Driver Hands-On Preview and Video

We’ve just posted our hands-on footage of Driver. In this video, you can see part of the introductory cutscene, the underground garage driving tutorial, and the first mission to pick up a gang of bank robbers after a heist. In the background you can hear two brand new radio stations, playing original soul and rock music.

We’ve also added a second video, showing a cop chase through the streets of San Francisco on the way to a casino heist.

Driver has just hit the App Store! Quick, get in and get out before the heat arrives! Or, lay low and wait for our full review.

Thought Gangstar was big? Well, Driver has four cities, and each of those is bigger than Gangstar’s entire map. All this from a game that came out ten years ago, ported to the iPhone from the Playstation and PC by Gameloft.

We were big fans of the first Driver. Out years before GTA3, Driver was a vehicular crime-spree where you drove the getaway car for bank robberies and other nefarious heists. Your character, Tanner, never left the car for on-foot missions in the actual game, but some cheesy CG cutscenes showed him busting heads to a funky 70s soundtrack.

It all starts when Officer Tanner turns in his badge to go undercover, trying to bust a crime ring that is plotting to assassinate the President. You have to complete a quick training course in a parking garage to advance to the first real mission, which as some of you may remember, was overly complicated in the original. It’s been stripped down now, so you just have to lay on the gas, brake, and a few other easy moves to get into the main game. An original mode is still available for the extra challenge.

Once you’re playing the game, it’s surprising how quickly those Playstation memories come flooding back. Driver is an open-world game, so you can take any detour you want to get to your destination. Cops on the road will try to stop you for speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road, or crashing into other cars, so you actually have to drive correctly or risk losing the mission. Of the multiple control schemes, a virtual d-pad was by far our favorite, as tapping left or right was more responsive than the virtual joystick or accelerometer.

Driver’s been given a visual makeover, with far nicer textures, details, and lighting effects. The soundtrack has also been replaced, giving you a new radio with oldies, disco, rock, and funk music created by Gameloft. Even your in-game GPS now offers an actual route, instead of a broad arrow. Those cheesy CG cutscenes, though, are exactly the same.

This is a long game, with the entire Undercover mode (6-7 hours of gameplay, easily) and all the optional driving challenges still intact. The four cities of Miami, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles will provide plenty of space for you to drive like a madman and avoid the cops (no sissy “bribe icons” to ditch the heat in this game), and you’ll notice a few landmarks in each city that suggest a resemblance to the real-world location.

One disappointment for us, and it’s a big one, is the removal of the original game’s chase scene editor. In the original Playstation and PC versions, you could edit and adjust camera angles to make your own mini-movies from the game’s replays. Back in the day, we attempted a shot-for-shot remake of the San Francisco chase scene from The Rock.

However, this feature has been dropped, with Gameloft producers explaining it just wasn’t working on the iPhone, and it was a big time commitment that was better spent improving the game’s visuals. Citing the upcoming multiplayer update for Modern Combat, though, we were told the replay editor may make a comeback if there’s enough of a fan uproar, so get clamoring, fans!

This is pretty much the exact same Driver from a decade ago, but tuned up visually and optimized for the iPhone, and that’s probably enough if you remember it fondly. But if you haven’t played this classic cops-and-robbers driving game before, rest assured that it’s one of the top games to look forward to when it comes out in December.

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