Gear jammin' drivin' machine!
So Driver, oh Driver, with your parking lot challenge that kept me awake at night way back. Oh Driver, with your mix of adrenaline soaked gear-pumping car chases and hair-ripping missions. How I miss you, how I wish...wait? What's this, Driver San Francisco is better than Driver? Is this blasphemy? Is this true?
Hell yes it's true. Driver SF is the Driver game that actually manages to eclipse the old Driver in my affections. Move over Driver, SF is the new King of Wheelmen.Story
You're John Tanner, who has always been after Jericho since we can remember. John and his partner Jones, well, they're about to get their wish. The notorious criminal is incarcerated and heading for his just deserts...or he was...in a dangerous breakout Jericho escapes and John is injured badly – this is where things get really strange. During an O.B.E (out of body experience) he now believes that he's able to shift from one body to the next and using this newfound power, he's going to do everything he can to bring Jericho down.
Driver's story is the stuff of paranormal science fiction in a way, but it works remarkably well since Tanner is in a coma. It's told through a great mix of high detailed graphical cut-aways and close up framed action scenes. It's great stuff and echoes the reason I loved Driver in the first place, the personality and character of John Tanner has been preserved and really improved upon in these story scenes.Gameplay
You won't be getting out of the car for this one, this is an in-the-seat experience and just like the original Driver it cuts you loose in a small area of the city. Now you'll get access to more and more of San Fran as the game progresses, but this small chunk of Tanner's world is enough to get you started. There are lots of missions and ways to enjoy Driver as a single player game, before we get into the multiplayer and co-op split-screen parts of the game. Tanner earns Willpower (XP) points and these can be used to buy cars (over 100 or so), garages, upgrades and all sorts of things.
You're rewarded every so often with a stack of Willpower just for owning tons of cars etc. You also get it for driving around like a maniac and doing cool Driver-style moves, 180's, J-Turns, 360's and speeding around. There are city missions you need to do before you can access story missions most of the time, and these are varied and usually pretty fun. Even the races in Driver are fun since the AI is pretty decent and fairly aggressive. There are dares which reward you with cool unlockables and a stack of Willpower and there are even chases that you can get into. There are also movie tokens to find and these will eventually unlock a special car related challenge inspired by such movies as: Gone in 60 Seconds and Bullit. Then there are challenges, like races and massive cop chases, basically the game is packed with things for you to do.
Tag a cop car whilst in the civilian vehicle of your choice, you can then try and outrun the cops and gain a chunk of Willpower depending on how quickly you get away. On the other side, drive a cop car and attempt to bring down the red-marked vehicles as quickly as possible. It's all great fun and rewarding.
Tanner in his coma has the unique and game-changing ability to Shift into any car in the city. This also provides a neat way to get around and there are 3 levels of Shift Zoom to unlock, with the highest level allowing a bird's eye view of San Fran which has been recreated quite nicely. Shifting really changes the way that you approach the game, you can often leap into the body of another driver and use a massive truck to stop a speeding car in a mission, or just mess around shifting around into other cars and speeding them off big jumps.
It's a beautiful mechanic that I was initially sceptical of, but once I'd gotten to grips with it. It really made the game a lot more fun. Take a race for instance, one where you have to win by coming 1st, 2nd or say 3rd. Now make that more interesting, you have to win by coming 1st and 2nd. How? SHIFT! You spend the whole race shifting back and forth between the two cars and making sure that they keep the 1st and 2nd position in the race until you win.
There are numerous special powers that Tanner gets to use as you progress, such as boosting (nitrous) as long as the power bar is filled, a ram move that lets you slam into an enemy with some force and...well...play the game and find out. It's Shift that really steals the show though and the many uses to just basically even the playing field, or mess with the traffic on the streets as you earn more and more Willpower.
The story to Driver could be considered short, but that depends on how much effort you put into unlocking cars, movie challenges, exploration and city missions/challenges/dares before you plough into the next chunk of the story. I'm someone who likes to spend a lot of time in free ride modes and Driver SF really caters for that part. It's really the gameplay that sets Driver SF above the rest, because it's tight, the handling for all the cars is different and tuned from the demo quite a lot. It is a great mix of realistic and arcade handling that keeps the game fun.