Sigh. While Driver: San Francisco launches on the big boy consoles, Ubisoft opted for a story involving the same protagonist – undercover detective John Tanner – taking place in New York, between the events of Driver and Driver 2 for Nintendo’s 3DS. Driver: Renegade is a frustrating game to review, because while it’s the kind of game the system desperately needs, it’s also the kind nobody does…
The game tells a surprisingly capable story with the increasingly popular motion comic medium. It’s a dark tale involving corrupt police, prostitutes with hearts of gold and dirty, filthy… criminals, and although short, is thoroughly entertaining and it looks even better in 3D. Renegade makes use of the dual screen by having the bottom act as a 3D map to keep your bearings, while the top houses the “action”. The map works admirably and because the game does such a stellar job of failing to direct you, you WILL need it.
Each of the 20 Story Mode missions involves chasing a vehicular criminal in your car and crashing into them until they die (with the exception of a joyous ‘tank’ mission). Another cut-scene, another criminal. There is never any variation beyond either keeping up with a felon, or beating them to death with your ride by pushing either the left or right shoulder button to charge in that direction. You can fill your “Rage” meter to do this with even more fury (aka boost) by driving over bins and street lights: a pale and limited affair compared to the Burnout series’ stunt system. An entirely missed opportunity.
Driver: Renegade looks pretty damn good on the system. 3D makes judging distances easier and apart from some pop-in, the world has a decent level of detail and some handsome car reflections and road textures.The engine sounds are adequate and the voice acting in the Story mode is tasty, being not too serious nor too ridiculous.
Unfortunately this story only lasts 2 hours. Beyond it is the Career Mode, where you can tackle more than 70 events divided into 7 modes ranging from Rampage to Freedom Racing, but all of these are repeats of the formula from the Story: get somewhere quickly, or destroy another vehicle, with the most poorly designed racing I have played in a while, lacking a multiplayer/online component altogether. This leaves the Story Mode as the most compelling reason to play. In an odd move though, Ubisoft have included the bulk of the Story Mode cut scenes on the eShop for free, so there is really no compelling need to purchase the game at all.
The mature flavour of Renegade is important to legitimise the system in the eyes of “hardcore” gamers, but the actual gameplay is so severely lacking, it fails, and would have seriously benefited from some more development time and the inclusion of some on-foot sections, weaponry and online challenges.