Published on October 21st, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Driver: Renegade Review
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
There is no tale older than that of a man and his car. Now, throw a couple of pimps,hookers and hoodlums in there-and you’ve got yourself a Nintendo 3DS action racing title.
Driver Renegade tells the story of a cop by the name of John Tanner, a man who discovers vast amounts of corruption in his dear city. It is also part of the Driver series as a whole, set in the events between Driver and Driver 2. Tanner becomes aware of the corruption in the New York Police Department and is now taking matters into his own hands.
Tanner begins to work as a mercenary/renegade, hence the title, to track down the scum who holds the answer to this web of lies–which just so happens to stem from a certain senator. After saving Senator Ballard’s life, he must now become a head hunter to rid the streets of scum.
Never ever trust the words out of a politicians mouth.
We are right away introduced to the web of antagonists, which consists of the usual seascape of dealers, pushers and hussies. This group of class acts are also backed by an unknown head honcho that is hiding in the shadows. Tanner must work with adversary Warren Nolan in order to drop these other baddies. Sergeant Gordon Blunt, who envies Tanners style of justice, is still a friend that Tanner can rely on for intel and support. There are a few other juicy details to the main story, but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.
The cinematics of the game are played out in a graphic novel style and bring along with them a certain dramatic essence that you would expect from the genre. There are some over-the-top sequences and dramatic lead-ins that give them that certain flare that can be found in these types of police drama story lines. Dramatic tag lines and quotes are a must. The campaign’s missions are showcased with a giant cork board of notes, while the career racing mode is simply accessed via the main menu.
The career mode offers players the ability to unlock multiple races and vehicles. This is also the area where you can complete various race types, such as Time Attack, Elimination Mode and Road War. There are also 50 different cars that can be placed into the garage.
With so many things steering the game towards a great experience, distractions during gameplay and other hindrances brings the experience to a screeching halt.
The controls of the game are pretty standard. Well, sort of. The ‘L’ and ‘R’ buttons are used for side-swipe attacks. The ‘B’ for acceleration, the ‘Y’ brake/reverse, and the ‘X’ for the emergency brake. Players can steer with the swivel or D-pad. Although this may seem like a great layout, the functionality of them during gameplay is largely hindered by the cramped button space. Also, there is no customizable layout, which seems downright silly.
Making these shoulder buttons for acceleration/brake and reverse would have been easily swapped and the buttons used for the Rage Attacks. I wasn’t the only one yelling profanities during the games story.
The dialogue in Driver Renegade is laughable at times. Not because of the cleverness, or how witty, but rather how terrible it is. Like many other gamers out there, I am a huge fan of the inclusion of expletives to give a game a gritty, more natural feel. In Tanners’ case, the “mother fu*!ers” and “$h!t head” remarks that continue to be recycled through the games storyline become overused and most times annoying. There were numerous times that I slid the volume bar down simply because of these remarks. Other times, the sound effects alone were very low in quality and hurt more than helped in action sequences.
Things like explosions and other in-game effects seemed to “stick” during gameplay. Soundtracks stopped and continued on with the same looped music, while other sound effects dropped altogether. These were not the only noticeable more-than-cosmetic blemishes.
Such things as the in game animations looked rushed and do not really even fit the shell of something that you might see in the arcade racer. Boss battles, which most of the time meant following a certain car and dismantling the driver, often left the target car stuck after crashing. During one of the last missions of the game, the target car stood still not moving perpendicular with the median while I continue to slam my Ramrod into it. This also happened multiple times during the other race modes.
It was interesting to see the interactions with the environment in such areas as entering a city park or other fenced off paces. While it is impossible to run rampant through these parts due to a low rod iron fences, it is easy to mow through a building and take it out like a flimsy deck of cards. Crashing into dumpsters left you coming to a screeching halt, while mowing down lamp posts and other objects did not even hinder your road rage. This was also the case for many of the enemies in the game.
There were points when hitting the turbo, or Rage Gauge, that left an enemy hit by the head-on collision and would crumble at the sheer impact from the dead on crash. Enemies fell to this deadly crash, but when it came to my survival, Tanner might as well have been fitted in a glass car. Bumping street corners, or random cars in the environment, often left Tanner’s 1985 SARTACUS Ramrod falling apart as if its Achilles heel was pierced. Using the Rage attack did however limit these blows from becoming more than the car could handle, but it often left me stuck in the road only to be hit by appearing enemies.
It was weird to see the game hindered in such areas. The only reason it was a little offsetting to see this was because of the quality that was seen at times. Some streets glistened in the fast paced drive and there were such noticeable things as the realistic flames rising from explosions and Rage usage. These elements were smothered with shoddy voice acting and recycled level designs. For a city as alive as New York, there were no pedestrians to make it believable.
Other noticeable areas where the game could have used some aesthetic improvements were smaller things, such as the use of the lower screen. It seemed like quite a waste to only have the bottom screen be used as a giant map instead of its potential. It could have been swapped out for a rear-view mirror, something the game doesn’t house in the button lineup. A racing game without a rear-view mirror? Another suggestion for the bottom screen could have been something like showoff moves on the various jumps that players can embark on. Instead, big cinematic jumps go off without so much as a bang. The map also distracts the action on the top screen, sometimes leaving you to slam into walls during heated chases.
Ubisoft did such a great job with the 3D effects in the Nintendo 3DS’ launch titles, Rayman 3D, I was expecting to see the same type of usage that was seen in prior titles, even with it being a remake of its original rendition. Especially with the title releasing in close quarters with Driver San Francisco, it was a huge letdown to not see licensed cars in the Nintendo 3DS release.
Driver Renegade made me want to become a bus-riding, law-abiding citizen. There was no doubt that the game’s vulgar language and attempt to be a rebellious title set out to be a GTA contender.
The best part of the game wasn’t the main story line, but the racing during the career mode. Although this was great, the lack of licensed cars and button layout did obstruct the overall experience.
In the end, the gameplay was frustrating, the level designs felt recycled, and the overall experience only left me shifting into lower gears.
+ Unlockable Cars
+/- Race Mode
– Level Design
– Button Layout
– Use of Nintendo 3DS abilities
– Screens look better than final product