It's a tricky task that Reflections has set itself. After the amazing debut of Driver on the first PlayStation, they developed two sequels, with DRIV3R being one of the glitchiest and poorest titles developed for this generation of consoles. Thus, the studio really needed to deliver with Driver: Parallel Linesif it was to rescue the flagging franchise. And to its credit, Reflections has listened to the critics and made a good stab at resurrecting the series. But is Parallel Lines enough of an improvement?
Features-wise, the game is extremely different to all three of its predecessors. Rather than having a main mode and a few extra mini games, everything is stuffed into the one story mode. Features like the "Survivor" mode or the "Director" option are gone, with the game beginning immediately and launching players straight into the single player mode. The fourth game focuses on a different character than in the previous titles and is set in 1978. Players take control of an eighteen year old with the annoying moniker of TK who has just moved to New York City. For cash, TK hooks up with a few criminals who are involved in the drug trade. Obviously, everything doesn't go to plan and TK gets locked up for 28 years. Later on, the game takes place in modern day New York and TK gets out of jail with revenge on his mind, which is where the second half of the game picks up.
Losing Tanner and ridding the game of a startup menu aren't the only changes that have been made. If you drive into water, then the game will now return you to shore with your player wiping themselves down which certainly makes the game a little quicker. A lot of the environment is now a lot more destructible as well so you won't be slamming into obstacles at a rapid pace. Sometimes the trees get in the way of a wall, but it feels a little fairer when you spin out now; being frustratingly held up by lightweight obstacles, such as indestructible park benches, is no longer possible (as it was in DRIV3R). A lot more of the action takes place in vehicles this time as well, so whilst you still walk around occasionally and do a few on-foot missions they aren't nearly as much of a chore as they were in DRIV3R.
There are three cities in the game and they're all very expansive. The gameplay is immediately familiar, and the game feels a lot like Grand Theft Auto. There are over thirty missions and, thankfully, a decent variety in all of them, with the game asking the player to turn delivery man, or simply getting you to collect packages. TK earns money in the game and the money can be used to upgrade his engine, but this is actually relatively pointless because there are a ton of vehicles available on the road that you can just jack immediately. In total there are about eighty vehicles in the game, and there is a large variety including police cars, motorbikes and limos, meaning you won't be seeing the same car repeatedly.
Overall, the controls are easy enough to learn and anyone who has played Grand Theft Auto will immediately be able to steal a vehicle with the triangle button. The game includes the option to shoot out of the vehicle and whilst this option may sound like a great addition, it doesn't really enhance or alter the gameplay all that much. As we mentioned, the on-foot missions are easier to complete because the controls are a little more refined. TK can lock onto an enemy or a vehicle and shoot out the tires on vehicles. If you've got a good aim, then you can pinpoint your aim and even shoot an enemy in the head.
If you attract the police whilst in a vehicle then getting into another vehicle undetected will lose the heat, but if they see you get into another vehicle then they'll be all over you. The police will chase after you if you run a red light, which may be realistic but is also unnecessary - nobody wants to have to drive around stopping at the traffic lights consistently. The police aren't entirely intelligent though, and can normally be lost by hiding in an alley, though outrunning them is a little difficult because they are suspiciously good at weaving in between traffic. If you do happen to fail a mission due to being caught, then there's plenty of mission checkpoints and restarting is simple, meaning there's a pleasing lack of having to repeat your actions.
The dual era idea may sound unique but it doesn't really change the game. Even when the game focuses on 2006, the city hasn't really changed that much. The colours in the game are drab, and we were hoping that New York would look a little better in 2006, but unfortunately the city actually looks really sparse. Still, anyone unfortunate enough to have played the last title will also be pleased to know that we didn't encounter any glitches throughout the title; this must have been something that Reflections focused on very closely, and quite rightly.
Graphically, things look okay. We didn't encounter any frame-rate problems but sometimes the game looked a bit blurred. A fully interactive city is something that was impressive three years ago but isn't as thrilling now that just about every game is doing it. We did expect there would be a few more additions when you make it to 2006, but all that changes is TK's animation and the HUD on the vehicles.
Driver: Parallel Lines does feature a good soundtrack for half of the game, but when you make it to modern day New York the soundtrack isn't nearly as good. This is mainly because the 1970s music was a hit, so all of the songs are relatively popular, but the songs chosen for 2006 are unlikely to be heard again. There is no radio though and the music can be changed immediately by pressing up on the directional pad. The voice-acting is good in the FMVs, but doesn't sound as polished during the game.
Features wise Parallel Lines has changed the Driver franchise for the better, but it still feels like the game has been rushed to completion. The multiplayer mode appears to have been removed at the last moment and the game feels like an inferior version of Grand Theft Auto. A lack of originality in the missions and annoying gameplay elements (like having to stop at traffic lights) really bring the overall quality of the game down as well. Parallel Lines is better than it's predecessor, but there are much better games out there.