In many people's minds, the whole concept of driving around big, active cities in video games was spawned with GTA III. But Martin Edmondson and his crew at Reflections Interactive first brought the concept into the 3D world with Driver. The franchise has since expanded, but the heart of things has remained the same: Creating thrilling car chases like those seen in classic action movies through realistic cities, in the comfort of your own living room. Now Edmondson and Reflections have returned with a third installment, Driv3r, and it's looking bigger and badder than ever, with more (and more detailed) cities, a lineup of hot Hollywood voice talent including Michael Madsen and Michelle Rodriguez, and an even more comprehensive "film director" function that allows you to capture automotive mayhem any way you see fit. Read our chat with Martin Edmondson below, and check back often, as we'll be blowing things out with full coverage of Atari's Driv3r launch event, including celebrity interviews and exclusive video!
UGO: What do you mean by convergence between movies and games?
Martin Edmondson: The convergence for us, really...well, the inspiration for Driver originally came from movies, anyway. So it was completely natural. The way that we presented the stories, cut-scenes in the game, it's very film-like in its approach. It's a very realistic look, generally. So for us, it can only really continue. And using the likes of Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, Mickey Rourke, Ving Rhames and Iggy Pop for the voices, it just lends it that - apart from the film credibility - it's the standard of acting. It just raises it to another level. We're used to using voice actors as the years have gone by, but having professional actors there - aside from the fact that the voice is recognizable - it just makes it that much more natural. You take it for what it is rather than things that have a slightly unprofessional feel. This just really brought it together.
Content Continues Below Advertisement
UGO: Do you think the Hollywood element helps the gameplay as well, or is it just improving the presentation of DRIV3R?
ME: It helps the gameplay in that anything that becomes more believable is only going to help the gameplay. If you go into the game and it grates, it's not quite right, it's not professional, then that illusion starts to become destroyed. It can be seen as an additional thrill, but it really does enhance the gameplay because of that, because you just get drawn into it more.
UGO: What's the worst moving violation you've had?
ME: The worst speeding ticket I've ever had? In real life? Um...I've been unlucky with these things that we have in England, speed cameras, these things that have a radar on them that you don't know they're there. Until recently, they were allowed to paint them the color of trees, so you just don't see these things. Now they have to be painted bright orange, so they're not quite such a problem. But I got flashed by the same camera in one day twice. Twenty miles an hour over in one direction, 15 miles an hour over in the other direction. Two tickets in one day.
UGO: Could you talk about the scouting shoots for Miami, Nice and Istanbul as the cities for DRiV3R?
ME: We didn't do scouting shoots so much for the cities. By the time we sent the teams to the cities, we'd already decided which cities we were going to use, so the scouting was all done from personal knowlege of various people, the Internet, obviously, just to decide which cities to use. But then, once they'd been decided, we sent a team over to each of the cities. They went there with these digital SLR cameras with the microdrives on them. Just tens of thousands of photographs and videos. They brought all that back to the studio.
UGO: What was it about those cities that really caught your attention?
ME: Well, first of all, we wanted a US city. Miami was an easy choice, because Driver 1 was set in Miami. It's Tanner's home and we'd done Driver 1 in Miami with the Playstation One. We just wanted to give it the benefit of Playstation 2 and Xbox, and really do the city justice. And, as I said, because it was in the first game, it was almost like Tanner back to his hometown, back to his roots of the original game. And, also, Miami's a pretty interesting city. A lot of people have been there on holiday, and all Americans are familiar with Miami as well as kind of a holiday resort. And it's good in that it mixes the sunshine and the palm trees are all positioned next to some really quite run-down areas to show the gritty, seedy side as well. So that was the reason for Miami. We chose Nice, in France, really because it adds an extra element of relief, and the engine we have is able to create hills and small roads that we couldn't do with the original two games. So Nice was a good one. Winding roads up into the hills of Nice, some gorgeous scenery, really old, rustic buildings and castles and so on. And, finally, Istanbul was the wildcard, I suppose, and the reason for that choice was that it's so wildly different from anything else. Again, it had this incredible combination of Mosques and temples next to the most horrible looking run-down, slum areas. And the change in scenery is just so incredible. Also the roads are very, very different, even to Nice, in the fact that they're very, very narrow. There's a lot of relief there, as well, but not the extent of Nice. The roads are so tiny, sort of ratruns around the backs of some of these areas that gave the game a whole different driving experience. It's about as diverse as we possibly could have made it.
UGO: So the gameplay really varies from one city to the next?
ME: Yeah. Normally, say look at Driver 1 and Driver 2. The difference in the cities was almost entirely visual. There's nothing wildly different about the driving experience. It really is very different in DRIV3R because of the nature of the cities, just as it is in real life.
UGO: Since the Driver series is so inspired by movie car chase scenes, are there any scenes that stick out in your mind as the greatest chase scenes of all time?
ME: Well, the original inspiration for the games was from several movies. It's not from one particular film. There isn't even one particular car chase. But the car chases that really stuck out in my mind were obviously Starsky & Hutch, I recall being a kid and watching, but they weren't great car chases. But you've got the likes of French Connection, chasing the train, the original Ryan O'Neal film, The Driver. Three incredible car chases in that film. Probably some of the best film car chases, in my opinion. And a little bit from some of the more slightly comedy films, like The Dukes of Hazzard and Smokey and the Bandit. But if you were to sum it up into just a few films, The Driver, The French Connection. A little bit of the more modern stuff, Nice and Ronin, which had an incredible car chase. But that's not really quite in the same style as Driver.
UGO: Are there any chase scenes that you've experienced in testing that seem to mimic these movie chase scenes?
ME: I think it's more of a general theme and a general feel. The way the cars handle, especially the American ones in Miami. They have that really big over-steer. That heavy, backend kinda slinding out. And it's not just an effect. It's all done using the dynamic system originally from Driver 1 and then Destruction Derby. And then, through Stuntman and now DRIV3R, it allows us to do something that if you position the camera outside of the car, it's just like watching one of those old, '70s car chases. The car chases these days in the more modern films, to me anyway, aren't quite as interesting. They tend to be more modern cars that don't have that same big tail-end.
UGO: Were there any games that came before the Driver series that helped to inspire it?
ME: The original Driver wasn't really inspired by a game. It was totally films. Because, think about the original Driver: There was nothing really like it before or at the same time, so there was nothing that we could really draw on for inspiration. In the case of the original Driver, it was just purely from watching these car chases. The way the cars handled and looked, the reason the film director mode went in, just to create the most realistic simulation possible of TV and Hollywood car chases, which is really what Driver has always been about.
UGO: So who wins in a fight, Tanner or the GTA guy?
ME: If he's beating people up, then I guess the GTA guy. If he's in cars, it's Tanner.
UGO: So Driver's emphasis is not so much on beating people up. It's more on the driving experience.
ME: Driver is a driving game. It would be easy, tempting perhaps, to go in and start attacking these other areas, but the whole Driver franchise has always been about Hollywood carchases and that is a huge amount of work to get that experience across as well as we've managed to do with Driver. The dynamics and the crashes and the different cities and so on. And that's where the focus is, so it's a very different game from GTA or Vice city or Getaway or True Crime. Any of those games that are classified as driving/action, action-shooting and so on. I think Driver occupies its own niche within that bracket in being purely about car chases.
UGO: So do you think you're shooting for a different audience than GTA?
ME: It's not necessarily a different audience, but it is certainly more focused on the car, so car enthusiasts will be more attracted to driving than all those other games. A lot of the action in Vice City is on foot and it is a great game, but that's its focus. It's not the car driving. The car driving tends to be a means to get to somewhere to move the story, whereas in Driver, it's less about the running around in the end. It's more about the driving experience and the reality with that. And that's why we have the Take a Ride option in there, 'cause before you get into the missions and the story, there's a lot of fun to be had just by riding around the streets in the cars.
UGO: What's been improved with the film director since Driver 2?
ME: The film director has been taken from Driver 1 and Driver 2 to DRIV3R. It has always been in Driver, because the game is inspired by movie car chases, and it's only natural that you'd be able to create a car chase, film a car chase and see it in the way that you would see a care chase on TV rather than the traditional camera behind the car or in cockpit. But to create a movie of the carchase, you need to have some way of having these external cameras, and that's something that's fairly unique to Driver. Being able to not only have those movies, but to set them up and so on. You can put the cameras anywhere you want. So it works in a very similar way, but it's a bit more user friendly and it has more options like motion blur, slow motion and different types of cameras that we've never had before. It has a bit more functionality, but basically it's a bit more modular and easier to use.
UGO: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
ME: Oh, superpower. I was thinking about countries. Well, that's an easy one. Surely just to be able to fly. Because I think it would just give you the ability to see so much. You know the footage from inside jets and so on. Being able to be like Superman, so stand on the edge of a cliff and just go whoosh. I'd rather do that then have the arms like Elastic Man. It think it would be a lot more useful to fly.