Spotlight: Driver: San Francisco demo

I've always been a fan of the Driver franchise, and let's face it; it has not really had a great run with the last few outings. Driver: SF is set to change all that because it focuses firmly on what Hollywood car chases should be about. Tanner never steps foot out of the car, echoing the good old times of Driver and this is a great return to form by the look of it. At least it is in terms of the car handling in the demo.

Tanner is in a coma, he's convinced that he has this supernatural ability to shift between drivers and take over their cars. In the demo you're introduced to his shifting ability through a mission called: Prove It, where he must convince his partner Jones, that he's gained a supernatural power to possess other drivers and make them do crazy things.

Developer: Reflections, has done a really good job at getting the various handling statistics and characteristics of the various cars quite literally different. So a big muscle car like the Charger is markedly different from a nippy Audi or a clunky city car. Whilst you can speed off into the sunset in the Audi for the most part, thanks to the turbo which is activated by pushing up on the left stick as you're driving. The Charger is a heavier car with less acceleration and a really great heavy spin to the back end.

Once you work out the difference, you'll be able to tap the handbrake and spin the Charger around corners in a way that would make Starsky and Hutch proud, or please a thousand car-chase aficionados. In the lighter more sporty cars you can get a lot of fishtailing, but thanks to the already tight handling model, it's easy enough to correct and makes for some amazing looking races through the packed city streets.

The demo is not an indication of the finished product, but it's still a very nice, if short slice of the pie that is Driver: SF. Of course there's the plethora of timers in the various missions, which was one thing that Driver brought to the game table in spades, so if you don't like those kinds of timed based missions, you're out of luck with the demo. I presume the main game will allow for some free form insanity and there's the Film Director function to consider as well.

Yes, finally I can make that car-chase I've wanted to do for ages.

The Shift mechanic is simple enough and the controls are intuitive. You can really have fun just being a jackass to the general population and cops, in the two missions that you're given in the demo. As previously mentioned, Prove It is the story mission where you need to prove Tanner's powers. Then there's The Escapist which has Tanner shift into the body of a gang driver and enhance the guy's skills. This mission is a ton of fun and showcases a faster sportier Audi compared to Tanner's default Charger. You can also shift into the various street cars to cause the cops trouble during this one; however, it was just sheer fun trying to elude them without resorting to Shift at all.

Finally there's Team Colours where Tanner decides to help a racing family partnership, you have to place both team members in first and second, introducing the concept of rapid shifting that lets you leap Quantum Leap style between the two racing drivers and lock out the top end of the pack. This really showcases the quality of the AI in the game and the other drivers are pretty ruthless. Your teammate can hold out pretty well against the opposition, sometimes you need to shift back to him so you can roar off ahead of your partner to make sure the gap stays decent.

All in all, these 3 slices of game action were pretty fun and normally I'm not a fan of races in games like Driver. This one though, yes, it felt pretty good to come 1st and 2nd on your first try in a new car.

Then there's the graphics, they're nice. I'm not going to dwell overly much here on them, because I prefer to leave that for a full review. The most important thing is even with lots and lots of cars, high speed chases, cops and vehicular madness going on...Driver: SF keeps a steady frame-rate and delivers a gorgeously fast driving experience that's a mix between classic handling and arcade style.

Good stuff.

Sound wise, the star of the show so far is the banter that Tanner has between him and his partner as you drive around. Not to mention the roar of the Charger's engine, it's a sound that is totally unmistakable when you hear it.

We've got high hopes for Driver: SF and since the game hits at the very start of September, we're pretty stoked for it already. Come back and check in on Driver: SF's review around then...

Tanner'll be waiting!