Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
The Driver franchise has returned to the current generation of consoles with the release of Driver: San Francisco. Boasting an all-new story, classic cars, and new mulitplayer modes, Ubisoft looks to revive the Driver series and at the same time pay homage to classic car-chase movies. Buckle up, roll the windows down, and shift into gear, it’s time for the Driver: San Francisco review.
Brake the Walls Down! (See what I did there?)
The story follows Detective John Tanner as he checks up on incarcerated prisoner, Charles Jericho. Jericho escapes custody during a transfer and Tanner and his partner, Tobias Jones, chase him down and wind up in a massive pile-up. The driver’s side gets sideswiped and Tanner slips into a coma… and here is where the game begins. In his comatose dream-world, Tanner seeks clues that correlate to the real world in order to uncover Jericho’s master plan. By the way, Jones doesn’t have a scratch on him. The term “over-the-top” has been used to describe this game. However, it’s understandable considering it is set mostly in a dream-world.
Dude, where’s my car?
The main characters in the game are mostly shown in cut-scenes. With pores and facial lines, the graphical detail is impressive. Add in over 200 miles of road with over 120 officially-licensed cars spanning five decades and Driver: San Francisco will satisfy car-lovers of any variety. Shadows appear on the car, and if you drive under a tree, some beams of light will get through. Speaking of the lighting, while it does shine off the paint, the camera’s sepia-style color takes a little shine away from the lighter cars. However, this effect gives the game a look of a classic car-chase movie.
I need my keys
The gameplay in Driver: San Francisco is different from previous games in the series. Driving under semi trucks, using the handbrake to make a tight turn, floating off ramps, and smashing through inanimate objects are all par for the course. However, you will not hit pedestrians no matter how hard you try. Controls respond very well, being a mix of arcade-style and somewhat realistic driving. The cars handle like they’re on wet or snowy pavement in most cases. Slower and bigger cars have a little more power and durability, while faster cars are fast but don’t always handle well, especially around tight corners. The fact that handling is so loose in a driving game is a major drawback.
The biggest feature that makes this game different to the other Driver games, and to other driving games in general, is the “shift” feature. “Shifting” allows Detective Tanner to basically become disembodied and watch over the city and swoop down into another vehicle, possessing the driver with his own consciousness. During the story portion of the game, this leads to some funny conversations between passenger and driver. Shifting from car to car is a welcome experience, something different to games where your character has to find a car on-foot.
To play online you need to download the U-Play Passport, which is free of charge. Events include much of the same you’d find in the main game, like racing, but also others such as tag, where players must tag the leader and be “it” for a certain amount of time. Trailblazer is another event, one where you follow a marked car’s specific trails and the first one to a set limit wins. Still, while playing online, a majority of the game’s handling problems arise.
Turn the radio up
The soundtrack to the game isn’t bad and contains a mix of different genres like funk, hip hop, electronic, alternative rock and hard rock. The game features artists such as Aretha Franklin, Dr. John, DJ Shadow, The Black Keys, The Cure, Beastie Boys, Queens of the Stone Age, The Heavy, Unkle, Elbow, and more. The radio stations provide great music for fast-paced racing, but at other times the music doesn’t seem to fit the feel of the game, leaving the player with a mixed soundtrack.
I’m a highway star
The cons of the game include the major handling issues with some of the cars. For a game that is mostly about driving, it will take you a while to find your style and the right car to work with. Online multiplayer is a slightly negative point because not all events are open, so you have to play through some to unlock other modes. Another drawback is that while there is a nice mix of events in the single-player campaign, as you advance through the game they start feeling tedious. The level of exploration allowed the player is limited to the main roads and the occasional alley and off-road dirt path, and this is something of a minor drawback.
Pros of the game include the officially-licensed cars, such as the Chevrolet Corvettes, Dodge Challengers, Ford Mustangs, and even legendary cars like the DMC Delorean and the Hudson Hornet. The overall look of the game is stunning and could be considered a work of art. The game is fast-paced and intense and gives you Hollywood-type fun in the single-player campaign.
In conclusion, Driver: San Francisco is at least worth a rental to see if you like it. Car junkies and racing fans would get a kick out of the story, although it’s best not to think of this game as a racing game but more of an action-adventure game that takes place in a car. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo two years ago, Ubisoft highlighted this game and said they would deliver an experience that would remind the gamer of classic car-chase movies. Quite frankly, Ubisoft succeeded in creating that, but handling issues with the faster cars is just something that can’t be overlooked and takes away from our being able to recommend this game as a full-price purchase.
All things considered, Driver: San Francisco gets 7 Dodge Challengers out of 10.
This review is based on the retail version of Driver: San Francisco by Ubisoft played on a Playstation 3.
- Officially-Licensed Cars
- Great Graphics
- Fun Gameplay
- Emphasis on the Action
- Poor Level Exploration Options
- Handling Issues