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. 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 City. 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 (read as Driver 3), 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 Xbox 360. 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.
The latest instalment as of this edit is Driver: Speedboat Paradise, with only boats instead of cars to play with and developed by former Gameloft staff. Most recently, Reflections helped out with Ivory Tower with the development of The Crew, a racing MMO that was released in 2014.
Games in this series with their own pages:
Other games in the series contain examples of:
- Anachronism Stew: What exact year DRIV3R is set in is ambiguous. Most of the cars are from no later than the 1970s and 1980s but Miami has the American Airlines Arena in it, which was built in 1999, and Sobe drinks and Nokia cellphones exist.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: In DRIV3R, you play as Jones for exactly one mission in Istanbul, as he splits off from Tanner and you get to see what happens to him. After that, the game rewinds the story to the moment of the split and continues with Tanner, as usual.
- Arch-Enemy: Jericho is Tanner's.
- Artificial Stupidity: Though the police A.I.s have laser-like focus and will stop at nothing to take you down, they're also about as smart as a bag of wet leaves. It's pretty easy to get them to smash into stuff or drive off cliffs, while trying to take you down. Police cars even smash into each other pretty frequently.
- Artistic License – Law Enforcement: Tanner, especially in DRIV3R, often commits or assists in crimes that would be illegal even for undercover cops, such as taking part in assassinations and planting explosives. He also almost certainly would be in trouble for the mission "Tanner Escapes" where Tanner blows up dozens of Istanbul cop cars with a grenade launcher and kills high amounts of law enforcement.
- Big Bad: In Parallel Lines, it's Corrigan, also the Final Boss.
- Bloodless Carnage: All games except Parallel Lines. Largely makes sense given the games are about driving over combat. What is strange is how DRIV3R is the first M-rated game in the series, has a greater focus on gunplay, but has no blood whatsoever (or sex, profanity, or drugs for that matter).
- Bottomless Magazines: DRIV3R, Parallel Lines, and 76 give you handguns with infinite magazines as your starting weapon.
- Bowdlerisation: When Jones is shot near the end of Driver 2, in the US version he is clearly shown bleeding from the gunshot; the blood is absent in the European version of the game.
- Car Chase: The series' bread and butter.
- Car Fu: In the "purer" games without armed characters outside of cars, this is the only way to take out an opponent or for the police to take the player out.
- 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.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Cops at high Felony in the first three games will "double-speed" to catch up to you; the exact threshold depends on the game as well as the cop difficulty option in the first two games. This is partly why "The President's Run" is so infamous since it starts you at just below double-speed threshold, which will be reached barely a minute into the mission.
- Cool Car: This should be a given, but special recognition goes to the Chevelle/Buick Skylark hybrid from Miami, the Fairlane from San Francisco, all of Havana's cars from 2 Yes, even the secret Mini, the Bruiser, Retaliator and V8 from DRIV3R, along with the Brooklyn, Andec and Cerrano from Parallel Lines and 76.
- Cool Shades: TK wears these in the first half of Parallel Lines.
- Covers Always Lie: No, Tanner can't shoot and drive in DRIV3R (however a gunman riding shotgun in select missions can).
- Cowboy Cop: Tanner himself-because he works undercover, he frequently finds himself in conflict with other cops.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In DRIV3R in order to enter/exit vehicles while playing in consoles is the L1/LT button instead of the Triangle/Y button like any GTA-style game. This was fixed in Parallel Lines.
- Dirty Cop: Corrigan from Parallel Lines is an NYPD officer who secretly runs a criminal gang. When TK gets out in 2006, Corrigan has become the Commissioner of the NYPD and is considering running for mayor. At the climax of the game, it's revealed that's he's been secretly helping TK kill his former comrades to keep his criminal past from coming to light.
- Donut Mess with a Cop: In Parallel Lines, one side mission involves outlasting a police chase. Initiating this requires ramming a doughnut stand.
- The Dragon: On his debut in 2, Jericho is this to Solomon Caine.
- Dragon Ascendant / Dragon-in-Chief: Jericho starts out as The Dragon, but becomes the primary antagonist, and definitely the most dangerous.
- The Driver: Of course.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: DRIV3R and Parallel Lines zigzag this trope. A vehicle that takes too much damage from collisions will simply stop working, while shooting vehicles enough times or hitting them with explosives will cause them to explode. Hilariously, DRIV3R allows you to get into a vehicle even after it's been blown up.
- Evil All Along: Senator Ballard in Renegade. He secretly sets up a crime ring with New York City's most notorious criminals, then sends Tanner to kill them so that he can take the credit for cleaning up the city."
- Expy: There's a character in DRIV3R who is hiding in ten different places in each city, armed with an assault rifle and waiting to kill Tanner who in turn has to kill him, named Timmy Vermicelli. He is modeled after Grand Theft Auto: Vice City's main character, Tommy Vercetti and lampoons Vice City's weird human proportions with oversized hands. Also, Timmy's water wings make fun of Tommy's inability to swim due to the limitations of Vice City's engine (Tanner can swim).
Timmy is Reflections' answer to Tanner in Grand Theft Auto III who, although a man, was given the female walking animation cycle to poke fun at Tanner's weird walk cycle in Driver 2.
- Falling Damage: Present in DRIV3R. Walking off of an elevated train track in Miami, for example, would damage you, if not outright kill you, also present but much more generous in Parallel Lines where TK can fall significantly further before taking damage.
- Forced Tutorial: The tutorial mission in the first game cannot be skipped.
- 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.
- 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 Is Only Manhattan: Averted by Driver and Driver: Parallel Lines. Driver takes place in New York in the last part of the game and part of the map includes Brooklyn. Parallel Lines, on the other hand, includes not only Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx (but not Staten Island), but a portion of New Jersey as well.
- 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.
- The tutorial level in the first game. It requires perfection for various driving tricks all within a very strict time limit, and it's the first level so you won't have a clue about controls or gameplay just yet. Many people have never seen anything past this first level and is considered one of the worst introductions to a video game.
- "Chase the Gun Man" 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, this is repeated in a mission in the third game.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: 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.
- Obviously Evil: Warren Nolan, Senator Ballard's chief of security in Renegade. Slicked-back hair? Check. Face locked in a near-perputual smirk? Check. High cheekbones? Check. Unnerving stare? Check. Gravelly voice? Check. Is it really a surprise when he and his boss end up betraying you?
- Only One Name: Tanner and Jericho. In fact, one of the print ads◊ for the second game referred to the former as "one cop with one name". San Francisco revealed their first names to be "John" and "Charles" respectively.
- Plot Twist: In Parallel Lines, it's getting arrested because all five of your friends — The Mexican, Candy, Slink, Bishop and Corrigan — use you as a scapegoat for their crime and leave you to be arrested and jailed for 28 years. After you track down and kill the people who betrayed you, it's revealed that Ray, who has been helping you, has been working for Corrigan, who then decides that You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
- Product Placement: Advertisements for Nokia and SoBe are everywhere in DRIV3R. Strangely, the Miami stage features big rigs belonging to "Haul-U".
- 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.
- Regional Bonus: The Japanese version of the original game allows you to skip the infamous training mission.
- 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.
- Rubber-Band A.I.: 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.
- Sawed-Off Shotgun / Guns Akimbo: Jericho dual wields double barrelled sawn off shotguns.
- 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.
- The Spook: In Driver 2, the captain suggests Vasquez is just a name.
- The Starscream: In 3, Jericho kills Caine for letting Tanner, an undercover cop, into the group and leading to Jericho's arrest.
- They Killed Kenny Again: Timmy Vermicelli can be killed 30 times throughout DRIV3R. This does serve a purpose: If you've killed all ten Timmies in one city, this enables a bonus.
- 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. And of course, then there's the first mission with a ridiculously strict 60 seconds. Most of the time-limits also give very little room for error.
- 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; due to being incredibly difficult with little hints and no cheats to help you.
- Wake-Up Call Mission: "Find the Clue" in Driver 2.
- Wide-Open Sandbox: From Parallel Lines onward.