After losing his wife, friends, and money to his ailing racing career, seasoned racing veteran Joe Tanto is making one last comeback effort to help Team Spirit's hot new rookie, Jimmy Bly, regain his confidence. Midway through the season, BAM! Entertainment's Driven for the PlayStation 2 lets you control both of these hotheads as they surge to obtain the Driven Championship. Through 14 movie-inspired scenarios and three arcade championships, it's up to you to drive "into the zone" and discover what drives you. Sadly, the game is so crummy that you'll probably never find out.
The problem with Driven isn't that its visuals are average or that the soundtrack rests somewhere near Paris-Dakar Rally in terms of dreary. Indeed, although the game holds no competition for the F1 2002s of the world, the courses are colorfully inspired and realistic enough to provide the right sense of speed, while the deafening racing sounds and original voice acting contributed by Sylvester Stallone, Greg Proops, and others lends believability to an otherwise insane story. The problem with Driven isn't even that you eventually end up racing through pedestrian-filled streets, the frame rate stuttering, surrounded by a bevy of underdetailed Formula One vehicles.
So what exactly is the problem with Driven? It tries too hard to be an exciting arcade-style racing game while, at the same time, adhering strictly to realistic racing physics. You can accelerate up to 200mph within seconds and survive a brutal wall impact, but a low-speed scuff on the turf sends your car spinning. Lack of contact with retaining walls and boundaries launches you into "the zone," a situation in which your top speed and cornering become vastly improved, but at the same time, you need to rely heavily on standard and drift braking to navigate sweeping turns. Should you crash, hurtful collisions will send your car flying end-over-end skyward, usually like a soaring hummingbird, and will often cause the loss of a tire. If an AI driver is involved, it'll be back to its racing line in mere seconds, while you'll be accelerating from a dead stop--once you land. Even at 38mph, it's possible to spin out and damage your car, and yet you're given three to five instant repair upgrades during a race to fix damage while moving.
Driven is so full of the contradictions mentioned above that it's neither fun nor funny. BAM! had the right idea, creating a game that stresses the importance of skilled driving and team-oriented blocking, but the two halves of the coin--arcade and simulation--are in constant conflict. If not for these issues, Driven would be a revolutionary effort. The differing scenario goals ask you to win some races outright, block for the leader in others, or, infrequently, to stop a rampaging teammate in a crowded city. With 12 different character levels and eight different courses, as well as four nonscenario championship modes, the game has a perfect array of features--if not for the fact that it's utterly unplayable.
The game's camera angles and visual effects don't help matters any. BAM! went for the Hollywood look-- the camera zooms out on the race during collisions and tight curves, but its sudden shift in viewpoints is jarring and confusing. Worse yet, 90 percent of Driven's action is shrouded in a sickening motion blur that makes it impossible to discern simple road debris from moving cars, except when you're an instant from plowing into them.
As bad as it is, Driven is almost worth seeing just to sample the blocking and zone aspects that other F-1 games fail to cover and perhaps to hear 10 different renditions of Sylvester Stallone shouting "Gentlemen, start your engines!" The game also has a two-player mode that offers the three US, Euro, and World championship options for human competition, but the split-screen just makes spinouts and braking more difficult to anticipate or control.
Innovative and unplayable are two wholly disparate adjectives, but they both apply to the PlayStation 2 version of Driven.