I'm not entirely sure whether PlayStation is considered retro yet, but there's a distinct sensation that Driver comes from a bygone gaming generation.
You see, not that long ago a well-played level in a driving game meant not wrecking you car or spraying blood and scraps of hair up under the wheel arches, if you can believe that. Things have changed a lot, right?
Driver differs by focusing on skilled driving, putting the brakes on bloody chases. You step into the lead boots of undercover cop and former race car driver Tanner, who's tasked with infiltrating a national crime syndicate by making himself valuable as a getaway driver.
For the most part this actually involves a lot more criminal activity than actual police work, but it's a premise that establishes a few ground rules regarding your dust-burning activities.
Back seat Driver
Being a good guy (at heart, anyway) you need to keep off the pavements, and swapping cars once you've smashed your own beyond operation isn't an option here. So a few skills behind the wheel are essential. You won't last long even in the earliest missions if you careen from lamppost to wall the whole time.
We're really quite spoiled when it comes to driving games on iPhone. For whatever reason, it's this genre that's really harnessed the power of the hardware, and Driver has a lot to measure up to.
This is a faithful representation of the PSone favourite and that code-perfect translation extends to the mechanics of driving every bit as much as the visuals and outstanding soundtrack. Ten years ago Driver handled great, but today the handling is fairly middle of the road.
The digital controls actually serve the gameplay style a little better, though it seems a waste not to use the accelerometer for steering. The tilt controls are a tad overly sensitive, and the rather spongy car physics often set your car bouncing and swerving uncontrollably.
Admittedly, your own driving skills (or lack of them, in my case) are as much to blame here as the gameplay, but a little refinement in the car handling and accelerometer integration would resolve a permeating frustration when the car bounces off around like a pinball.
This is compounded in the more action-packed moments (of which there are many) by the police, who easily take offence at your reckless driving.
The coppers are massively unintelligent and simply go on a rampage to ram your car into oblivion. The frustration quickly mounts when they pin you against a lamppost and repeatedly ram your back bumper.
Again, this is probably a leftover of ten year old code, but that doesn't really alleviate the aggravation when the bastards descend on you.
In the right gear
Although the storyline is a distinct strength of Driver, it also comes equipped with a host of different options for you to play through.
Mostly these are segments of Story mode, such as escaping from the police, meeting checkpoints or pursuing another vehicle. They're a great addition that brings Driver within spitting distance of the quicker arcade games that mobile titles often benefit from.
Despite the driving mechanics being marginally behind the times, the rest of the 3D visuals are actually ahead of much of the iPhone racer pack - primarily the large and details cities you're speeding through, and the volume of traffic on the roads.
These are working, moving, living cities you're in, and although the game trips over the occasional frame, it's immensely entertaining to finally be weaving through real traffic in an iPhone game.
And all this is topped off by a superb soundtrack. The '70s inspired radio stations pump out the funk the whole time, lending Driver a gritty cop show feel. Without this seemingly insignificant addition, the download would be a lot smaller, but the atmosphere of Driver would be considerably less potent, too.
Yes, Driver is rife with frustrating moments due to the delicacy required for the car's controls, but it oozes style and quality through every pixel, and that's more than enough to keep you playing until you're handbrake-turning around corners like The Bandit himself.