Game Review: Driver San Francisco
I picked up Driver: San Francisco for my kids. They caught wind of it somewhere and wanted to give it a try. I do remember playing the very first “Driver” game and thought they might dig it based on my past experience…what kid doesn’t like fast driving games? I had no real interest in trying the game and when I saw my son leap (like Sam Beckett) out of his car and into another one actually becoming that driver, I thought the franchise lost it. Driver: San Francisco was nothing like I remember the old classic from 1999. Then, I decided to give it a try and I realized the leaping from car to car was not only innovative, but integral to the story line…though it is silly, it worked. Let me tell you about it.
The graphics are pretty tight. If you have ever been to San Francisco, you will recognize not only the major architectural features of the city, but the smaller ones as well. The game was very detailed despite spending your entire time in a car or floating above them. I’ll get to that in a minute. What’s charming about the game is that it emanates the same feel from the movie remake Starsky and Hutch starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (2004). Though that movie wasn’t to be taken seriously, the banter between characters in the game reminded me of characters in the movie. If you pay attention you will see that classic car roaming the streets of San Francisco minus the white stripe.
I ended up liking the “out of body” experience the protagonist Tanner endures after his horrific accident in the beginning of the game. First, it plays into the story…if you watched Quantum Leap you might appreciate it. Second, it sure is a time saver allowing Tanner to move about the city without having to drive in the game’s 208 miles of roads. It’s a big game! This strange feature of the game (it’s called “shifting”) allows the player, on certain levels, to “take out” bad guys by shifting into oncoming traffic for a spectacular head-on collision. While you shift, the car you shifted out of…keeps driving and you can shift back into it. The innovative shifting ability allows for creative ways to complete your main and side missions.
The storyline is nothing new…bad guys, terrorists, plots, etc. It’s the story of the decade, but it is a well-put together story by the creators and plays out like it’s a TV show…”previously on Driver: San Francisco” is how your mission is introduced when you load the game. You get a nice little recap as if you waited a week for your favorite TV show. The main missions are more in depth and require Tanner to do different things to determine how to get to Jericho and also find out who is involved in this sinister plot. None of the missions are so long or tedious that the overall game gets tedious. A standard 8-10 hours will get you through the game if you are good at negotiating traffic and drifting around corners.
The side missions offer the player a chance to earn will-power (WP), which is essentially money to buy better and faster cars and upgrades. Those missions include various styles of races and stunt challenges. Most of them can be very quick ways to earn WP while some take a bit more effort. With the ability to “shift” it’s easy to get to those missions by hovering over the city and looking for blue icons; same for the main mission’s yellow icons.
Conclusion in bullet format:
Style: Arcade Racing
Feels Like: Grand Theft Auto without getting out of the car.
Plot: Makes sense
Storyline: Plays like a TV show
Cars: 120+ licensed cars that can be damaged
Frustration Level: Not too much
Missions: Pretty cool
Side Missions: Too many
Rating: T – Teen
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections