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In the late 1990s, the PlayStation was abound with racing games. Gran Turismo, Need for Speed, Ridge Racer, and many more provided players with plenty of hours of breakneck entertainment behind digital steering wheels.
Among these games, however, was a decidedly different experience from Newcastle-based developer Reflections Interactive. Simply titled Driver, the game focused more on emulating the thrill of Hollywood-style car chases than on pure racing, allowing players to unleash their inner Steve McQueen across the United States’ roughest roads. The game was immensely successful, and quickly spawned a lesser, yet ambitious sequel that allowed players to exit and hijack cars nearly a year before Rockstar allowed players to do the same in Grand Theft Auto III.
Unfortunately, the subsequent popularity and quality of the Grand Theft Auto games would prove to be an albatross around Driver’s neck. Unable to escape the former series’ transcendental fame, Reflections would gradually inject more and more of its open-world trappings into Driver, leading to some major embarrassments, and the gradual loss of the franchise’s identity.
Finally, after switching multiple publishers and coming to terms with Driver’s strengths, Reflections would transition the series back into pure, car-chasing action with 2011’s Driver: San Francisco. The cost of doing so left Reflections uninterested in doing much else with the series – but resulted in an immensely entertaining experience; one that righted its predecessors’ missteps, while offering clever new ideas that helped release it from Grand Theft Auto’s shadow.
This is the rise and fall of Driver.
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