'Driver' races out of history and onto iPhones

If you like classic muscle cars, tire-squealing chases through city streets, and '70s funk, you'll love the return of this console gem.

Let's just come right out and call this the Year of Resurrected PC Games. So far in 2009 we've seen iPhone recreations of Civilization, Command & Conquer, Doom, Myst, and even the ancient Lemonade Stand.

Earlier this month, Gameloft brought back one of my favorites: Driver. I know, I know, the game first appeared on the PlayStation, but it's the PC version I remember.

Set in the '70s (with a funk-a-licious soundtrack to match), Driver casts you as an undercover cop trying to expose a national crime ring.

That, of course, is simply an excuse to get you behind the wheel for madcap missions across four cities. Driver is like a playable version of the classic car-chase scene from "Bullitt"--and you're Steve McQueen.

Controls are critical for any racing game, and Driver gives you a choice between an onscreen D-pad, the iPhone's accelerometer, and my preferred option, a virtual joystick (which is used solely for steering--the gas, brake, handbrake, and burn-out controls reside on the opposite side of the screen). I found the D-pad very difficult to use and the accelerometer a bit oversensitive.

Once you get the hang of the controls (which you can do in Free Ride mode, exploring the cities and enjoying the occasional cop chase), you'll find Driver as thrilling as any iPhone racer--if not more so.

The missions are a blast, but if you're in the mood for something different, Driver serves up seven separate games to play. In Survival, for instance, you see how long you can last against relentless police pursuit. And then there's Pursuit: it's you chasing another car.

My only real complaint with Driver for iPhone is that sometimes you can't help but fight the controls when you should be fighting the road. I wonder if the upcoming Helix Gaming Grip accessory will help with games like this.

In the meantime, I'd say Driver is a must-have for fans of the original, or anyone who likes police chases, the '70s, or Steve McQueen.