Monday, February 3, 2014

Driver Parallel Lines: The Brother Nobody Talks About at Christmas.

I've been a fan of the Driver video game series since I tried the original. Back then it was amazing to have an expansive landscape to explore and feel like you could go anywhere you wanted, when you wanted! As with almost any game franchise, Driver tried to be competitive and in a lot of ways it succeeded, and in a lot of ways it failed.

Driver 2 was never a masterpiece, but it expanded on what the original gave us and gave the player the option of getting out of the vehicle, to drive any other vehicle you could find. Sprinkle in some events that required the player to exit the vehicle and you had a decent follow-up to the original Driver, filled with hours of things to do, explore and uncover. But where the series really took a dive was when things moved up to a new class of hardware, ala PS2 and Xbox, when the creators of Driver seemingly pushed out a half finished game that wasn't great, but ok for a single play through, if nothing more than to laugh at the complete mess of it all.

There was no doubt the team could create a Driver game for that console generation, but they just couldn't seem to finish what they started. Tanner's jump was half hearted, as if he shit his pants just before leaping, and the vehicles felt as if you were struggling to pass everyone at an already sluggish pace, where was the speed? They did, however, leave in the concept of hidden areas from Driver 2, but this only serves as a showcase for how terrible Tanner walks and his controls outside of vehicles.

Up to this point I had greatly enjoyed all of the incarnations of Driver, yes even 3, not counting any of the mobile/portable versions as I hadn't tried them. The original was still my favorite, based on its purity and simplicity, but on the horizon loomed a force, a force so big and so bold that no one could turn away from it... well no, in reality I fear, at this point, the franchise had been torn apart by competition so nobody really ever gave the fourth installment a fair chance to even survive. Which is sad too, as I feel it is far better than any of the first 3!

In 2006 Driver: Parallel Lines was unleashed for the PS2 and Xbox, but it seems nobody was listening after the boy had cried wolf too many times. Mediocre reviews abound, Driver: Parallel Lines kept selling and still it seemed nobody was saying much about it, other than it was a sad GTA clone.

My original game and the
Limited Edition set that I found at the outlet store.
Shortly after its lifespan was over I acquired an Xbox. The whole library was new to me and I went on a spree, buying used game to flesh out a meager little collection. I collected as many GTA games as I could, as well as Driv3r, and soon switched my focus to GTA "clones", such as the True Crime series. Among all the clones listed online sat Driver: Parallel Lines, never having heard about it I knew I had to find a copy and give it a try.

I remember it like it was 6 years ago, which it most likely was. I walked into ShameStop and walked over to the Xbox rack, tracked down the only copy that was in its original case that had the manual and took it up to the counter to plunk down $17.99. Being the frugal (cheap!) video game hunter I am, I walked away feeling as if that price was a bit much for a used game, so I hoped that it would live up to the $18+tax.

When I got home and sat down I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I fired it up, but I do remember the cut scenes being remarkable, as I believe all cut scenes in the Driver series have been. After playing for a bit I was hooked, it was as if two rivals came together and had a child. The child had many aspects of both parents, but also had its own personality and qualities that made it quite good in its own right.

Unlike Driv3r, Parallel Lines was more fluid and worked better than even GTA 3, maybe on par somewhere between Vice City and San Andreas, but still very good. The antagonist controls we easy and nowhere near as clunky as before, getting in and out of cars was easy, vehicles had power, the visuals were (IMHO) better than any GTA before it. That and you weren't stuck in a single time era, after a certain part of the storyline you were allowed to free roam through 2 different eras!

Playing in 2 eras was a bit glitchy as you can still drive modern era cars in the 70s era, but other than that it was still great to have choices. Speaking of vehicles Parallel Lines has a good variety, and a MUCH better storage system than GTA had! Instead of parking your car within a designated place and hoping its there the next time you load your save, all you had to do was go to one of the selectable repair shops and pick from a list of cars you had brought in and saved along your journey.

I can't and wouldn't say Parallel Lines was as good as San Andreas, but it did look better to me. Like I said, somewhere between Vice City and San Andreas. Driver: Parallel Lines is a competent GTA clone, but I have more fun with San Andreas. San Andreas was just massive, and while Parallel Lines was no slouch it just felt a little too much like a sandbox to really give any depth the exploration.

Of all the games that I've spent countless hours with my Xbox San Andreas comes first, without a doubt. Driver: Parallel Lines comes second and I couldn't even think of a third, but it would be one of the other GTA games. Parallel Lines was a very competent Driver game, it was a very competent GTA clone (or contender), but for some reason it just never got the respect it deserves. Which is sad, because its leagues above Driv3r and that only gets talked about because of how much of a horrible train wreck it is!

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