John Tanner makes a return in Driver San Francisco, the fifth entry in the Driver series.
When I first heard that Driver was returning to consoles it brought back so many fond memories of the original. Driver: San Francisco brings back those thrilling car chases and crashes but a lot has changed since the PS1 era and I'm not just talking about the graphics. The story to Driver: SF is a very strange one but it does have great gameplay mechanics that change the way you think about racing.
You play as Tanner, the NYPD detective from the first game. Jericho, your enemy has escaped prison and headed to San Francisco. Whilst been transported into a truck he soon escapes with help from a paid off guard. Tanner and his partner Tobias Jones takes pursuit to stop his escape but all doesn't end well. Tanner is involved in a crash that sends him into a coma. This is when things get a little strange. The majority of the game takes place in the coma and he soon finds he has an ability to switch between vehicles and become the driver. He can become anyone instantly, from a police man, Taxi driver etc.
The shift ability is what makes Driver SF interesting and very engaging.
Simply pressing the A button will shoot you out of your current vehicle and into the air. Using the analog stick you can freely fly above the traffic and when you wish to drive a different vehicle you simply press A again. Later on you will be able to zoom out into a birds-eye view, allowing a more quick and efficent way of travel. You will notice the shifting mechanic becomes more interesting in later missions. For example, If your been chased by cops you can switch to a car that's driving the opposit way and create a colision or enter a lorry and block the road, giving you time to return to your vehicle and escape. There's many ways to go around completing missions and that's what makes it interesting and different to other racing games out there.
To advance in the story missions you will need to complete city missions, challenges or dares first. There's a ton scattered throughout San Francisco and they all vary. You could be a Taxi Driver having to get someone to their destination, chasing a criminal as a cop or taking someone to the hospital as an ambulance man. As you complete missions you unlock WillPower. This is the games currency that allows you to purchase new vehicles, upgrades and even more garages to expand your vehicle collection, similar to the Test Driver Unlimited series.
There's over 100 vehicles to discover in Driver SF and there fully licensed for the first time in the series. The handling does feel stiff and sensitive but it's trying for a more Hollywood feel than anything else. The detail on each vehicle is very good with nice damage effects, like parts flying off as you crash. The city also looks the part and is constantly full of life. There's plenty of traffic so your never having to wait when shifting between vehicles. Pedestrians also add to bringing life to the city with crowds scattered on the streets. But no matter how fast you approach them they always seem to dodge out of the way.
Driver SF also features multilayer and it's a lot of fun. There's many modes available but you will need to unlock them by ranking up first. The shift mechanic also works in multilayer and I wasn't sure how it could when I first noticed it. One mode called Shift Race makes great use of the ability. Here you must race against other players but shift between cars. There is a catch though, you need to perform stunts and dangerous feats to be able to shift. It's fast paced and exiting as you try to shift your way to the finish line and take down other players in the process. Takedown is another mode, which is Cops and Robbers style where one player must drive to a destination and the other must stop them from reaching it.
Driver San Francisco is a fun game. It's plot is ridicules but it's still enjoyable due to it's unique shift mechanics and thrilling chases. There's a lot to do in Driver SF and it's worth every bit of your time, if your a fan of the series or simply like open world racers.
Review by Gareth Smith