Driver: Parallel Lines isn't nearly as messed up as the last Driver game was. Considering how completely jacked most of Driver 3 was, that's not really saying much, but it's still worth saying. Parallel Lines is a mostly competent game that's probably the most blatant Grand Theft Auto clone to date. Considering that GTAIII was, in many ways, picking up where the first two Driver games left off, maybe this is just a case of turnabout being fair play. Either way, Driver: Parallel Lines isn't broken, but it's almost completely uninspired and devoid of the little things that make these sorts of games entertaining. The characters fall flat, the story is uninteresting, and the gameplay controls are often inadequate. Add to that some pretty drab mission design and you've got a game that looks good on paper, but simply can't add up to a game worth playing.
The action opens in 1978. You, as an 18-year-old named TK, have moved to New York City in search of excitement. You're pretty good behind the wheel of a car, and you quickly catch on with a crew of criminals looking to make it big. This being the late '70s, "making it big" eventually turns out to mean "start a cocaine empire." But, as these things normally go, stuff doesn't pan out quite so well for TK, and he gets locked up for 28 years. This fast-forwards the game to present day. TK gets out of the joint in 2006 with revenge on his mind, and the story picks up from there. It's a potentially interesting premise that falls apart because none of the individual characters are very compelling or likeable in either era.
The gameplay in Driver puts you in a big open city that's broken up into three areas by bridges. There are a few side-missions, like races and repoman jobs, that you can use to earn money, which in turn can be spent on car upgrades. But considering the cars in the game are as disposable as you'd expect from a game like this, spending money on engine upgrades seems like a waste of time, so earning money usually isn't your goal. Instead, you'll follow the story path by taking on a variety of missions. Most of them are, as you might expect from a game called "Driver," focused on operating a motor vehicle. You'll get into races, collect packages, and even steal a car, fit it with a bomb, and then drive it back to where you found it so the owner can get an explosive surprise--unless he played GTAIII, in which case he'll probably see this five-year-old mission design coming from a mile away. Some missions require you to do things on foot, which forces you to deal with the game's lackluster targeting system, which is often skittish and more difficult to manage than it should be. You can target and fire forward out of vehicles, too, but this is only useful when you're chasing someone, which isn't all that often. Considering you get into some pretty hot spots with lots of bullets flying your way, and most of your enemies are crack shots, fumbling with the targeting gets very annoying.
At least if you fail, you won't have to retreat very far. When you die or otherwise fail when on a mission, you can quickly hit a button to retry the mission. Many of the longer missions have checkpoints, too, so you won't have to do the early parts again and again if you're having trouble with the final leg of a mission. It's pretty handy and cuts down on repetition.