Have You Played… Driver?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Inspired by ’70s car chase movies I haven’t seen, Driver was about going undercover as a getaway driver and tearing down backalleys with a car whose backend seemed to have a mind of its own.

Despite not knowing its inspirations, I loved much of it. I had always preferred the Need For Speed games that had police chases in them, and Driver was a game entirely about the thrill of fleeing from the law. And here there was the added benefit that the law were driven by suicidal maniacs, who would smash into and over one another as they attempted to steer around the game’s cities. San Francisco, with its ridiculous hills, was the best, but all were full of trash cans and piles of boxes that demanded to be plowed through.

Best of all, it had a replay editor, which I’m not sure I’d ever seen in a game in 1999. It allowed you to choose camera angles and relive your car chases as a film director, long before Grand Theft Auto offered the same.

It feels like the Driver series was sidelined as soon as Grand Theft Auto 3 arrived two years later and allowed you to get out of the car, though the most recent, Driver: San Francisco, is worth playing for its fun car handling and bizarre coma patient story.

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49 Comments

  1. mukuste says:

    Oh yes I did, I really liked it at the time. It also seemed very difficult to me then, I’m pretty sure I never finished it.

  2. gorgonaut says:

    I had this on the PS1, and loved every minute of it. I became quite proficient at handling the megabeast multi-ton cars, and still remember the sweet, sweet feeling of sliding around pedestrians “just so”.
    One thing that always bothered was that weird effect on the wheels. The tires look like two discs with an improperly sized cylinder between them. It still makes me slightly annoyed, just seeing them on your screenshot.

  3. wombat191 says:

    i remember driver.. well the 5 minutes of the tutorial i played before it frustrated me and i binned the thing

    • Turkey says:

      Never made it past that thing neither.

      I remember it got me and my friends excited for the possibility of a 3d GTA, though. It’s too bad Rockstar never got around to making one.

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      I spent a ridiculous amount of time learning how to pull off those moves. Part of me wants to think I absorbed some sense of car physics from the tutorial, but mostly I’m just proud of my teenage self for sticking through it.

      • rapchee says:

        i remember playing it in a mall, and as we tried to pull off a 180 reverse turn, and failed repeatedly, a guy came over, said he’s a stunt driver, explained how he does it, and then we could do it, in the game, so i think it has decent enough physics

    • ThricebornPhoenix says:

      The tutorial is the second-hardest mission in the game. I remember saving right after it and starting my new games from that save thereafter.

      • Henke says:

        With the hardest one being the final mission, right? Where you have to drive the president across town, in a lag-inducing blizzard, while every cop in town tries to save him by smashing your car to bits. I never finished that one.

        • patped says:

          Man, beating the last mission in driver is one of my proudest accomplishments in videogames. Somehow I never thought the tutorial was as hard as people say and the entire game has an average difficulty but the last mission was almost impossible. You had to drive from one edge of the city to the other carrying the President and in a rainy weather. I don’t think it was raining but the ground was wet and there were dozens of insane cops behind you. I tried that mission several times until I gave up. But when GTA 3 was released and I didn’t have a PS2, I decided to play Driver again and that time I beat the game but it was one of the hardest things I’ve done.

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            phuzz says:

            You should feel proud! I remember finding other missions difficult, but I persevered and completed them. That final one though, what a bastard of a task.
            It was one of those games where you’d try the mission once and fail pretty quickly. Then, after a bunch of practise, and some trial and error (Maybe I can go this way instead? Nope!), I’d make it a bit further, then realise that I still had 80% still left to go and it was all equally hard.

            So I gave up, and Driver gets to sit alongside games like Final Fantasy 7 and Baldurs Gate, which I enjoyed right up until the difficulty curve went vertical in the last boss fight/mission/level and I quit.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Oof, yeah. That tutorial was infamous. The game was pretty good, but getting past it was an absolute pain in the ass. What on earth were they thinking? Was playtesting not a thing back then?

  4. GenialityOfEvil says:

    The Newcastle secret level was great, though pretty small. New York was pretty well realised too, especially for a game in 1999.

  5. Lord Byte says:

    The first Carmageddon had a replay editor. A certain F1 racer (Geoff Cramond’s?) and Nascar racing had one as well. Heck I believe you could even do it in Flight Simulator 4 or 5!

    • CartonofMilk says:

      The oldest save editor i know is in Red Baron which was 1990. That was the first i’d ever seen anyway. But yeah it’s quite possible Flight Simulator had one.

  6. Yontevnknow says:

    I remember taking turns playing that game with a friend back in the day. We actually managed to beat the game, which was kinda rare for us, or me at least. If i remember right, the story gets insane, and proves that the cops are actually homicidal maniacs that want to murder you and the passenger in your car. I wont say who the passenger was, because its kinda ridiculous.

  7. GallonOfAlan says:

    Yeah, loved it once I got past the stupidly hard tutorial. That along with the cops chasing you if you went above the speed limit were bad ideas.

    The recent reboot was pretty good too although it got to the point where it was running out of ideas that didn’t involve you getting out of the car.

  8. GWOP says:

    Never played Driver, but I do have a lot of affection for Midtown Madness.

    • P.Funk says:

      Midtown Madness really was the shit. I played both Driver and Midtown but Midtown was a proper community game. The car modding community was pretty amazing. TEK_Xacto, wherever you are, your work was legendary.

      I still remember the Bluesmobile mod. Everytime you held down the horn it played the loud speaker bit from the movie.

  9. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    the law were driven by suicidal maniacs, who would smash into and over one another

    All the car parameters were laid out in plain .ini files, so of course me and my siblings tweaked them. We gave the cops enormous mass and gigantic amounts of power and traction, which turned the normally aggressive cops into insane rocket-powered suicidal maniacs. One would see me driving 2 mph over the limit, accelerate towards me, fly right off the ground through five other cars, sending them flying in all directions, then hit a building and explode. Then five seconds later all his mates would also turn up at relativistic speeds.

    • VaporStrike says:

      Aaand now I’m looking for a way to get a copy of Driver.

      Also Driv3r because this reminded me that I never beat that game.

  10. E2E4 says:

    The game that made me want to grow a mustache. At 13.

  11. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    I haven’t but I’d like to give it a shot. I recently replayed and finally beat Driver 2 this year.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I can remember being at a friend’s house when I was maybe 14 and this other friend of his would do voices for the other drivers right before crashing into them. I thought it was the funniest thing of all time.

  13. nooooooo says:

    The best fucking bridge of video game’s history. link to i.imgur.com

    • Vanderdecken says:

      Yes! I used to play that Miami map over and over again, just screaming out of the parking garage, turning right down by the river, then handbrake turn left over that bridge and into the picket fence. In the gamemode that gave you points for totalling as many other cars as possible it was great.

  14. Rolento says:

    I used to play this solely for the “cop survival” mode. You started off with a timer and had to survive and endless flood of coppers. Many a hilarious night were had with me and my brother taking turns seeing how long we could last in the hilly streets.

    A few times we managed to get the game to bug out an launch cars 100 foot into the air when they smacked into street lights. Also playing around with the director cam was awesome.

  15. KenTWOu says:

    Hmm, replay editor… I remember me and my friend spent hours in it placing multiple cameras around our car during each jump, emulating bullet time effect from the Matrix.

  16. Baines says:

    It feels like the Driver series was sidelined as soon as Grand Theft Auto 3 arrived two years later and allowed you to get out of the car

    Larry Bundy Jr covers the rise and fall of Driv3r in his “The Driv3rGate Scandal” video. (For those that freak out over the word “gate”, this incident was named over a decade ago. It is a games journalism corruption story, though.)

  17. Monggerel says:

    I played a demo of it and never finished it and was really annoyed the cheat codes I found wouldn’t work on it (that was common for demos – I remember the Age of Empires II demo wouldn’t let me spawn Shelby Cobras and being miffed at it).

    Good times.

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    luis.s says:

    Yes! In terms of ‘enjoyment at the time’ it’s easily one of my favourite games.

    I was about to also say it must be due a mobile remake by now, only to google it and find there was one in 2009 but it’s not available in the NZ App Store :(

  19. bigz213 says:

    I never played Driver… but the replay editor comment reminded me of Stunt Island, a game I’ve not thought of in many years. SI was basically a replay editor and released in 1992.

  20. Spacewalk says:

    I have not because I am a square.

  21. WJonathan says:

    The best of the Driver series. A game solely about mimicking the crazy power-sliding physics from 70’s cop shows. And it was, in my opinion, actually best played on Playstation (though it looked better on PC). The PS version allowed for analog gas/brake, letting you control your speed, and burn the tires at your choosing (as opposed to always peeling out with PC’s full on/off digital accelerator). Tried and tried, but never could find a mod for analog gas/brake control. Anyway, one of the few really great old that made me glad I play video games.

  22. Eddie Bax says:

    Between the tutorial and the last level was a fun game. Those two levels, though, pure frustration.

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    Rublore says:

    I remember modding it to skip the tutorial level. After that, it was loads of fun! And the soundtrack is still one of my favourites.

  24. Aztek says:

    God I could replay the parking garage tutorial over and over. Absolutely loved it.

    Had it nailed down and could do every move without crashing once.

    Also spent countless hours on the replay editor trying to make the perfect chase scene, power sliding into tight alley ways.

    I didn’t realise GTA had a replay editor? :O

  25. Player1 says:

    I spent so many days with Driver on my PlayStation, it’s crazy when I think back to it. It was the first game that truly showed what could be possible in a “realistic” open environment. Being a big fan of car chase movies like Bullitt, I loved the setting and the way the cars handled. Unfortunately, it didn’t age well. I can’t feel the thrill anymore when I play it.

  26. Aztek says:

    They should definitely make another Stuntman.

  27. Danda says:

    It was really annoying. I had to cheat my way past the tutorial, but then I saw that it was like GTA3 but without all the fun parts, no free roaming, no gallery of characters with Hollywood stars voiceovers, nothing. Just the car funneled through a nasty road with infinite medians in places where none should be.

    I’m sure it was cool for hardcore gamers like some games are, but for a kid like me, it was a boring slog.

  28. Vanderdecken says:

    Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned the epic 70s wah soundtrack by Allister Brimble: link to youtu.be If you put the game’s CD in and opened Windows Media Player it would offer to rip it as an audio CD, same as The Sims back in the day.

  29. CartonofMilk says:

    I only played the second one but loved it and it COULD just be my memories lying but i still say that to this day no game has done car chases better. It was at least definitely ahead of its time. GTA would not get even close until maybe a decade later.

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