Since its first incarnation on the PlayStation, the Driver series has seen its fair share of ups and downs across several different platforms. Unfortunately, Driver: Renegade 3DS isn't one of the series' stronger entries. Its lousy attitude, poor production values, and dearth of interesting content make it a half-baked game that isn't worth your time.
You play as series mainstay John Tanner, an ex-cop who's hired by one of New York's big political figures to rid the city's streets of crime. Doing so requires you to mercilessly drive your car around like a lunatic and bash into any enemy vehicles that try to stop you--and that's pretty much the extent of what Driver: Renegade 3DS has to offer. For the most part, the driving is solid but completely unremarkable. Individual cars (which are unlocked after completing missions) handle according to their relative stats, and also make use of a "rage bar." The bar recharges during drifts and stunts, giving you access to a temporary speed boost and the ability to destroy assailants using shunts.
Not only do the game's run-of-the-mill racing objectives fail to capitalize on the solid driving mechanics, but it also makes it easy to cheat the system and truncate the running time of an otherwise prolonged mission to much shorter periods. For instance, instead of becoming embroiled in a captivating car chase through the city streets, merely trapping an opposing car against a nearby wall and then ramming into it a few times is more than enough to meet the requirements of your objective. Boxing in an opponent may sound like a valid tactic to some, but in reality, it's just not fun; and you may even find yourself causing such incidents to happen without even trying. Even worse, similar frustrations can also befall you. Spinning out and knocking against other cars or parts of the environment rapidly drains the stability of your car, meaning that deaths are often unfair and unpredictable.
The Story mode is light on interesting exposition, and the incredibly hammy dialogue and voice acting are executed with absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. Brief motion comics highlight the paper-thin narrative, and its justifications for throwing you into missions are poorly conceived. Tanner himself, who has been relatively stoic in the past, is inexplicably transformed into an archetypal tough guy who shamefully spouts a small selection of bad one-liners and puns ad nauseam. The game desperately tries to appear edgy with gratuitous swearing; and there are embarrassing attempts at titillation via the introduction of a sultry female character, but all of its efforts are awkwardly juvenile. It also takes no more than three hours to get through the story's 20 missions, although the game actually runs out of tricks by about half that length. There's a separate Career mode as well, which allows you to compete in specific events pulled from the main game, including time trials and eliminator races. However, it's essentially the same content without the shoddy narrative in between, so you won't feel much desire to carry on playing past the fleeting Story mode. While you can use StreetPass to exchange scores and records, multiplayer of any kind is a no-show--not even local play is included.
The polygonal city you ride and smash around in is a hollow and vaguely open-world map with a noticeable lack of life on the surrounding streets. Every inch of the city feels empty on a drastic scale: Traffic is extremely light and the absence of everyday citizens galloping from the path of your speeding car seems strangely at odds with the conventions of the series. It also doesn't help that everything looks so washed out and jagged. Plus, the shoddy use of stereoscopic 3D adds nothing to the visuals--it's much more comfortable to play with the slider turned all the way down. On the plus side, the soundtrack is tolerable and the menus are generally well produced; in fact, they are arguably the most impressive aspect of the entire game.
From its overwhelming repetition to its tepid attempts to be cool and irreverent, Driver: Renegade 3D is a game that fails to create an action-driving hybrid that is even remotely engaging. Its solid driving mechanics have been squandered on a game that is far too boring, and the end result is a product that feels consistently rough and flawed in every way.