On the second day of playing Driver: San Francisco, my wife and I decided to head out for a bit of lunch. Our chosen destination was Panda Express. After power-sliding around corners in the game, throwing up smoke from spinning tires for two days, I was in a bit of a driving frenzy. As we started heading to the restaurant, I found myself going something like 40mph over the speed limit, which prompted me to say to my wife, “Maybe I shouldn’t drive after playing Driver anymore…” We arrived at Panda Express, placed our order, grabbed our food, and headed for the exit. It was at about this point when a group of nearly 20 people walked in to get in line. This prompted my wife to say to me, “It’s a good thing you played Driver before we drove here!”
Don’t break traffic laws, etc.
Eleven years ago, a game was released for the PC platform that captured me so wholly that I wore out the original disc and had to buy another copy. That game was the starting point of the Driver franchise, titled…Driver. The driving was more fun than I thought driving in a game could be, blending the thrill and exhilaration of my favorite car chase movies with the suspense and drama of a great crime movie. The Driver series may have lost its way over the years, but the latest iteration firmly returns it to its driving roots.
Driver: San Francisco has a very unique feel to its driving mechanics when compared to the major titles of the current day. The cars are heavy, strong, and will burn rubber with ease. Drifting, power-sliding, burnouts, massive jumps, and more all define the classic cinematic feel of the driving. The major difference maker in the gameplay is the Shift mechanic. You are able, at will, to jump out of your body into a multi-leveled aerial view, at which point you can take over any functional vehicle in the city. This is fun for free driving, but it also gets used as a required gameplay element for certain missions and challenges.
The missions are fairly focused, all leading towards an eventual goal. An investigation screen can help you keep track of your progress, along with a “Previous on Driver…” series of narrated vignettes reminding you of your discoveries and accomplishments so far. Missions are activated by shifting into specially marked vehicles on the aerial map.
The major replay value and entertainment of the game comes from the free driving and the challenges. Challenges include timed checkpoint runs, stunt attempts, movie challenges, and more. The movie challenges are, in my opinion, the most fun because they directly reference famous car chases (Bullitt, French Connection, and more). You don’t get any boost, you don’t get to Shift, you don’t get to do anything other than drive in your attempt to complete the movie challenge objective.
Local and online multiplayer together provide 19 different gameplay modes beyond the standard single player story mode. From the frantic Shifting of Tag to the strategic planning of Capture the Flag, the 11 online modes and 8 split-screen modes provide a wide variety of ways to play.
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The greatest accomplishment of the game is not the return to form for the series, though that truly is a great accomplishment. Nor is it the inclusion of 19 multiplayer modes, though that provides an incredibly amount of replay and extended value. No, the greatest accomplishment of Driver: San Francisco is the second part of the title, “San Francisco.” The city is lovingly recreated with incredible detail and accuracy. I spent hours simply free driving around the city pointing out buildings, streets, and landmarks that I recognized from my own visits to the City by the Bay.
I fear that this game is not going to get the recognition and success that I truly feel it deserves. You can fix this by going out and buying your own copy, and telling your friends to do the same. Martin Edmonson and Ubisoft have brought a unique, iconic franchise back to its fishtailing roots, and has easily earned a spot as one of my favorite games of the year.
|Excellent driving mechanics|
Innovative Shift mechanic
125 licensed vehicles
Lots of content
19 multiplayer modes