Arriving after a pre-release marketing campaign like no other, the third episode of the Driver series has plenty to live up to.
By James Bregman
BBC News Online entertainment staff
The drip-fed trailers promising a technically excellent game have not proved misleading, but the finished product is not quite the barnstormer many were hoping for.
Detective Tanner, the hero of all three Driver games
As in the previous Driver games, the player takes charge of detective Tanner, who scoots around Miami, Nice and Istanbul on the trail of a drug smuggling ring.
He can use dozens of different vehicles in the course of his inquiries, from juggernauts to speedboats.
The task is split up into some 30 individual missions, based around one or more of these vehicles and played out in linear progression.
The driving physics feel admirably realistic and the crashes that ensue as you career around town are satisfyingly spectacular.
The vehicles look great, and even better after a few collisions take their toll on the paintwork.
The action on foot leaves much to be desired
An excellent replay feature lets you re-live chases and crashes with cameras placed literally anywhere you chose, framing the action against exquisitely-drawn backdrops.
Things go downhill when you get out of the cars. The tricky pedestrian control system sometimes becomes almost as irritating as the absurdly missp3ll3d (sic) title.
Engaging enemies is fiddly, despite them standing obligingly still under fire, and the game would have done well to keep the first-person shooting sections to an absolute minimum.
Driv3r needed to put up a strong challenge to the mighty Grand Theft Auto franchise, which cheekily built on the original Driver's groundbreaking gameplay and proceeded to overtake it.
Many will feel that GTA: Vice City offers a more satisfying experience thanks to its open-ended structure, wicked sense of humour and wonderful radio stations.
It is not that Driv3r is incapable of matching these. It simply does not try.
Crashes take a spectacular toll on the vehicles
The game concentrates on being more realistic and technically superior to GTA, and succeeds on both counts. It also successfully concoct an overall cinematic experience with some marvellous set-pieces.
It is a shame that some exhilarating driving missions are undermined by tedious sections of endless running around on foot.
The action on foot is often as poor as the driving is good, and the game stutters whenever it takes the player off the road.
The slick storytelling is strangely unengaging, despite the heavyweight presence of Michael Madsen and Ving Rhames in the cut-scenes.
But Driv3r does often make you feel like you are playing a movie, thanks to the car chase scenes truly echoing the look and feel of a big-screen pursuit.
While it is disappointing that a title of this magnitude does not hang together as a complete package quite like it should, it is still a worthy game with moments of real quality.
It is ironic that for all the elaborate presentation and careful plotting, the game is most fun when you simply select free ride or one of the great quick-start driving games, and bomb around town causing meaningless mayhem.