Before the Android and the iPhone mobile gaming seemed a hopeless endeavour, where every game released felt like a cereal box toy facsimile of a more complete console experience. Gameloft's Android version of Driver San Francisco remembers those days all too well.
Our own Stephen Totilo called the console version of Driver San Francisco "the best game no one is talking about". and having played it briefly myself I can easily see why. The driving is exhilarating and responsive. The car shifting ability, allowing the game's hero to leave his body and possess other drivers, is a fresh new take on Grand Theft Auto. Drop those two features into a vast open world filled with jumps, steep hills, and even steeper hills, and you've got arcade driving paradise.
The Android version has none of these things. The vast open world is a series of straightaways and turns. The shifting ability has transformed into a buying a new damn car ability. That and, well, just look at it -- I made the video for a reason. It's just a step above one of those old-timey arcade machines where the car was a piece of plastic you moved back and forth along the bottom of the cabinet with a knob.
What makes the whole thing worse is that this is coming from Gameloft, the folks that create games like Asphalt 6. They know how to do driving controls on a touchscreen device. They've proven they can convey a sense of speed on the smaller screen. Hell, they could have just tossed a 1970 yellow and black Dodge Challenger into any one of their recently released racers and it would have been a better game than this.
Perhaps Gameloft was trying to play on the classic feel of the game's console inspiration, hearkening back to automobile-driven action movies of the 70s. Unfortunately Driver San Francisco for the Android does not feel like a classic. It just feels old.
Driver San Francisco [Android Market]