Can anyone remember the first time they played Driver? This was a game that delivered a 3D sandbox world on the original PlayStation a full two years before GTA III came along and claimed the sandbox genre as its own personal parking space. (We’ll conveniently ignore Turbo Esprit from 1986, if you’ll allow us.)
Now, if you answered “yes” to that opening question, imagine yourself all those years ago. You had more hair, less of a gut and were probably marveling along with friends at the expensive technical wizardry reclining luxuriously beneath your TV, churning out Driver at a defiant level of visual fidelity.
Imagine then, that a man from the future wearing a suit made out of tin-foil, complete with matching self-lacing Nikes, strolled into your living room brandishing an iPhone. He points at the TV and tells you, “I’ve got a mobile phone that can do that, only, it’s not just a phone – it’s also an MP3 player.”
Your first response would naturally be, “What’s an MP3 player?”, after which you would no doubt tell Christopher Lloyd that you don’t allow nonsense-spouting vagrants into your home uninvited, no matter how spectacularly attired.
The thing is, the reality that we all mockingly speculated about back in the PS1’s heyday is finally upon us, and it only took ten years. Of course, Driver isn’t the first console game to be replicated faithfully on a mobile phone, and there are many iPhone titles out there that are much more impressive.
The thing is, when Driver came out on the PS1, its open-world gameplay was a technological feat comparable to flying cars, time-traveling toasters and artificially intelligent toothbrushes. Well maybe not quite, but you get the idea. So, effectively, if this is any sort of pattern, the most impressive games of today’s home consoles will be the moderately enjoyable remakes of mobile gaming ten years from now.
Does this mean we will be playing Gears of War on some newfangled handset in 2019, complaining that though it’s still fun, it hasn’t aged well visually? Will Killzone 2, which had a budget rumored to be in excess of $40 million, be sold on a mobile phone a decade from now, at the impulse-buy price of $.99?
Driver arguably hasn’t weathered the years as gracefully as others, and its current App Store price of $6.99 is perhaps a little optimistic on Gameloft’s part. Even so, as a benchmark of not just how far mobile gaming has come, but also as an insight into the speed at which the console sector is miniaturizing, Driver is a valuable notch on the game industry’s bedpost.
Or maybe it’s not. Maybe bringing the iPhone under the banner of mobile gaming is something of a misnomer. Maybe the iPhone deserves to count itself alongside the PSP and DS as a fully fledged handheld gaming console. If it doesn’t, then what exactly is the iPod touch?
If this is the case, then perhaps we shouldn’t be thinking about the games our phones will be able to play ten years from now, but the calls our game machines will be able to make. See you in 2019.
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