Video Game: Driver

Take the 3D open-world gameplay of Grand Theft Auto III, put the player in the role of the police, set it in a '70s-esque Retro Universe, and beat Rockstar Games to the punch by two years, and you have Driver: You Are the Wheelman. In Driver, you play as Tanner, an NYPD detective who, due to his driving skills, is sent undercover to investigate a criminal syndicate, taking him on a journey to Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and back to New York. The game was styled after '60s and '70s car chase films like Bullitt, The French Connection and The Driver, 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 Wide Open Sandbox 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 roadsnote , foreign cities (Havana and Rio de Janeiro, in addition to Chicago and Las Vegas), and clunky on-foot controls. A Game Boy Advance version was released in 2002.

In 2004, Driv3r, the series' debut on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, attempted to play catch-up with the Grand Theft Auto series by introducing gunplay and recruiting such voice talent as Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames and Michelle Rodriguez.

Reflections released Driver: Parallel Lines in 2006. Set entirely in New York City and its 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 1978, while the second half took place in The Present Day. 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 Playstation Portable.

In 2011, Reflections (now Ubisoft Reflections) took another shot at the series with Driver: San Francisco, 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 (guess which one it is), San Francisco goes the supernatural/Mind Screw route by taking place while Tanner is in a coma... and giving him "shifting" powers that allow him to possess other drivers on the road.

Coinciding with San Francisco's release is Driver: Renegade for the Nintendo 3DS. Set between the first two games, the story begins with Tanner quitting the NYPD and striking out on his own as a Vigilante Man. Tanner is soon recruited by Senator Andrew Ballard to take down five of New York City's most notorious crime lords.


Tropes:

  • Badass Beard: Tanner sports one in Renegade.
    • TK also has one in Parallel Lines after serving his prison sentence.
  • Badass Driver
  • Bottomless Magazines: Driv3r, Parallel Lines, and 76 give you handguns with infinite magazines as your starting weapon.
  • Car Chase: The series' bread and butter.
  • Car Fu: Half the time in SF will be spent driving semis into oncoming traffic to stop a street race.
  • Cliffhanger: Driv3r ended on one, which wasn't answered for seven years.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Tanner has quite the potty-mouth in Renegade.
    • Renegade in general is quite heavy on the cursing.
  • Cool Car: 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 Cool Car used in a chase scene shows up.
  • Cool Shades: TK wears these in the first half of Parallel Lines.
  • Cowboy Cop: Tanner, to the hilt. He's perfectly willing to go head to head with other cops if it helps him reach his goal.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: 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.
  • Difficulty Spike: 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.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: In Parallel Lines, one side mission involves outlasting a police chase. Initiating this requires ramming a doughnut stand.
  • Dramatic Irony: Throughout San Francisco, the player is aware of Tanner's coma, but Tanner himself isn't.
  • The Driver: Of course.
  • Dying Dream: San Francisco takes place mostly within Tanner's coma dream. Subverted, as he recovers in the end.
  • Falling Damage: Present in Driv3r. Walking off of an elevated train track in Miami, for example, would damage you, if not outright kill you.
  • Fragile Speedster: On average, the cops are faster than you, but aren't able to take as many hits.
  • Gatling Good: Parallel Lines has the Blaine minigun, which is unlocked towards the end of the second half of the game.
  • Interface Screw: One mission in the second half of Parallel Lines has TK 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.
  • Last Breath Bullet: Jericho seems to do this at the end of Driv3r. Subverted, as the beginning of San Francisco shows both Tanner and Jericho still alive.
  • Lemming Cops: The police act more like homing missiles with sirens (at least in the early games,) and their driving skills aren't anywhere near as good as yours can be, so often some simple slaloming between obstacles can be enough to get them to start smashing into everything.
  • Lighter and Softer: Driver 2 compared to the original.
  • Mind Control: Tanner's "shifting" powers in San Francisco basically amount to this.
  • Minus World: The city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the first game, which is shown during the credits and 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 Bottomless Pit death, but with a certain glitch, you can survive the fall and drive around in the void.
  • New York City Cops: Tanner is an NYPD detective in the first game.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Depending on where they're set up, police barricades in the first game can be a blessing in disguise. Since they never think to block off the sidewalk, you can just slip right through while most of your pursuers smash right into it.
  • Nintendo Hard: The final level of the first game, "The President's Run," is a Luck-Based Mission... meaning that if you get really, really lucky, you might be able to do it.
    • "Chase the Gunman" in Driver 2 is commonly regarded as the most difficult of the series, being even more luck based than "The President's Run".
    • Even the normal, non-hard-as-balls missions can be really tough, too. Even if the cops are dumb as rocks, acting more like homing missiles with sirens, they can be extremely persistent, and the slightest mistake can ruin the entire mission.
  • Nitro Express: 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.
  • No Swastikas: The criminal organizations that Tanner infiltrates in the first and second games are based on The Mafia and the Chicago Outfit respectively but are never named.
  • Obvious Beta: 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.
  • Only One Name: Tanner and Jericho. San Francisco revealed their first names to be "John" and "Charles" respectively.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: 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.
  • Retro Universe: Despite being set in the present day (except for the first half of Parallel Lines), the games all feel very '70s. Incidentally, the first half of Parallel Lines actually takes place in the '70s.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: TK, after 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.
  • Rubberband AI: If a cop falls far enough behind you, it goes into what fans call "doublespeed", gaining double the normal top speed in order to catch up. Especially noticeable in Driv3r.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: 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.
  • Shout-Out: The tutorial in the first game is lifted directly from a similar scene in The Driver, where the main character proves his skills to some gangsters in a parking garage.
    • To prevent any doubt, they even lifted the car crash sound effect from this scene in the movie.
    • Several missions in the first game and the sequel also mirror or homage famous car chase sequences in movies such as The French Connection and 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 he's on a mission from God
  • Timed Mission: Quite a few. Perhaps the worst offenders are certain missions in the first game that require you to rendezvous with another character while the police aren't actively looking for you. Since you could just drive leisurely to the rendezvous point with little difficulty, the game enforces an arbitrary time limit for these missions requiring you haul ass. Either the people giving you these missions are giving out completely unreasonable meeting times, or Tanner is the ultimate procrastinator.
  • Time Skip: Parallel Lines fast-forwards 28 years after TK is betrayed and sent to prison.
  • Time Travel: Beating Parallel Lines allows you to switch between 1978 and 2006.
  • Tutorial Failure: The Forced Tutorial 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.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: 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."
  • Wake-Up Call Mission: Find the Clue in Driver 2.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: From Parallel Lines onward.