Driver: Vegas

Let's face it, the Driver game series did not go in the direction I was so hoping for it to go, culminating with the terrible Driv3r on home consoles. The portable version for use on cell phones, made by Glu Mobile, was slightly better, but you could still feel something stiff in the controls that held it back from being a respectable product alongside the PlayStation original. Hope was lost in the series.

Or one would think. Glu Mobile has done the unthinkable and produced an all new Driver: Vegas game exclusively for the cell phone platform, not basing it on any sort of console port and instead pushing out an entirely original product. Although we only got a brief look at the game, it appears to be a genuine throwback to the good ol' racing days of the original, and may mark a glorious return of the series, one that has been long needed.

In the game, you once again take control of Tanner, an undercover cop who specializes in the occasional gunplay but really becomes a menace behind the wheel of any given car. He's once again handed an assignment that will send him all over Las Vegas, ranging from desert canyons to the twinking lights of the Strip itself to actually going inside a casino, where he no doubt will run into shady characters as he carries out each mission.

The game design here has become refocused, not being a "rush job" and instead showing a lot more detail. I did a side-by-side comparison between Driv3r and Driver: Vegas, and it's like a difference between night and day. The cars look more realistic than before, the level layout is a lot larger with much more to explore than before, and there's also cool little things, like the way you can make your car smolder from a ton of damage and the occasional lighting effect that really pushes the limit of your cell phone.

Also noticeable is the improved control. The game allows you to pull out some fancy moves, including full blown 360 stops, drifts, and high-speed turns, all with the proper handling of each vehicle included in the game. There's a few choice vehicles scattered about, including a couple of classics that I can't quite mention, but you'll find rather promising if you're up for some cool riding around the strip.

And although you can get out of your car and walk around some casinos for dangerous action, the emphasis will once again mainly shift to driving action, where there will be confrontational chases and high-speed pursuits throughout. The game moves along like a dream with barely any graphical breakdown, even when you've got the enemy on the run after T-boning his car a few times. Very cool.

Driver: Vegas will be gambling its way to your cell phone market later this year, in what should be one of Glu Mobile's bigger hits. Kudos to the team for delivering an all-new experience in itself, instead of taking a day off and just porting over another Driver failure. They may just save the series yet.