Review: Driver: Renegade

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Driver: San Francisco isn’t the only new Driver game on the block this year. This month has also seen the release of Driver: Renegade, an original series iteration bringing the open city wheelman action to the small, 3D screen of the Nintendo 3DS.

Squished in between the stories of Driver and Driver 2, Renegade once again stars undercover wheelman badass John Tanner as he becomes embroiled in another high-octane crime drama involving mobsters, shady politicians, a lot of driving, and obscenities galore. Tanner is in quite the angry mood in this game – he’s gone renegade! — as is repeatedly made clear through the annoying over use of one-liners he likes to ragingly growl out while behind the wheel. When he starts spouting off things like “Now you made me mad!” every 30 seconds, it sounds as if he’s about ready to transform into the Incredible Hulk or something. Either that or he’s extremely constipated.

Renegade definitely tries way too hard to be edgy, blatantly going for M-rated shock value to get noticed on Nintendo’s wholesome portable platform, opposed to earning attention with engaging plot and character development. The motion comic cutscenes are well produced and actually look outstanding with the 3D slider cranked up, and the over-the-top voice acting suits the B-movie storytelling approach well enough. However, the steady barrage of foul language that seeps through the speakers is so forced and lazily written it’s embarrassing.

The good news is that Renegade plays exceptionally well, and thankfully the licensed radio tunes help drown out the awful one-liners. While not free-roamable and largely devoid of life (save for the random civilian car passing by), the game’s virtual New York City setting immerses you in an expansive and impressively detailed metropolitan environment of open world scale.

Missions may only have you driving on predetermined paths around the city, chasing target cars to specific destinations, escaping fleets of criminals attempting to run you off the road, and going on vehicular rampages with the lone goal to destroy every car that flashes its headlights at you the wrong way. But you still always get the sense that there is a larger world around you, and that you will see more of it as the missions progress.

Behind the wheel, Renegade is a real speed demon. The 3DS Circle Pad once again proves its worth, enabling you to steer and drift the game’s 50 cars through tight alleyways and around hairpin corners with ease. Cars also ding up nicely and begin to visibly break down as the fender benders and head-on collisions mount up. Even though wreckage, smoke and fire flying in your face can be distracting, having the 3D turned on does create a tunnel vision effect that amplifies the already snappy sense of speed.

Vehicular combat plays a prominent role as well. Differing from the forward lunging charge attack found in Driver: San Francisco, Renegade employs a sideways ram mechanic which allows you to violently swerve left or right at the press of the corresponding shoulder button. By slamming into other cars, running over roadside objects (lampposts, cones, mail drop boxes, garbage bins, etc.), and performing stunts like drifts and jumps, a Rage gauge is filled. With Rage in supply, you can activate turbo and turn your car into a devastating battering ram to crash through opposing motorists and send them to asphalt hell. Smashing cars is always good for mindless fun.

On the downside, Renegade has little variety to speak of. Yes, the game comes with a shade over 100 missions and 50 different cars to unlock, which is a sizable content offering. But unfortunately the objectives are all too similar, the cars all begin to feel the same after a while, and even on the highest difficulty option there is rarely a sense of urgency or challenge to any single event.

Missions are spread across two single-player modes. At barely 2-3 hours long, the Story mode consists of 20 levels, with the cutscenes easily eating up three-quarters of the run time as the missions themselves rarely last longer than a minute or two apiece. Career mode is much more substantial, offering roughly 80 events in seven different categories, such as eliminator and checkpoint races, time attacks, demolition challenges, destruction derby rampages and so on. Completing events contributes to a global career ranking, and with StreetPass active high scores and best completion times are posted to a leaderboard of sorts. Sadly, head-to-head multiplayer competition is completely missing in action.

There isn’t much here that will keep you busy for long stretches of time, but as a tag-along racer to whip out for a few spins around the block while on the go, this game does offer enough tire-squealing, engine-revving wheelman entertainment value to warrant at least a test drive. Driver: Renegade is a good portable driving game overall, but with a little more care and a little more effort it could have been a great one.

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Pros:
+ Core driving engine purrs like a kitten
+ Short missions ideal for bite-sized, on-the-go sessions
+ Cars, city and comic story sequences look great in 3D
+ Licensed soundtrack full of classic rock and funk tunes

Cons:
– Lacks mission variety
– Puts up very little challenge
– Tries way too hard to be edgy
– No multiplayer of any kind

Affiliate Links:
Buy from Amazon or eStarland

Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: 9/6/2011
Genre: Driving
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!