The Driver series has always been shadowed by the bigger, bolder and better Grand Theft Auto series, which does basically the same thing, but with a certain something that seemed to always be missing from Ubisoft’s clone. Now onto it’s fifth version, after last years Driver: Parallel Lines, Driver ’76 takes the car-stealing, crime-committing, police-eluding shenanigans portable.
As the title suggests, Driver ’76 takes place in retro-ville 1976 New York. Filled with muscle cars and huge afros, the game will be at least slightly familiar to those acquainted with the previous Driver, thanks to the inclusion of some bit-players who are promoted to fully-fledged main characters here. Players are thrown straight into the criminal world of Ray, your character, who is introduced through some novel comic strip cut-scenes.
The game is fairly linear and straightforward for the most part. Missions are assigned and completed in a fairly simplistic manner. Most missions are generated as a result of Ray’s partner Slink and his mischievously devious vice problems. Stealing, kidnapping and double-crossing are all everyday experiences through the 27 missions that Ray must complete.
While on most assignments Ray will be forced into committing a felony, which may eventually bring him to the attention of the police, who seem to be as incompetent as the cops from Hazzard County. The police will rarely ever threaten to stop your escape and most of the time will ignore you unless you happen to commit double homicide directly in front of them.
There are up to 40 customizable cars scattered throughout the game to be unlocked and earned, ranging from complete lemons to some icons of the era.
Despite the abundance of cars and car-related missions, you do occasionally leave the safety of your automobile and complete some tasks on foot. The controls become a little twitchy when on foot and gunplay is made a little easier by the inclusion of a lock-on button and the seemingly endless amount of health Ray has.
Driver ’76 offers some replayability with the inclusion of some hidden, and not so hidden, icons strategically placed throughout the city. These icons, once collected, allow for even greater customisation of characters and cars and offer a little more motivation for the game to be completed to the maximum of its potential - even if your in-game characters don’t actually wear the clothes you have painstakingly acquired for them.
Well, Driver ’76 marks an average entry into the seedy world of third-person crime games on the PSP. The splash it makes into the PSP’s pool of games will be closer to a pebble than the boulder that GTA fell with. A good concept and great soundtrack is tainted by less-than-pleasing load times, weak AI and a lack of satisfaction in players’ minds. But what it does prove is just how good those guys at Rockstar are.