Games based on old movies are plentiful at E3 this year. Electronic Arts has From Russia With Love and The Godfather, Vivendi Universal has Scarface, and Majesco brought Jaws and Taxi Driver. We spent some time playing an early build of Taxi Driver for the Xbox, and it looks like developer Papaya Studios has so far done a good job of capturing the gritty, violent tone of the film.
Taxi Driver stars Travis Bickle, the same disgruntled, antisocial cab driver played by Robert De Niro in the film. The game is a third-person action adventure that takes place in New York City, which you can explore at your leisure when you aren't completing the story missions of the game. Naturally, you can drive a taxi and pick up fares to earn money as you cruise around the city as well. The game looks and feels very much like Grand Theft Auto 3 without any police chases. However, there are still consequences to acting crazy and slaughtering crowds of innocent pedestrians. When you start killing innocent people, the screen will get red, and eventually it will simply go black before resetting you at the beginning of your most recent mission. This effect is supposed to represent Travis' sanity. If you've seen the film, you'll remember that Travis is a sort of vigilante who attempts to clean up the city by dishing out his own violent brand of justice. It makes sense then that you'll be punished for running down innocent people in the game.
Taxi Driver takes place shortly after the events in the film. Betsy, Travis' love interest from the film, is killed by the Mob, and Travis of course must go on a mission through the seamy underbelly of the city to avenge Betsy's death. In the build we played, we started out in Travis' apartment, where we received a message that we needed to get to Betsy's apartment as soon as possible. We walked outside and jumped in a taxi to head off to kill some gangsters. The controls for Taxi Driver felt much like any other third-person action game, with the left analog stick controlling movement and the right one controlling your aim. You can pull a gun out using one button, and fire it with another. When carrying a weapon such as the shotgun, you'll move much slower than when you're unarmed. We used a shotgun and a large pistol in the game, both of which behaved about as you'd expect them to.
As Taxi Driver is still fairly early on in development, it feels a bit sparse at the moment. The environments look detailed, but there isn't much happening--which is certainly uncharacteristic of The Big Apple. However, the game mechanics feel pretty solid, and we're interested to see how the rest of the story and missions unfold in the final game. We'll bring you more details as they emerge, so stay tuned. Taxi Driver is scheduled for release sometime in 2006.