Cool, calm and crazy
Apparently no one has any respect for the police nowadays, and it’s pretty easy to see why. If pop culture is anything to go by, we’ve gone from long coats, gruff interrogations and awesome cars to luminous bobbies, slaps on the wrist and piles upon piles upon piles of paperwork. Most police officers couldn’t even make a decent pose for a DVD boxset indebted to their endeavours. That’s why I’ve been damn excited to play Driver:San Francisco, a testament to how a day on the beat should be. Fast, frantic and bizarrely cheesy…with psychic powers to boot. Returning the series to John Tanner’s very capable hands, Driver: San Francisco starts with crime king pin Jericho managing to break out of his prison truck en route to the electric chair. With Tanner quite luckily playing the stalker on the transit, the cat and mouse chase soon goes topsy turvy when he becomes victim of a severe traffic collision. Now, as he lies comatose in a hospital bed, the destitute Tanner reconstructs Jericho’s plans being played out on the television news in his head, attempting to stop crime in his brain in a vain attempt to make the streets a safer place, but more importantly, wake up. So the plot has headed down the Life On Mars route than a conventionally cool Starsky and Hutch one, and despite the realistic conventions set prior in the series. To add on top of the somewhat silly set-up, thanks to Tanner’s new existence in another dimension, he’s managed to acquire, like all good men struck close to death, super-powers. As his mind faithfully recreates a seemingly realistic San Francisco, the general driving population can now succumb to Tanner’s new ‘Shifting’ ability. Should Tanner get sick of his own awesome cop car (or hasn’t showered in days), he can drag himself out of his bag of flesh and stuff himself into an unsuspecting drivers’ body to wreak havoc in their vehicle. The premise is absolutely bloody ridiculous, and in any sane world shouldn’t work. Yet when you start thinking outside the wheeled box and start shifting to your advantage, it’s one tongue in cheek set-up that soon grows on you the dafter it gets. Suck at racing and find yourself at the back of the pack almost all the time? Smack some traffic into your rivals. Finding it hard to dodge the cops? Arrange a roadblock to halt them. In an era where driving games all seem to come with their unique Hollywood flair, be it mega crashes or massive weapons, Driver: San Francisco certainly bowls in with a unique flair, and one which changes your gameplan constantly.
Arguably one of the coolest open-world driving games out there
The concept is insanely brilliant and changes the way you have to think about driving, which is already fun enough as it is. As long as you don’t shift into a vehicle of 10 tons, it’s always going to be ridiculously fun to drive, speeding and drifting around the streets of San Fran. Though if you take control of a bus, it’s still fun to practically use the vehicle and a car slaying wrecking machine. Any car you posses can be used to your advantage and the incredibly fun driving mechanics make the plot missions brilliantly exciting to play. Should you not be the overly ambitious type, however, Driver: San Francisco is a very quick game to tackle and complete. There’s just under 20 main missions to complete, and if you don’t finish them fast then you won’t finish them at all. The story missions manage to keep the plot rolling at a decent pace and dresses up scenarios beautifully well to compliment ‘Shifting’, but the side-missions which attempt to fill-out and pad out the short story are all basic chases and races, very rarely spicing things up. Once shifting is mastered, it’s incredibly easy to abuse it, and whilst the plot doesn’t suffer from such a fun short-cut, side-missions and extra activities littering the city feel like filler material. Should you be obsessive compulsive, however, you find a treasure trove of activities to uncover. Should you not wish to milk the game for the sake of milking it, you’ll need a lot of motivation to take on these extra challenges. Should you have a love for owning the cars you manically possess, you can use credits won in these extra-vehicular activities to shell out on your own renditions or even some of Hollywood’s most famous cars. Tanner’s signature Dodge Challenger not doing it for you? Why not fight crime in a DeLorean! Pursuing crooks in some of cinemas coolest cars certainly flows cherries on top of a fun to eat cake, perhaps already topped with popping candy on principle. The city of San Fran is exceptionally fun to explore and drive around in, and for every dull junction there’s a famous landmark or off-road dirt track to race on. The sometimes soulless appearance of the inner-city suburbs can be looked over thanks to the occasionally hilarious conversations you end up interrupting by infesting a strangers body, and the cool collection of sassy jazz and alternative rock that fits perfectly with every chase. It’s a shame that the doors to the city are closed quickly thanks to the perhaps too fast-paced plot. Where the lonesome may find the engine splutter to a halt, however, socialites will find second-wind thanks to the online multi-player. I’ve never found myself endearing to the online communities of many games, yet Driver: San Francisco takes that awesome party atmosphere that made Burnout: Paradise so great and injects it into the servers thanks to a plethora of awesome and fun games to play. Levelling up online unlocks loads of new vehicles and mind-bending weapons along with traditional races and getaway chases for epic confrontations. Game modes usually inhabit these extremely tense primal undertones, from ‘Tag’ where one player must hold onto a Godly status for as long as possible before it being stolen in collision to less conventional in car staple ‘Capture The Flag’. They’re absolute blasts to play through, stapling your pupils to the screen in sheer excitement and worry that at any moment, any car on the road could become possessed and head straight for you. The plot is barmy, the action is ludicrous and it only gets weirder the further you play, but Driver: San Francisco is an awesomely quirky ride to be part of. It may have original fans of the series who couldn’t stand getting out of their car on foot churning their stomachs at the concept of floating out of the car to possess another, but it’s a mechanic that can cause brilliant carnage, cinematic takedowns and tip online games on their heads. Driver: San Francisco is arguably one of the coolest open-world driving games out there, and will make even the most stuffy driving simulation players feel equally awesome.
The Bad: Many of the side-miss
ions aren’t as inventive as the main plots’, Story is pretty short