Based on our experience so far, UK developer Reflections is making steady progress toward restoring the Driver series' good name with its latest installment, Parallel Lines. The back-to-basics crime story will shift the focus largely onto to the madcap driving action that initially made the series famous. But don't think the game will skimp on storyline as you climb the criminal ladder in gritty '70s New York City. Atari recently stopped by to show us a new build of the game, and we were given the details of an interesting plot device that looks like it'll make Parallel Lines more than your average tale of rags to riches.
Everything we've seen of the latest Driver so far has been utterly steeped in '70s culture, from muttonchop sideburns and mullets to songs like David Bowie's "Suffragette City" showing up on the soundtrack. Even the color palette is full of warm reds, oranges, and yellows. In short, the overall aesthetic just looks like the popular conception of the era it's set in. Thus, we were quite surprised to learn that you'll only play the first half of the game in 1978. After a disastrous plot twist, the game will jump ahead to present-day New York City, where the story will turn from one of ascendance through the criminal hierarchy to one of pure, burning revenge.
So why does your character (known only as "the kid," or more appropriately as TK) have a bone to pick with his former compatriots? What was going on in the intervening 28 years? We do know that TK was languishing in the stir, and that's all we'll say without giving too much of the plot away as to why he was incarcerated. At any rate, he's out of jail in 2006, looking to exact vengeance on the sleazy characters who made him take his fall.
Whereas in the '70s portion of the game you're looking to build up your rep (and your cash reserves) by taking on increasingly dangerous jobs--ranging from simple wheelman stints to debt collection, assassinations, and more--your sole occupation in 2006 is making those bastards pay for what they did to you. But it won't be a simple matter of completing one hit after another. In many cases, to get those who wronged you, you'll have to first destroy the empires they've built for themselves. For instance, former pimp Slink has built a thriving adult-entertainment business, so you'll start out by roaming around town and destroying his video stores before you can get to the man himself.
You'll still have access to all the cash-earning side missions you saw in 1978, of course. And Reflections has been working on adding new types of missions and refining the existing ones in both eras as the game has moved closer to completion. Around the third story mission, these side missions will become available to you, and you'll be able to start racking up money that you can spend on acquiring and upgrading vehicles with which to conduct your dirty business. The new debt-collection missions, for instance, have you tracking down a specific target (who's generally on the go in a car of his own) and messing with his ride enough that he'll have to get out, at which point you'll have to, uh, convince him to pony up the cash that you can then take back to the agency for a reward.
Of course, the designers have been working to make 2006 New York City look distinctly different from its 1978 counterpart. Aside from the obvious changes in architecture, you'll notice the color palette has become colder to give the city a more modern appearance. The cars will of course be updated to current standards, and the team has gone as far as to tweak the handling to make these modern vehicles actually drive like they should. It's worth noting, however, that any rides you've pimped particularly well in the '70s will still be chilling in their garages, so keep that in mind if you want to take them out of retirement. Even the soundtrack will be updated in the second half of the game, providing a mix of current licensed tracks and some of the '70s songs remixed by their original artists.
Parallel Lines seems to be trundling solidly toward its March release time frame. The game has seemed consistently more complete each time we've seen it, and so far it looks like it will offer a far more focused and satisfying experience than its conspicuous predecessor. The dual-era nature of the storyline will hopefully offer a compelling reason for you to take on the game's missions beyond the simple acquisition of wealth, too. We'll bring you more on the game in the coming weeks.