Jump Into The Minds Of Driver: San Fransciso's Toughest Critics

After spending more than a decade slowly morphing into Grand Theft Auto, Ubisoft's Driver franchise takes a metaphysical turn that seems right at home in San Francisco. It's the ultimate outer body experience!

John Tanner has been driving recklessly since 1999's Driver for the original PlayStation. He's gone from criminal to cop, from getaway driver to getaway stopper, and now he's going out of his mind, literally. After a terrible accident leaves Tanner clinging to life in a hospital bed, our hero finds himself living out a fantasy in which he can leap into other drivers' minds, taking over their vehicles by taking over there bodies.

Yes, it sounds completely ridiculous, but the game critics aren't just reading a synopsis off of Wikipedia. They're playing Driver: San Francisco, and this is what they think.

Strategy Informer Driver's main problem stems from the lack of evolution. Putting it bluntly, the game feels old and archaic. Almost immediately, players will be plunged into a high speed chase that results in lead character John Tanner laying on his deathbed, prisoner to the confines of a coma... Luckily for him, Tanner witnesses more than light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, his crash has turned him into a detective who can not only swap between looking into the minds of others, he can manipulate them to capture Jericho, a ballsy felon. It's through this narrative that Ubisoft include their new gameplay element, as players get the chance to explore the city through a thousand different eyes.

Official Xbox Magazine Given this inventive gameplay-wrinkle's other-worldly appeal, it's a drag that San Francisco feels so sterile. There's no day/night cycle to offer moody relief from a contrast-killing noon-day sun. Notoriously nutty Bay Area drivers putter along like they live in Orlando. You can even power-slide through a crowd of nimble pedestrians without injuring a single soul. Plentiful side missions such as stunt dares, cop chases, and checkpoint races let you rack up piles of Willpower currency, which you can then spend on garages and minor ability upgrades. But while there's a believable sense of speed — especially if you drop the hammer in a modern supercar — the city never really feels like a thriving automotive playground.

<a href="http://www.videogamer.com/xbox360/driver_san_francisco/review-2.html"VideoGamer.com The ability to shift from body to body, car to car, makes Driver San Francisco a totally new experience, and that's not something that can't be said very often when talking about driving games — or any genre, for that matter. Developer Reflections also gets playful with its mission design now and again, using Tanner's coma to deliver some crazy situations that stand out as the best the game has to offer. Towards the end things really go up a gear or two, with some neat ideas making for some thrilling sequences both in and out of a car. There's no on-foot action though, which comes as something of a relief after what we've suffered in past Drivers.

Telegraph.co.uk The driving itself, however, can be somewhat mixed. Handling is extremely weighty and drift-heavy. Back ends whip out at the gentlest coaxing, tyres squealing as white smoke flutters from the rubber and asphalt. Initially you will spend more time wrestling your car away from walls and metal dividers, but with mastery comes a thrilling sense of cinematic flair. San Francisco is a delightful playground, with plenty of climbing roads to launch yourself into huge jumps, and landmarks such as the famous, winding Lombard Street are recreated for you to throw your car around. Each of the 100 odd licensed vehicles — from Tanner's Dodge Challenger GT to a Lamborghini Murcielago — have their own stats and personality. Perhaps a little too much, in fact; smaller runabouts with a low handling rank spiral out of control, while the higher end models react with whip-sharp precision. It's satisfying to hunt out the best cars and be able to thread them through traffic, but the differences in simple steering can reach cartoonish levels.

D+Pad Driver: San Francisco's online achievements are also considerable. Alongside standard online races, Tanner's shifting ability is put to riotous effect. A particular highlight is 'Trailblazer', in which players are tasked with following the trail of an AI-controlled car whilst battling opponents. The jostling for position that ensues creates a chaotic, hugely enjoyable and unique online experience. Lobbies are also handled well, with short mini-challenges punctuating the main events that determine the players' starting positions; this helps to keep static load screens down to a minimum and mean joining the action is pain-free.

Joystiq The plot's surprising new direction and gameplay simplification measures have allowed Tanner to loose himself from the shackles of predictability and Johnny-come-lately game design that tarnished his prior escapades. Ubisoft Reflections has pruned the dead weight from Driver's branches, and the result is a pure, focused experience, unencumbered by redundant mechanics and "me too" design choices.

It's Grand Theft Auto: Mental Edition!


Comments

    I've played this for a couple of days and it's fun. I'm trying not to think too much about the whole shift thing, just enjoying it as a mechanic without worrying about if it makes any sense or not. There are actually some pretty funny references to it in the game, which makes it kinda look like the game doesn't take itself totally seriously.. I mean, how could you?

    As a driving game, I'm really enjoying it. There are plenty of different driving activities, heaps of different cars with individual handling, and the map is awesome. Just speeding around hitting jumps on hills is heaps of fun. The traffic is pretty good, you can scream around at top speed and there's always just enough room to weave through the traffic and they don't seem to pull out in front of you too much.

    Best of all, this game brings back the feel of the original Driver game, one of my favourites. There's even a remake of the original Driver "parking garage" area, where you have to complete a set of stunts in a time limit.

    8/10 :)

    After playing the demo last night, I once again am thankful for the concept of the demo becaue it saved me money once again.

    The sad part is that I'm curious about the story, it seems like it'd be well told and the idea of a bodyswapping cop is pretty unique but the driving in the game just felt incomparably awful and since its sort of the entire gameplay...

      awful in comparison to what?

      As an arcade driving game I'm finding it handles fine. It's not trying to be Forza.

    This game is fun, I got it. I love cruising around doing the random real-time events that pop up.

    Unfortunately it won't do well because it's not the greatest looking car game and console gamers are too narrow-minded about graphics (even though they're playing on consoles. Ironic, huh!)

    Just hope your internet connection doesn't die mid-game.

    Driver San Fran is the exact opposite of what I wanted.

    I want a driver game that makes me love my car.

    That makes me cringe every single time I scrape it.

    That puts me on the edge of my seat when I'm flooring it at the end of a mission weaving through traffic as I'm chased with only an ounce of damage to go before it's a write-off. One mistake and its over.

    That makes me feel awesome when I slide through an intersection without hitting anything because I NEED to preserve my car, because I can't get out of it - even if I could why would I want to? It's my trusty friend that will get me home if I'm up to the task.

    I don't want to teleport and get experience points and use boost and drive hundreds of cars. I just want to drive one single muscle car that has an accelerator, brake, handbrake and a steering wheel.

    Basically, I want driver 1 again

    The game is basically Burnout or Stuntman with some extra features.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now