BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear

Remembering classic games: Driver (1999)

Wallowy suspension, errant hubcaps... Driver became the definitive Hollywood car chase simulator

Published: 05 Feb 2021

In an era when most driving games either had you in a sleek modern supercar or a TNT-stuffed go-kart pedalled by a cartoon tortoise, Driver on the original PlayStation stood apart. This open world game turned back the clock and pitched you as an undercover cop masquerading as a fearless getaway driver, in a plot pulled right from a ‘70s heist movie.

Or at least it did as long as you could complete your legendarily difficult getaway driver audition, a mandatory piece of underground car park autocross that represented your very first mission for the mob. For less skilled players it probably also represented the entirety of the game as they tried and repeatedly failed to perform the slalom without slamming headlong into a concrete pillar.

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Conquer this surprisingly exacting 'tutorial' and you were launched onto the streets of 1970s Miami, its grid of 90-degree turns the perfect playground for cat and mouse chases with the fuzz. The storyline-driven missions were just a sideshow, with the real draw being the opportunity to - for the first time - tear through faithful-ish 3D renderings of New York, LA, San Francisco and Miami with an army of clumsy police cruisers in hot pursuit.

What's more, a Director mode allowed you to play Scorsese with your own action replays, picking just the right camera angles to best showcase those outrageous jumps, drifts and J-turns. Combine that with authentically wallowy suspension, errant hubcaps and alley-ways that were liberally cluttered with destructible boxes, and Driver became the definitive Hollywood car chase simulator. If you're thinking of revisiting it, just remember that for maximum authenticity it's best played while wearing a Steve McQueen rollneck sweater with a leather holster for your Twix.

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