Itâ€™s 1978 and youâ€™re The Kid, 18 years-old and newly arrived in New York from the country. Youâ€™re out to make your fortune and this being a Driver game, you arenâ€™t going to be doing secretarial work. TK does some debt collection and hits some liquor stores before his friend Ray sets him up with a shot at the big time. This is where you come in.
Although Driver: Parallel Lines is relatively free roaming, it is story driven. The first half takes place in 1978 until TK is double-crossed and arrested. He emerges from prison 28 years later with revenge on his mind. This isnâ€™t giving anything away. It says as much on the box. Itâ€™s a neat trick on the part of the developers to keep 2006 New York familiar, while modernizing it in every way. You feel like you really have lost 28 years. The soundtrack changes, as do the cars and weaponry and even the display. Suddenly this game that youâ€™ve become so familiar with feels slightly alien, like when youâ€™ve accidentally shrunk your pants â€“ theyâ€™re the sameâ€¦ but different. Anyway, this new version of the game world will spur you on through the first half of the game.
The downside to the gameâ€™s narrative dependence is that you donâ€™t really have much choice about what to do. There are non-story missions available, but they donâ€™t really have any impact. You earn cash from them and with that you can upgrade your cars. In Parallel Lines you can store any car in your garage and upgrade it as much as you can afford, with bulletproof glass, engine improvements or just a new paint job. Upgrading could have been totally redundant as youâ€™ll be hard-pressed to keep a car in mint condition (I wonder what would happen if I drove at that ramp really fast). However, Ray sends out a truck every time you abandon one of your own vehicles and it miraculously reappears in your garage, although you will have to repair it.
This sounds quite promising, but in reality you want to get on with the story and those missions frequently have their own vehicles anyway. You tend to have a choice of story missions, but this is misleading as you still have to complete them all. Before long, youâ€™ll be down to one mission and it will be the one youâ€™ve been avoiding because youâ€™re rubbish with motorbike/vans/on foot. Iâ€™d have liked to have seen a greater array of missions of which you only had to do a proportion. This would minimize potential dead-ends for the player.
The missions keep you guessing at least. The vast majority are vehicle-based. Occasionally youâ€™ll be on foot or shooting from the back of a truck, but these sections only make you want to get back into a car. There are a few races, including one where you have to ensure not only that you lose, but that one particular opponent wins. Never mind that the resulting race is transparently rigged, itâ€™s great fun trying to devise tactics for this. Another race, this time on the roads, involves recovering a sports car and returning it to a character called The Mexican. Your opponents are all armed and itâ€™s left to you whether you opt to outpace them, obliterate them or a combination of both.
In one mission you have to steal a car, attract police attention, lose it and then replace the car to frame someone. In another youâ€™re on a bike collecting packages dropped from a helicopter. You might be scaring a passenger until he talks by driving recklessly or you might be attacking a prison convoy. While many of these missions have elements in common, none are really repeated. One gameplay element that takes things up a notch is TKâ€™s ability to fire while driving. Itâ€™s hard enough to pursue a veering vehicle through traffic without having to shoot at it as well. The results are pleasingly chaotic. In fact if you get to grips with the controls youâ€™ll be amazed at how frequently you manage to nip between two cars or narrowly avoid an oncoming police car. Youâ€™ll never tire of doing a handbrake turn into a side street either and with street lights being mercifully puny, youâ€™ve nothing to stop you other than brickwork and other cars.
Unfortunately, as Iâ€™ve already mentioned, the on-foot passages of play leave a lot to be desired. While TK moves well â€“ his Seventies strut is particularly impressive â€“ heâ€™s not so easy to control in a shoot-out. You can lock on to targets, which is fortunate, because otherwise you wouldnâ€™t stand a chance. Thankfully, itâ€™s rare that you find yourself on foot, so by-and-large you can concentrate on damaging the ozone layer in huge growling beasts of cars. This is what Parallel Lines is all about.
To get to most of the missions youâ€™ll have to make your way through New York without picking up any heat from the cops. This is simple enough. As long as you donâ€™t do anything wrong, the police will ignore you. But to do this would be tiresome and long-winded. Who wants to play a game where you spend half your time stopping at traffic lights? So basically, you drive as irresponsibly and outrageously as you like unless you see a police car on your minimap, at which point you behave yourself as best you can. Part of the skill of this game is making good time without attracting attention and you learn that sometimes youâ€™ll just have to wait at crossroads etc. A quick piece of advice though. Donâ€™t do as I did and confuse the handbrake button with the â€œstick your head out of the window with a gunâ€ button. Apparently the police frown on this kind of behavior.
If you do slip up â€“ and occasionally you wonâ€™t know what youâ€™ve done wrong â€“ itâ€™s not the end of the world. The felony is assigned to the vehicle youâ€™re in. If you can lose the police, you can change vehicle and continue as an innocent driver. If the police see you exit the vehicle then the felony sticks with TK. If he can get into a â€˜cleanâ€™ vehicle unseen then he can still drive around unnoticed, but the felony stays with him and cops are a little bit more curious about you. This element of the game could be an irritant and I think some players might tire of it, but if you exercise a small amount of caution then you can get away with a lot. Having to occasionally drive responsibly draws you into the game and makes you appreciate the mayhem all the more.
Within many of the missions there are several restart points and if you do fail, you get the option to immediately retry. However, there will definitely be times when youâ€™re forced to replay a mission too many times. Youâ€™ll wish you could make the story progress some other way, but youâ€™ll just have to persevere.
Itâ€™s fun to drive round a city far too fast. Thereâ€™s an imperfect framework in which to do that here, but itâ€™s a vast improvement on its predecessor.