Atari's Driver franchise has sold over 12 million copies worldwide since its PlayStation debut in 1999. The game company hired Hollywood talent to bring the game's characters to life, including Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames, Michelle Rodriguez and Mickey Rourke. Madsen and Rodriguez took some time out of their busy movie schedules to talk about the game, which ships in June.
Following in the footsteps of its successful BMW.com film campaign, Atari hired Ridley Scott Associates to create an Internet short featuring the main character from the game, Tanner, in an all-out action chase. A rough cut of the film, "Run the Gauntlet," was also debuted. Atari will release the short in three parts leading up to the release of the game on its www.DRIV3R.com Web site.
In the tradition of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Activision's True Crime: Streets of LA, DRIV3R allows players to cruise photo-realistic streets in Nice, Miami and Istanbul and jump out of the vehicle at any time to explore the cities and make use of the game's weapons. The plot sends Tanner (Madsen) on a hunt to shut down an international car smuggling syndicate run by Jericho (Rourke). Calita (Rodriguez) is the leader of a Miami car theft ring.
Rodriguez, who has starred in the videogame-to-movie feature Resident Evil, and Madsen took some time to talk to VSM about the growing number of Hollywood activity in the videogame space.
What do you think of today's videogames compared to when they first started?
Rodriguez--Today's videogames are the difference between Virtua Fighter and Pong. The vision I had was that you could one day control a character that looked like Brad Pitt around on the screen. That's my dream and that's where I think videogames are ultimately going. Games are becoming more realistic so that an audience can become a director of the action and interact with the game.
How does working on a videogame compare to working on a film?
Madsen--I think videogames is a growing industry. Film and games are different things. The money's not as good. But you don't have to be physically prepared to do videogame work. I could show up in my pajamas and do a game. All you gotta do is sit there and talk. And I kinda like that. It's a nice way to spend the day.
I've been trying to get involved in the voice-over thing for a while. I did a voice for Vice City, but it was only like 10 lines and I wanted to find something that I could do that was a little more involved and I did True Crime because I wanted to work with Christopher Walken and Gary Oldman. When Atari asked me to do DRIV3R, I got to play the hero and that greatly appealed to me. I was in London at the time and I recorded the whole thing in London.
Rodriguez-- When I went into the recording booth, I'd get to see a rough cut of the game and hear the audio recording. I then took it from there. With DRIV3R, I play a chick who smuggles cars back and forth. She's a little rebel. For True Crime, I played a kick ass cop who falls for a rebel cop. I feel it out and then I jump in.
What do you think of videogames being the new comics for Hollywood films?
Rodriguez--We've already made our mark on the big screen. From Street Fighter to Tomb Raider to Resident Evil, Hollywood filmmakers understand that games provide a great marketing opportunity for films. Games are interactive and fun and I don't see anything better in terms of entertainment. A lot of people in Hollywood don't understand the power of videogames. I'm already there helping with the development of games. Me and this industry have just gotten married.
Do you play videogames in your spare time?
Madsen--I'm a throwback to another generation. We didn't have videogames when I was a kid. It's a different world. But I appreciate what today's videogames are doing. It's nice to be part of something like this. I have five boys and I thought it'd be a kick to have them hear their Dad in a videogame. I think that was my motivation to do this game.
Rodriguez-- I've been playing videogames since I was 12 or 13 years old. My brother had a Colecovision. My all-time favorite for Atari was Pole Position. I loved Pitfall. And then for Sega Genesis it was Space Harrier. And then Nintendo came out and I was hooked on Mario Bros., that corny stuff. I didn't like Zelda too much. I don't know why. And then Street Fighter for Super Nintendo came out and I was just on that. Then Tekken for PlayStation. Virtua Fighter and stuff like that. I love my video games. Today I like games where you can plan out your action in advance like SOCOM and Rainbow Six 3.
What do you think of DRIV3R?
Rodriguez--In DRIV3R, you actually get to position your own virtual cameras and film little sequences. It makes players into creators of content rather than just interactive partners. They're more involved in the game.
Madsen--I watched Michelle play the game tonight and it's amazing what they can do with technology today.