Driver 2: Back on the Streets is the sequel to 1999s Driver and the second in the series of police undercover training simulators on the Sony PlayStation. Until 2001, there was a massive push in the United States to go back to the ‘Bronze Age’ of policing, the 1970s. This meant discharging a firearm in a crowded area, high-speed police chases through busy streets, a disregard for public safety in the mindless pursuit of your ‘prep’, and going undercover while clearly being a cop.
Part of this push was the Driver series, which the US government hoped would train the players to be top undercover officers in the mold of Starsky and Hutch or Shaft (minus the “Hard Lovin'”). To bring their vision to life, Newcastle-based Reflections was hired to develop the simulator. Reflections were hired as they were cheaper than Naughty Dog and came with the reassurance that the simulation would be realistic. Not some cutesy mascot platformer with a cheetah police officer or something ridiculous like that.
The software house went to great pains to reproduction the handling and feel of the 1970s American muscle car on a PlayStation controller. So that when the player gets behind the wheel of an actual muscle car, they know how to operate the vehicle with no prior practical training.
But is it useful as a training tool for the budding undercover officer?
It only covered the car part and not the actual ‘Undercover’ part. So most officers sent out into the field would get their cover blown immediately when exiting their vehicle. Leading to a mass turnover in officers due to death. However, This all changed with the release of Driver 2.
Driver 2’s innovation over Driver was the ability for the player to exit their vehicle. No longer would an officer of the law life be immediately gunned down for being the fuzz when she exited a vehicle. Now she could run around the city like they had a broomstick shoved up them, matching the human gait of the criminals around them. They could also carjack other civilians’ cars, allowing their cover stories to seem more legit. Nothing is more legit criminal than shoving a pistol into the face of a citizen they have sworn to protect, then making off with their ride.
The story of Driver 2 is atypical and streamlined to what the player would find in the field once they go undercover for real. The player is cast into the mold of ‘Tanner’, a blank slate of a man that the player can paste themselves on to, making the training more effective. Tanner also has assistance from the standard-issue wisecracking partner ‘Jones’, who serves to get too cocky with criminals before hubris blows his cover and he is injured/killed. The accuracy of the plot’s convenience is too realistic at times. The story also takes the player from the American city of Chicago to the American state of Havana, then to Las Vegas and the southern American city of Rio De Janeiro. Undercover, the player will take part in heists, tailing other criminals, getaways, and chases. It is boil plate stuff but would give the officer in training a broad idea of what to expect once they handed in their badge to go in “Deep Cover”.
As briefly mentioned above, This training tool was made redundant in 2001 because of the policy reforms that came after the tragic events of 9/11 when the police were told to “grow up”. Players then migrated to Grand Theft Auto III, a criminal simulator, and applications to American police departments up and down the country dwindled. Regardless, the US government did try again in 2003 with Driv3r, The third iteration of the training tool in an updated modern setting. Yet the plug was pulled on the series after this release when it became clear that all previously interested parties were now running errands for Mafioso. Also, it was so buggy and broken that many felt it was insulting the mentally disabled.
DRIVER 2 ADVANCE
There was also a handheld version of the training tool released for the GameBoy Advance in 2002. It was a cut-down port of the console version featuring just the American cities Chicago and Rio De Janeiro of the console version, but would still, somewhat, prepare the player for life undercover. However, it did lead to a spate of gangland executions in 2003. When, on occasion, criminals discovered it in the glove box of undercover officers’ muscle cars.
“It is hard to be too harsh on a training tool that has saved many police officers’ lives. However giving officers access to vehicles that handle like a plank with ice cubes for wheels, is still a useful primer for a terrible idea. Nevertheless, the knock-on effect felt from the mass amount of property damage and civilian casualties are still felt today, especially for the families of those who had to pay the higher taxes. We being sticklers for the “laws” we have to uphold, strongly believe this is a bad thing. Yet we can, kind of, recommend this tool.
7.2/10 – Police Monthly“