Fans Are Making Their Own Driver Game Since Ubisoft Won't Give Us a New One
It's been almost 10 years since the world had a new Driver video game. It might not be much longer.
In 1999, seven-year-old me ran into the video game section of Toys R Us and made a beeline for the video games section. I wanted—no, I needed—to play the demo on display for a new 3D open-world driving video game called Driver for the original PlayStation. Within five minutes, my adolescent mind was obsessed. The big American cars handled differently than in any other game, with flexing suspensions and flying hubcaps, and there was one button just for doing burnouts.
Intended to emulate Hollywood chases scenes in the 1970s and 1980s, Driver was an immediate hit that spawned a number of sequels over the following decade-plus. But it also had the incredible bad luck to launch just two years before Grand Theft Auto III debuted on the PS2 in 2001 and changed what we expect from video games forever. To many, Driver has always been that other car-crime game with the floaty driving physics and abominable on-foot controls.
It doesn't help that the franchise has been dormant since the last entry, Driver: San Francisco came out in 2011 for the PS3, Xbox360 and original Wii. Thankfully for the diehards, there's a fan-made effort currently underway to recreate a new version of the first Driver game for PC. Not a sequel, but an homage that marries the simple setup of the 1999 game with updated graphics. Welcome to The Driver Syndicate:
The project is the brainchild of a software engineer named Ilya who works under the pseudonym Soapy, and a small but dedicated community of Driver enthusiasts has sprung up around him. As the following development video shows, the project's been underway since 2014, with major updates added in 2020 and work still ongoing. You can download a free beta version at this link.
In the Driver games you play as Tanner, an ex-racer turned cop who has been recruited for an undercover assignment as a wheelman. The first mission in the first game takes place in a parking garage where you need to perform a series of stunts to impression the bad guys. The stunts were labeled on the right side of the screen as Burnout, Handbrake, Slalom, 180, 360, Reverse 180, Brake Test, and Lap. All of these had to be performed within a minute. Because of this a lot of players couldn’t pass the first mission, including me, because as a kid I had no idea what a slalom was.
Still, it hooked me. Soft suspension cars swinging their hips like Chubby Checker doing the twist, hub caps flying off and cop cars that somehow always ended upside down. The Driver and Driver 2 games pushed the original PlayStation console to the limit with its cinematic ambitions, taking inspiration from movies like The Driver (1978) right down to specific cutscenes.
Driving games in general have evolved over the last twenty years, with be-everything-to-everyone titles like the Forza Horizon series and hyper-realistic simulators dominating the landscape. There's less room for something niche like Driver—unless we take matters into our own hands, apparently.
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