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European cover art
Crawfish Interactive (GBC)
|Publisher(s)||GT Interactive Software
NA June 30, 1999
EU July 2, 1999
JP March 9, 2000
Game Boy Color
|Media/distribution||1 CD, Download|
Driver (known as Driver: You Are the Wheelman in North America), is a 1999 action driving video game developed by Reflections Interactive (now known as Ubisoft Reflections), who had earlier hits with Destruction Derby in the early years of the PlayStation. It is the first game in the Driver series. Initially, the game was only released for the PlayStation, but Windows and Mac ports were released less than a year later. A special Game Boy Color version was also released, with top-down view, and fewer missions. In 2009, an iPhone/iPod Touch version was made available.
The game is played out in four cities: Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, which, like many games, remain only partially faithful to the original city layouts, but notably featured them as explorable open world environments.
The game was designed to mimic 1960s and 1970s car chase films. The title and the overall theme seem to be heavily inspired by the 1978 film The Driver by director Walter Hill. Most notably, the "Training" level at the beginning of the game is a copy of a scene from the movie in which the Driver (played by Ryan O'Neal) proves his skills to some gangsters in a parking garage. The music, overall character design in the cutscenes, and the cars themselves (complete with flying hubcaps), are inspired by films such as Bullitt and television series such as Starsky and Hutch. The game also features a "Film Director" mode, where a run could be replayed with cameras chosen by the player, and a "Quick Replay", where the cameras are automatically selected.
In addition to the "Undercover" mode, the player also had an option to drive around in the cities (once they are unlocked) and dirt tracks. There are several other modes, like pursuit, getaway, checkpoint, and carnage (inflicting as much damage as possible; PC only). After the game is finished (or secret passwords inserted in the records screens), several cheats are made available. Among them are skipping the garage mission, giving the car super speed (PC only), immunity to police cars, invincibility, or the ability to ride around in Newcastle, Reflections' home town.
John Tanner, an NYPD detective has gone undercover due to his unmatched driving skills (gained from his time as a race car driver). His mission is to gain the confidence of a crime syndicate's bosses by performing increasingly difficult driving missions such as stopping or following another car, smashing through restaurants, delivering a stolen car, or scaring a taxi customer.
Tanner's undercover work begins with him having to prove to some very lowly gangsters in a parking garage that he can do jobs for them by demonstrating his skills while keeping his car intact. Upon doing so, he is invited to his first mission, in Miami.
Tanner's mission involves a lowly bank job being carried out by a man named Art and his associates. Tanner works as their wheelman, before being called up to either drive a stolen car to a yard for a respray or helping a lowly gangster called Ticco carry out an assassination. If Tanner takes the stolen car mission, he works for Art in exchanging a briefcase for a key, but ends up being double-crossed and forced to chase the double-crosser across Miami Bay. If he takes Ticco for a ride, Tanner cleans up after a driver who left a stolen car out in the open.
Tanner then talks to a pimp named Rufus, who reveals that he is busting out an associate of his called Jean-Paul from an armored police car. After this job is complete, Tanner either smashes a group of restaurants for a gangster who has found one of the restaurant owners has failed to pay protection money, or he drives an extremely fast car to safety for a gangster who needs the car for a job. After this, Tanner is forced to pick up a supply of drugs for an operation.
Upon Tanner's return, Rufus is shot by his girlfriend Jesse, and Tanner chases her as she tries to escape in a monorail. He then turns her over to the police, and during her interrogation she gives up the name of Castaldi, in San Francisco.
San Francisco 
Tanner begins in San Francisco with a casino job for some gangsters who have heard he is in town. After this, he meets an informant known as Mojo, who gives him information about who Jean-Paul is really working for, and a man named Rudi.
From here Tanner either aids in an exchange, drives stolen guns to a warehouse or aids in the robbery of a shopping mall. Following this, Tanner meets a legendary rival from their racing days called Slater. Tanner then either aids a gangster in scaring one of his former associates by taking him on a bumpy taxi ride, or takes heavy-duty explosives to an alleyway while evading large collisions in order to stop an explosion. If Tanner has scared the associate, then he takes a local gangster called Cosy to a chopper taking him out of town. Alternatively, if he has taken the explosives across town, Tanner aids a group of gangsters left in the lurch in Chinatown.
Tanner then gets a phone call whereby he learns that Mojo has been kidnapped, and his captors want $10,000. They make Tanner work to save Mojo by forcing him to go to three phone booths in order to pick up instructions about where to go next. At the third phone booth, Mojo is saved and the money exchanged. Mojo reveals that Castaldi (the gangster Jean-Paul is really working for) is working with a man called Don Hancock who is running for president. He also reveals Slater's great hatred for Tanner.
Following this, Tanner is either setup by Slater and forced to evade cops as he heads home, or aids Castaldi in meeting one of his men called Ross and bringing him to an underground car park for a meeting. The rivalry between Tanner and Slater has become too bitter at this point, and when Tanner suspects Slater of spying on him, Tanner frames Slater by smashing his car in a chase, resulting in Slater being arrested by the police. Tanner then heads to Los Angeles to work directly for Castaldi.
Los Angeles 
In LA, Tanner begins by either stealing a cop car for Castaldi's associates or bringing an associate called Lucky to the hospital after he is shot. Following this, Tanner either chases a double-crossing associate of Castaldi's called Duval and smashes him off the road, or gets Castaldi's girlfriend Maya to a hospital after she has overdosed on drugs.
Tanner then learns of Castaldi's true purpose in LA: a hit on an FBI agent called Bill Maddox outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Tanner later meets with Leck, a partner from New York and alerts him to the assassination of Maddox. Tanner orders him to make sure Maddox turns up or otherwise his cover may be rumbled. He also warns him that there is an FBI leak which is giving information to Castaldi about Maddox. Tanner picks up the assassins from a parking garage before taking them to the Theatre, where the hit is supposed to take place. The cops spring an ambush on Tanner, who then takes the gangsters to a safehouse near LAX. The gangsters are convinced that Tanner, the newest and therefore least trustworthy member of the Castaldi Family tipped off the cops, but he convinces them that Slater probably let the San Francisco Police Department know about the hit during his interrogation.
Tanner then either rescues Lucky from a gangster called Granger, helps some associates escape from a Beverly Hills job or tests the effectiveness of a safehouse by driving to it.
New York City 
When Tanner arrives back in New York he begins by either making a switch at Grand Central Terminal or taking a very damaged car to a scrapyard for crushing before the cops can pick it up. Following this, he either takes control of a cop car to thwart a bank job or gets some gangsters out of trouble after they were pinned down by cops in a building after a bad getaway job. After Leck tells Tanner that his lieutenant, McKenzie, wants Tanner to abandon his undercover work, he either brings a cab home for further jobs in the city or destroys a rival gangster's main car. Next, Tanner has to either wreck a car to retrieve photo negatives, or destroy four cars before they reach Castaldi.
Tanner then meets with Leck, who again warns him that McKenzie wants him out because he is worried that Tanner's cover will not hold up much longer. Tanner again ignores this advice, but tells Leck that he will let him know what Castaldi's main goal is. Next, either Tanner's lady friend Ali will call for help and Tanner has to bail her out of a situation or Tanner goes through a "Rite of Passage", told over the phone by Castaldi that if he does not beat Slater's time across town (7 minutes) then he is out of the final job.
Tanner then learns that the hit is on the President of the United States, and Tanner is forced to ignore all of Castaldi's instructions and take the President to safety.
After safely taking the President to the parking garage, Tanner checks up on him to see if he is okay. McKenzie enters the parking garage with another unidentified man and congratulates Tanner on his outstanding work. He informs Tanner that Castaldi, Don Hancock and the FBI leak are behind bars, and offers Tanner his badge back. However, Tanner is infuriated that the FBI and police could be involved in the job, corrupted by bribes. He refuses to take his badge back and starts walking out of the parking garage, with McKenzie yelling at Tanner that this is his last chance. Tanner ignores him completely and leaves.
In a nod to the city where Reflections Interactive is based, a small portion of Newcastle upon Tyne was modeled and used in the end credits. Using a GameShark or Code Breaker (or after completing the game in the PC version), players can unlock the city and drive around. However, the drivable area is very small, and can be very buggy around the barriers.
Reception and awards 
- E3 1999 Game Critics Awards: Best Racing Game
- Ranked #12 on IGN's list of the "Top 25 Games of All Time" for the first PlayStation console.
The PlayStation version suffers from glitches that the developers acknowledge and justify because the game was pushing the boundaries of the hardware.
iPhone/iPod Touch 
In 2009, a remastered version of the game was released on the App Store. Published by Gameloft, the plot and structure of the original game was left completely intact, but the graphics were enhanced, the music was re-done, and voice acting was added to the cutscenes.
- "Ubisoft - Driver Coming to PSN". Ubi.com. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
- "IGN: Driver". Wireless.ign.com. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
- UK Playstation sales chart, August 1999, published in Official UK PlayStation Magazine issue 49
- Top 25 PlayStation games of all time
- Retro Gamer magazine. Issue 72, pages 66-71