Driver '76's New York City will inevitably seem familiar to players of the console title for which it serves as a prequel - 2006's Driver: Parallel Lines - but the portable format suits its short missions and bite-sized police encounters nicely.
There's a rudimentary story about earning a date with a Triad gang leader's daughter, but behind the wheel is where the real action is: 27 main story missions skid all over the Big Apple as you hijack trucks, drive getaway on armed robberies, steal hot rides, tow hoopties for parts, and shoot holes in anything that gets between you and Chee Chi's bedroom. Few missions last more than five or ten minutes, making even main campaign progress accessible on the go.
When you're not following your heart, you can line your pockets with tons of side jobs - play taxi, collect on loan shark debts, participate in high stakes street racing, and more - and every dollar earned can be spent on ammo, engine upgrades, custom body kits, and paint jobs. Automotive dress-up never feels necessary, but it does keep the slowly unlocked library of vehicles from getting stale, and you can race and trade your customized whips in local Wi-Fi multiplayer matches. Whether you're playing for a few minutes or a few hours, there's plenty of havoc to wreak.
And there are plenty of bumps in the road. The visuals grow choppy occasionally, and every so often the whole game pauses without warning to flash a loading icon, inevitably causing you to slam into something. The damage model is appealing, even if the hood always flies off in precisely the same way, but it's a bit too easy to land a car on its side or roof, leaving you to hoof it a sometimes surprising distance to your next set of wheels. And your avatar stooge can't jump so much as a foot off the ground. It's also more than a little odd to drive through the same collectible star token three times and still not get credit for it, or to shoot a cop more than a dozen times before he goes down.
Still, Driver '76's brand of road rage does get more right than it does wrong, and though it might not offer the best combat action or racing excitement, it still deserves a look for its competent mix of the two.