"Driver 2" for Sony PlayStation works on so many levels that it's tough to count them all. A sweet, sweet driving game. A tight mystery story. And the ability of players to edit their adventures into a personalized movie. It's this kind of imaginative approach to a potentially tired genre that makes "Driver 2" such a winner.
Players assume the role of Tanner, an undercover cop who knows what to do behind the wheel. Tanner and his partner, Tobias Jones, are trying to stem the gang warfare between two competing crime lords--one based in Chicago, the other in South America.
Consequently, players get to lay down tracks in cities such as Chicago, Rio, Havana and Las Vegas as they try to piece together clues. Each city includes fine detailing--from realistic shop fronts to cars that move like real traffic.
As important as the story is in the "Driver" series, the real attraction is unrelenting play. Drivers must chase down other cars, dodge the law and make sure not to take out too many innocent motorists along the way.
As with the first "Driver," car physics work precisely the way they should. Take a turn too fast, and the car spins out. Smash into another car, and both vehicles sustain damage. Do it too many times, and the car stops working. Just like in real life.
A truly interesting feature is the ability to capture driving sequences--complete with crashes and jumps--and edit them together into a cheesy "Streets of San Francisco"-style movie. It's a nice little extra that adds novelty to an already awesome game.
For fans of arcade-style racing, few games beat Midway's "Cruisin' " series for Nintendo 64. The latest, "Cruisin' Exotica," lets players open up some sweet cars on tracks that range from the watery blue depths of Atlantis to the dusty red plains of Mars.
After those two, few of the other locations--which range from Tibet and India to Hong Kong and the Amazon--seem quite so exotic. But that's the gimmick behind the game: Players cruise places most will never visit, much less speed through in a convertible.
Remember, National Geographic this ain't, so nit-picking players should forgive the fact that dinosaurs roam the Amazon and killer whales leap the roadway in Alaska. The colorful, cheeky visuals of the "Cruisin' " games are half of their appeal.
But in "Exotica," Nintendo 64 is beginning to show its age. Although the game looks great compared with others on the platform, it pales in comparison with Sega Dreamcast titles such as "Speed Devils," which takes the jokey "Cruisin' " formula and updates it with longer tracks and much better graphics.
Like its cousins before it, "Cruisin' Exotica" is not for technical racing purists. Cars smash into barriers and one another without sustaining any damage. And players get time bonuses for performing flips and rolls in their cars--even the convertibles.
But for folks who like firing up a game and just losing themselves in a quick challenge, "Cruisin' Exotica" is more than up to the task. Because as many as four players can race at once in split-screen mode, it's the perfect driving game for parties.
Aaron Curtiss is editor of Tech Times.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Title: "Driver 2"
Platform: Sony PlayStation
ESRB rating: Teen
The good: Varied missions
The bad: Sometimes clunky
Bottom line: Great fun
Title: "Cruisin' Exotica"
Platform: Nintendo 64
ESRB* rating: Everyone
The good: Colorful courses
The bad: Completely unrealistic
Bottom line: A fun arcade racer
*Entertainment Software Ratings Board