Take the 3D open-world gameplay of ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIII'', put the player in the role of the police, set it in a [[TheSeventies '70s-esque]] RetroUniverse, and beat RockstarGames [[OlderThanTheyThink to the punch by two years]], and you have ''Driver: You Are the Wheelman''. In ''Driver'', you play as Tanner, an [[NewYorkCityCops NYPD detective]] who, due to [[BadassDriver his driving skills]], is sent undercover to investigate a criminal syndicate, taking him on a journey to UsefulNotes/{{Miami}}, UsefulNotes/SanFrancisco, UsefulNotes/LosAngeles and back to UsefulNotes/NewYork. The game was styled after '60s and '70s car chase films like ''Film/{{Bullitt}}'', ''Film/TheFrenchConnection'' and ''Film/TheDriver'', to the point of including a "Director's Mode" that allows you to place cameras during replays to follow your action.

Developed by Reflections Interactive and released in 1999, ''Driver'' pushed the PlayStation to its limits technologically, and proved to be a smash hit, anticipating the boom of WideOpenSandbox games that would emerge in the next console generation. So naturally, there was pressure for sequels. ''Driver 2'' went out the door the following year. It added curved roads[[note]]In the first game, every corner was at a 90-degree angle due to the limitations of the technology. While this was acceptable at intersections, this made turns on, say, bridges rather awkward.[[/note]], foreign cities (Havana and Rio de Janeiro, in addition to UsefulNotes/{{Chicago}} and [[VivaLasVegas Las Vegas]]), and clunky on-foot controls. A GameBoyAdvance version was released in 2002.

In 2004, ''[[Letters2Numbers Driv3r]]'', the series' debut on the PlayStation2 and {{Xbox}}, attempted to play catch-up with the ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' series by introducing gunplay and recruiting such voice talent as Creator/MichaelMadsen, VingRhames and MichelleRodriguez.

Reflections released ''Driver: Parallel Lines'' in 2006. Set entirely in UsefulNotes/NewYorkCity and its [[{{Joisey}} New Jersey]] suburbs rather than multiple cities like the other games, it instead took place over a period of time -- the first half was set in [[TheSeventies 1978]], while the second half took place in ThePresentDay. It also took place in a new continuity-focusing on a young man known only as TK who rises through NYC's criminal underworld only to be betrayed and thrown into jail, and is out for revenge upon release.

A prequel, ''Driver 76'', was released the following year for the PlaystationPortable.

In 2011, Reflections (now {{Ubisoft}} Reflections) took another shot at the series with ''VideoGame/DriverSanFrancisco'', the first game in the series for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox360. Returning to the first three games' continuity and, like ''Parallel Lines'', taking place entirely in one city ([[CaptainObvious guess which one it is]]), ''San Francisco'' goes the supernatural[=/=]MindScrew route by taking place [[AllJustADream while Tanner is in a coma]]... and giving him "shifting" powers that allow him to [[MindControl possess other drivers on the road]].

Coinciding with ''San Francisco'''s release is ''Driver: Renegade'' for the Nintendo3DS. Set [[{{Interquel}} between the first two games]], the story begins with Tanner quitting the NYPD and striking out on his own as a VigilanteMan. Tanner is soon recruited by Senator Andrew Ballard to take down five of New York City's most notorious crime lords.

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!!Tropes:

* BadassBeard: Tanner sports one in ''Renegade''.
** TK also has one in ''Parallel Lines'' after [[spoiler:serving his prison sentence]].
* BadassDriver
* BottomlessMagazines: [=Driv3r=], ''Parallel Lines'', and ''76'' give you handguns with infinite magazines as your starting weapon.
* CarChase: The series' bread and butter.
* CarFu: Half the time in ''SF'' will be spent [[DestructiveSaviour driving semis into]] [[HeroicComedicSociopath oncoming traffic to stop a street race.]]
** In the game's climax BigBad Jericho will [[spoiler: throw cars at Tanner]]. Since it's AllJustADream, Tanner can, too.
* {{Cliffhanger}}: ''[=Driv3r=]'' ended on one, which wasn't answered for seven years.
* ClusterFBomb: Tanner has quite the potty-mouth in ''Renegade''.
** ''Renegade'' in general is quite heavy on the cursing.
* CoolCar: Tanner's Dodge Challenger in ''San Francisco''. This also applies to some of the 139 other vehicles
** Such as The DeLorean DMC-12, a 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback, Pontiac Trans Am, etc. Pretty much every CoolCar used in a chase scene shows up.
* CoolShades: TK wears these in the first half of ''Parallel Lines''.
* CowboyCop: Tanner, to the hilt. He's perfectly willing to go head to head with other cops if it helps him reach his goal.
* DevelopmentHell: The movie. {{Pulp Fiction}} scribe {{Roger Avary}} wrote several drafts before the project was cancelled. In his own words: "In the Driv3r game, Timmy Vermicelli was a joke character based on Tommy Vercetti, the character from GTA 3. So I made Timmy the villain, who kills Tanner, who would be played by Michael Madsen who voiced the character in the game. Tanner's son, Driver, hunts the killer around the world for revenge, eventually ending up in Iraq, where the mob has been hired by the U.S. government as a subcontractor of drugs and prostitution in the green zone. The basic idea is that Vermicelli drives around shooting people in Iraq, much like GTA, but it always gets blamed on insurgents so he does it with impunity. Think of the movie as GTA set in Bagdad." After submitting extensive storyboards to the producers, a higher-up from the studio came down and insisted the movie be made for $40 million. The project was dead less than a week later. Avary has commented that seeing {{Film/Drive}} "nullified my need to make the film."
* TheDevTeamThinksOfEverything: Jolting and bouncing your car hard enough will cause the hubcaps to fly off, and sitting stopped while turning the steering wheel will turn on the blinkers.
* DifficultySpike: The final level of the first game. Even using an invincibility cheat, it's easy to lose the level by having your car flipped over.
* DonutMessWithACop: In ''Parallel Lines'', one side mission involves outlasting a police chase. Initiating this requires ramming a doughnut stand.
* DramaticIrony: Throughout ''San Francisco'', the player is aware of Tanner's coma, but Tanner himself isn't.
* TheDriver: Of course.
* DuelingGames: With ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' starting in 2001, a feud that the ''GTA'' series mostly started (as detailed above).
* DyingDream: ''San Francisco'' takes place mostly within Tanner's coma dream. [[spoiler:Subverted, as he recovers in the end.]]
* FallingDamage: Present in ''Driv3r''. Walking off of an elevated train track in Miami, for example, would damage you, if not outright kill you.
* GatlingGood: ''Parallel Lines'' has the Blaine minigun, which is unlocked towards the end of the second half of the game.
* InterfaceScrew: One mission in the second half of ''Parallel Lines'' has TK [[spoiler:get injected with a hallucinogenic drug]]. During the ensuing chase, the screen becomes increasingly blurred, and stays that way until you get to a garage.
* LastBreathBullet: Jericho [[spoiler:seems to do this at the end of [=Driv3r=].]] Subverted, as the beginning of ''San Francisco'' shows both Tanner and Jericho still alive.
* LighterAndSofter: Driver 2 compared to the original.
* MindControl: Tanner's "shifting" powers in ''San Francisco'' basically amount to this.
* MinusWorld: The city of [[UsefulNotes/NorthEastEngland Newcastle-upon-Tyne]] in the first game, which is shown during the credits and [[DummiedOut can only be accessed in-game by hacking]]. It is also the hometown of Reflections.
** Falling into the skybox in the sequel normally registers as a BottomlessPit death, but with a certain glitch, you can survive the fall and drive around in the void.
* NewYorkCityCops: Tanner is an NYPD detective in the first game.
* NintendoHard: The final level of the first game, "The President's Run," is a LuckBasedMission... meaning that if you get really, really lucky, you ''might'' be able to do it.
** "Chase the Gunman" in ''[[SequelDifficultySpike Driver 2]]'' is commonly regarded as the most difficult of the series, being even more luck based than "The President's Run".
* NitroExpress: In one mission of the first game, you must deliver a crate of unstable explosives in a pickup truck across the hills of San Francisco. In another level in the second game, you must take down an explosives-laden truck by ramming it.
* NoSwastikas: The criminal organizations that Tanner infiltrates in the first and second games are based on TheMafia and the Chicago Outfit respectively but are never named.
* ObviousBeta: Looking at all the glitches, bugs, and sometimes poor physics in ''Driv3r'', it's not unreasonable to conclude that the game just wasn't finished.
* OnlyOneName: Tanner and Jericho. ''San Francisco'' revealed their first names to be "John" and "Charles" respectively.
* RailroadTracksOfDoom: Las Vegas in the second game has a level where you must run for a car parked on a train bridge and get it off the tracks before the train arrives.
* RetroUniverse: Despite being set in the present day (except for the first half of ''Parallel Lines''), the games all feel ''very'' [[TheSeventies '70s]]. Incidentally, the first half of ''Parallel Lines'' actually takes place in the '70s.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: TK, after [[spoiler:being betrayed by his employers and getting incarcerated for 28 years]], spends the second half of ''Parallel Lines'' getting back at the people responsible for his imprisonment.
* RubberbandAI: If a cop falls far enough behind you, it goes into what fans call "doublespeed", [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin gaining double the normal top speed in order to catch up]]. Especially noticeable in ''[=Driv3r=]''.
* SequelDifficultySpike: While the original could be quite difficult at times, some of Driver 2's missions are ridiculously hard, even when compared to the original's most difficult missions.
* ShoutOut: The tutorial in the first game is lifted directly from a similar scene in ''Film/TheDriver'', where the main character proves his skills to some gangsters in a parking garage.
** Several missions in the first game also mirror or homage famous car chase sequences in movies such as ''Film/TheFrenchConnection'' and ''Film/{{Bullitt}}''.
** Same goes for the "Movie Challenges" in '' San Francisco '', special missions that closely resemble famous movie chase scenes.
** In one mission in SF, Tanner has to catch two low lifes who stole a church collection box. His Reaction? He's always wanted to say that [[TheBluesBrothers he's on a mission from God]]
*** The secret NintendoHard NostalgiaLevel is unlocked by driving [[Film/BackToTheFuture 88 Mph in a De Lorean.]]
* TimeSkip: ''Parallel Lines'' fast-forwards 28 years after TK [[spoiler:is betrayed and sent to prison]].
* TimeTravel: Beating ''Parallel Lines'' allows you to switch between 1978 and 2006.
* TutorialFailure: The ForcedTutorial is legendary for being complete garbage.
** Somewhat jossed, as its difficulty comes from the younger players who tried their hand at it not understanding what a slalom is.
* UnusuallyUninterestingSight: In ''San Francisco'', Tanner keeps seeing black billboards with strange messages. When Tanner points them out to Jones, he doesn't seem too fazed by it, at one point telling Tanner the billboards have "been up for years."
* [[WakeUpCallBoss Wake-Up Call Mission]]: Find the Clue in Driver 2.
* WideOpenSandbox: From ''Parallel Lines'' onward.
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