions, 15 per city, with widely varying tasks.  Essentially they boil down to the following three categories: 1. Tail a car, 2. Get from point A to point B in a certain amount of time, and 3. Chase and destroy.  Chasing and being chased are just as exciting as the console version and the cops are just as persistent.  Also like the console version, you can exit your vehicle and choose another car to drive, provided that your car is not carrying a mission-critical item or person.  Having this freedom adds a lot to the game.  The controls are great overall, with the exception of driving the van, which is awkward and near impossible to turn.  There are a couple missions that require that you drive one, but other than those I avoided driving them at all costs.  Most of the missions are fairly easy but there are some very tough ones thrown in seemingly random spots.  Compared to these nasty missions the last few are a cakewalk, giving the game a rather anti-climactic ending.  A progressive difficulty, as usual, would have made more sense here.  Still the game is quite enjoyable when you are racing, but mere driving is anything but.

Along with the main “Undercover” mode, Driver 2: Advance offers “Take a Ride” and a host of driving games.  “Taking a Ride” allows you to travel around either Chicago or Rio de Janeiro at your leisure.  If you are driving crazy expect the cops to come after you (and sometimes even if you aren’t breaking any laws…damn cops!).  As I mentioned earlier, simply driving around is not that exciting, so you can guess that this mode is decidedly lame.  The other driving games are passable; nothing here is going to knock your socks off.  The featured games are Quick Chase, Quick Getaway, Trailblazer, Checkpoint, and Survival.  Trailblazer, the one obscurely named game, has you following the path of cones and trying to hit as many of them as possible.  There are also multi-player games that support up to four players, but without knowing anyone else who has this game I was unable to test them.  The games range from chases to races to a free-for-all deathmatch whose object is to be the last car standing (or driving).

I tried to be fair by not putting Driver 2: Advance next to its console brothers.  Even without the corked comparison the graphics really kill it.  Taking a joyride in the original Driver really was a joy.  Bouncing down the slanted San Francisco streets had never before been represented so well in a game.  You could pull off jumps, explore landmarks, crash, and watch it all on replay.  The “Take a Ride” mode in this portable version is a killjoy; who wants to drive around a city in which each block looks the same?  Pedestrians fly across the screen like deranged drug addicts.  Collision detection is totally off, when rear-ending another car it looks like you start to drive into it far before the hit registers.  There is sometimes a blue stripe across the road indicating a drop out of the graphics.  Yes, everything is scaled down from the console version, but on its own merits this game still falters.

Sounds are surprisingly well done.  The screech of tires, rumble of the engine, blaring of the cop sirens and the crunching of metal are all realistically represented.  The police sirens even change according to the city you are in.  The music, like most of the game, is ambitious but fails to wow.  Aside from a few bright spots it is harsh and annoying.

Highs:

  • A shrunken down console version
  • Exciting chases
  • Lots of game modes

Lows:

  • A Shrunken down console version
  • Annoying music
  • Boring look to the cities
  • Slow gameplay
  • Graphics issues

Final Verdict:

It is difficult to be objective when you have a superior version of a game to look at.  Perhaps Driver 2: Advance could have been better had it not tried to duplicate the console experience.  The chases are fun, but there is too much plodding driving (in badly represented cities) to make this game worthwhile.  On top of this it is very short.  I finished it in a couple afternoons.  An acceptable diversion, but not a great game.

Overall Score: 5.5

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