It's a question that Martin Edmondson, boss of Driv3r developers Reflections, has been asked before and will no doubt be asked again - a lot. What's Driv3r got to offer that the likes of The Getaway and GTA: Vice City haven't? "The original concept behind Driver has never been copied," he says. "There is no other car chase simulation game out there at all. In the case of Vice City, it's a great game but it's not a car chase simulation and you'd never call it that. So I think we occupy a niche. It would have been very tempting, I suppose, to do Vice City but to do it better but that's not what Driver's about." Instead, he continues, it is about "car chases, car crashes, damage, destruction". Handily, these are some of our favourite things.
Driver will finally make its debut later this year on the current generation of consoles and we've had the chance to play early code containing four levels across the game's three cities of Miami, Nice and Istanbul. If you've played either of the first two Drivers on PSone, the look and feel of the game will be instantly familiar and Reflections have stuck to much the same formula as before. Only this time with guns.
"The main thing wasn't to change too much, it was really to stay true to the spirit of the original," says Edmondson. "I think with Driver 2 we bit off more than we could chew with the PSone hardware, because Driver 1 was already really pushing the PSone. And with Driver 2, we made lots of additions and added a lot of stuff but the problem was it slowed the game down a lot. What we're trying to do with Driv3r is get back to that real knockabout fun and high-speed chases. Obviously, visually, it's in a different league altogether to the first two games. We've tried to make the out-of-car elements and the vehicles and the guns and so on just as much fun and as destructive as the main car section."
The suitably Hollywood-esque narrative sees your character, undercover cop Tanner, infiltrating a gang of car thieves, which is all the excuse you need for epic car chases around city centres. "Driv3r's like Driver 2 - it's one mission after the other," explains Edmondson. "The reason we did that was to maintain a consistent story. It's very difficult to do that if you have a branching structure, like we did with Driver 1. You end up with a lot of missions that are just 'go and deliver this package to someone' or 'go and kill this guy'. Maintaining a really strong story with cutscenes between each of them that really feel like a continuing and evolving story is just more difficult to do if you have a branching structure. So went for the linear structure of missions but multiple solutions within those, so there's not an obvious way to solve them. There are different ways of tackling the missions to give them some replay value and to encourage you to just think a bit as well."
While Edmondson does tell us that there will be roughly a 70/30 split between driving and out-of-car action, he isn't keen to discuss the levels in detail. "We haven't talked about too many of the missions because obviously we don't want to give away everything beforehand. Some are entirely car-based, some involve a bit more running around."