- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Reflections
- ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
- Genre: Driving
- Pros: Great presentation; awesome physics; mission variety; tons of vehicles; multiplayer; shift
- Cons: Incredibly dumb story concept
The weakest part of Driver: San Francisco is definitely the story. We have sort of a love / hate relationship with it. We love the way the concept opens the gameplay, but hate it for being so incredibly stupid. The main gimmick in Driver: San Francisco is that the main character, officer John Tanner, can jump into the body of any other driver on the road to take control of their car. Except, oh wait, he actually can't really do it because he is in a coma and is imagining it all. And even though it isn't real, shouldn't John feel bad for taking over so many people's bodies just to plow them head-on into oncoming traffic, likely killing them? Or why can he jump into any car on the road except the criminals he chases after? If you think about it at all, it is hard to suspend your disbelief. The actual story taking place outside of Tanner's head is a direct sequel to Driv3r (which I remember nothing of even though I reviewed it years ago), and has some interesting elements, but is just as easy to ignore and focus on the good parts of the game.
Each car has a distinct feel to it as well, which makes every mission and every car you jump into feel fresh. The handling model is sort of a mix of arcade and realism, with some Hollywood car chase physics thrown in. You slide around corners and fishtail just like you see in classic car flicks, which takes some getting used to, but after a couple of missions you wouldn't want it any other way. You are always just on the edge of losing control, but somehow never actually feel like you are fighting the handling. Each car feels like it should. Muscle cars are heavy. Imports and exotics are lighter. A garbage truck feels like a garbage truck. And a McLaren F1 feels like a McLaren F1. In my mind, the handling and overall feel of the game is pretty well perfect.
During gameplay, you have the ability to zoom far out above the city to select whichever car you want to jump into or to select the next mission you want to do. It really is great because it lets you jump to any car or any mission without having to drive around or fiddle with a menu.
There is also splitscreen and online multiplayer as well. There are several different event types, from races to cat-and-mouse games, and the ability to shift into any car on the road (though there are limits to the shift ability in multiplayer) really makes these tried-and-true game types feel fresh and new. Multiplayer is well worth playing.
Visually, Driver: San Francisco is a great looking game. The cars are very detailed and smash up quite nicely. The city also looks great. Even with dozens of cars onscreen and pedestrians (which have a knack for jumping out of your way and never getting hit) the framerate in single-player never drops. There are some graphical hiccups when you drive faster cars since you can actually drive faster than the game can load the textures on the cars (so you see blocky cars suddenly snap into focus in front of you), but overall the game looks fantastic. The human character models in cutscenes and facial animations are also very nice.
The sound is great as well. Solid voice acting. Decent "cop show" music. And absolutely incredible car sounds.
Driver: San Francisco is an amazing game. The gameplay is near-perfect, the presentation is great, and there is enough content here to keep you busy for quite a while. We highly recommend it for a purchase if you are a fan of driving games or classic car chase movies. This is one of the best driving games on Xbox 360.