DRIV3R Hands-On

Take a ride with Tanner as he embarks on a mobile phone adventure.



On the console and PC side of the gaming continuum, everyone and his brother has been working on a "GTA killer," a game that will finally dethrone the ultraviolent franchise that Joe Lieberman hates and everyone else loves. On the aforementioned platforms, Driver 3 is one such game. On mobile, however, there is no GTA. Thus, there is no Rockstar monolith to depose. The challenge for the mobile version of Driver 3 is just to create a game that fills the Tommy Vercetti gap. Will Driver 3 manage the feat upon its release on June 21? Perhaps.

In Driver 3, you reprise your role as Tanner Harvey, the undercover detective of the previous two games. Driver 3's mission-based gameplay sends you on undercover jaunts through three exotic locales--South Beach, Nice, and Istanbul. In each location, you are asked to infiltrate a gang and carry out a variety of missions to advance that gang's opinion of you. You also must progress toward your ultimate goal of making a giant bust in Istanbul, thereby securing your role as a hard-boiled hero for the rest of your natural life. Each of these missions, appropriately enough, puts you behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle. Although you can leave your car to steal another one, this is almost always unnecessary, and it's not really a major component of the game.

Missions come in several varieties--all of which are familiar to the seasoned gamer. Each of these tasks is playable outside of the game's story mode as a minigame. There are your standard races for the checkpoints; your "follow that car" missions; your "drive away from that car" missions; and, of course, there's a healthy complement of vehicular homicide missions. There are some spicier levels added to the mix, however. In one mission in Nice, a bomb has been placed in your car, and it will detonate if you slow down. Consequently, you have to drive around--from checkpoint to checkpoint--until you find a way to defuse it. Sound familiar? It should. The same mission was featured in GTA: Vice City when Tommy was playing chauffeur to Scottish rock band Love Fist.

You'll find plenty of other superficial similarities between Driver 3 and GTA. However, the two games are very different at heart. GTA's trademark has always been its nonlinearity and its free-form gameplay, whereas Driver 3, by contrast, is rigidly linear. The game's story mode consists of a series of loosely linked goals that are flanked by a bit of plot advancement.

The preview build we played needs some maturing before going gold. The civilian vehicle artificial intelligence was nonexistent. As a result, non-enemy cars routinely crashed into us, apparently unaware of our presence. Also, the frame rate tends to crawl when your vehicle turns.

On the other hand, Driver 3 sports some great features. Its control is a highlight. If you press one of the lateral directional buttons quickly, you'll simply switch lanes. If you hold it down, your car will rotate in that direction, in accordance with the speed at which you were traveling prior to entering the turn. Additionally, its collision detection is spot-on, and the crash animations are cool. There's no damage modeling, but that's no surprise with handset file-size constraints.

In its current form, Driver 3 is already a pretty enjoyable mobile game, so it'll be interesting to see if the last few kinks can be worked out prior to its June 21 release.

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