IGN Review of Driver: Parallel Lines
When Driver: Parallel Lines released in March of 2006 across the last-generation platforms, it gave Grand Theft Auto a bit of a run for its money. The game may not have had the polish or name recognition of Rockstar's offering, but it had the soul of a series that's been around for just as long, and we were left wondering if this was the true come-back to the Driver franchise after a quite uneventful "Driv3r." Nearly a year and a half after its initial release, Driver: Parallel Lines now comes to Wii. Unfortunately, things are changing, and like the game's own lead character TK, time is passing this title by whether it wants to accept it or not. Driver: Parallel Lines may have the same core experience as it did over a year ago, but it lacks innovation and polish, and Wii's open-world bar has already been set pretty high.
Driver: Parallel Lines is essentially a 1970's take on the world of Grand Theft Auto, mixed with some play modes and mechanics found in the age-old Driver series. Players take the role of lead TK, as the hotshot driver builds connections throughout New York by drug running, escorting, and acting as a valet for pimps, dealers, and crime bosses. On the side, TK keeps scratch coming in by running the occasional odd-job setup or drug coup, taking time to head to the track after tuning up racers to earn cash in a more legit fashion. As TK you'll need to manage your flow of vehicles, keep your connections tight, and lose the occasional blue boy brigade (also referred to as "cops" or "pigs" for you lesser filth out there) in high-speed chases around NYC. As the game progresses, TK will find himself in 2006 (we'll spare you the details), where he'll need to pick up where he left off by boosting cars and making a new name for himself.
Overall the presentation is pretty decent, though it's obvious that the cut-scenes have been dumbed down a bit in video quality and are done entirely with pre-rendered models. The cinematic work in Driver has previously been described as "Goodfellas in the 70's," and for the most part we'd agree, as long as that statement comes with the disclaimer that it's in no way up to the movie's caliber. The storytelling in Driver is decent, but the grainy look (not intentional, we assure you) and dull colors make it less of a graphical feat than its previous console partners. Yes you'll still have all the elements of the game like 70's HUD items and music to accompany the fully-VO game script, but it's less impressive now than it would have been in early 2006 on a previous generation console.
There's a pattern to be seen here. Driver: Parallel Lines is still the same core game as it was, but it lacks soul, innovation, and any real depth in its Wii design. On the streets the game controls a bit on the wonky side, with analog driving and full IR support for drive-by shootings and the like. And though the core layout works, buttons and tilt control seem out of place. For starters, gas is handled with the Z button, and brake is on C; both on the left hand. With analog controlling the steering, that makes all driving control one-handed, and pretty uncomfortable for long behind-the-wheel campaigns. In addition, tilt control with the nunchuk can also be used to drive the car, but it's unresponsive and always on, so if you're resting your hands casually in your lap, your car's alignment will feel off. We've seen posting on the net already about people with "broken games," and to be fair that's exactly what we thought the first time as well. No, your game isn't broken; it's just poorly designed.
Along those same lines, on-foot controls work, but they're far more unintuitive and unresponsive than either Godfather or Scarface on Wii. You can pull your gun, lock on to objects, and squeeze off shots, but the camera control is nearly identical to something like Red Steel, so you'll need to shove your cursor all the way to the edge of the screen to look around - something that's quite undesirable when being shot at by gangs or cops. There's no tweaking to the IR controls, and the overall experience is just too slow and less responsive than the far more impressive Scarface experience. Team the odd on-foot controls with the one-handed, tilt/analog feel of driving, and you've got a Wii-make that screams "rush job." We're not impressed.
On a more global note, the open-world feel in Driver just isn't what it could have been, as you've often got only a handful of places to go or missions to take on, and there's no grand experience to be had. If you want a break from drug running, go do a race. If you're bored with that, drive around and get into trouble on your own. Driver brings back a ton of its classic tailing missions and grand cop chases, but it lacks an experience beyond the in-car engine. At the same time, we do need to give Driver props for a few of its behind-the-wheel achievements, specifically when dealing with automatically activated bullet time during crashes. It's a small addition, but when you're driving through a mission and accidentally ram into a school bus, you get a pretty impressive slow motion effect, and a ton of debris.
The game's engine is solid enough to support a ton of objects in the environment, so driving down alleyways or taking shortcuts often kicks up a ton of debris and eye candy in the process; something Wii missed out on often. In the garage, somewhat low-poly car models are justified by the amount of depth - you can tweak every inch of your car. It's practically GTA mixed with Need for Speed, and in that regard we need to give Driver props. The downside comes when you step out onto the streets and find that there's very little to enjoy in the game's somewhat closed off "open world."
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