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Submitted by Kiran Earwaker on April 28 2011 - 18:30

John Tanner makes his long-awaited return in Ubisoft Reflections' Driver San Francisco...

This game is not called Road-kill Enthusiast. Neither is it called Pedestrian Pancake-Maker. Ubisoft could have called it The Walking Died, but they didn't; firstly, because that's a stupid name, and secondly, because pedestrians don't die in this game. Or at least, you can't run them over; I like to think that after a day of perfectly timed evasive jumps away from speeding cars, there's a line in the code which has them suffer a fatal stress-induced heart attack just before bed. Or perhaps their endless paranoid rambling about drivers 'hunting them down' results in a wrongly diagnosed persecution complex, and they end up hanging themselves after taking a Risperidone overdose (but not before their partner leaves them and they spend several years miserable and alone, sobbing into the tawdry fur of their arthritic pet cat, Steve, who's enormous vet bills ultimately bankrupt them, forcing them to live in a house of cardboard and rusty cat-food tins, occasionally selling off semi-vital organs for smack).

You see, every NPC you encounter has a unique personality and back-story; you might Shift into a car and hear an overbearing wife berate her husband for his constant forgetfulness, or sit next to a bitter driving instructor as he bullies a wide-eyed pupil. You might help a couple of teenagers transcend their shady family business by (ironically) earning college tuition money in illegal street races, or elicit a high-speed police chase for a pair of jovial cameramen working on a D-grade TV movie. Instead of a jaywalking murder sim, you get a huge cast of  200 fully voiced NPCs with over 30,000 lines of recorded dialogue (out of a total of 50,000-odd lines in the entire game); anyway, you're a cop, so victimising innocent civilians would be totally out of character.

Except... you're not always a cop. Well you are, it's just that you're often... err... inside other people. At any time, a single button-press lets you escape your Earthly form and zoom out high above the city, slowing the in-game action to a crawl; here you're free to select a new vehicle, Shifting your consciousness into the open vessel of another driver's body. One moment you're riffing with your wise-cracking partner on the way back to the station, the next you're inside a middle-aged paramedic, racing to get a dying patient to the hospital. It's an efficient mechanic, and one that intelligently streamlines all that messy car-jacking and head-stomping that other free-roaming games rely on for switching vehicles.

And that patient in the ambulance is you. Turns out you're in a coma after a particularly bad car crash. Some nutter called Jericho escaped from a police van on his way to trial (assisted by a rocket-launcher-wielding news-helicopter femme fatale), and in the ensuing chase you smacked your head very hard indeed. Hence coma, and hence weird Shift-power thing - it's all in your head, probably.

Creative license duly earned, the early part of the game has you tracking down Jericho while your subconscious communicates with you via in-game billboards. As you can imagine, that Shift power comes in rather handy for a policeman in the seventies; why bother chasing a speeding criminal, when you can just Shift into an oncoming Lorry and smash them off the road? Clearly no inconsistency there. Apparently you wake up for the second half of the story, but the developers were talking about Inception rather a lot, so don't be too surprised if it turns out the whole thing was a dream (no-one mentioned Dallas for some reason).

Between each Story Mission you need to complete a few City Missions to earn the right to re-enter your body and progress the game. These generally involve altruistic attempts to aid the citizens of San Francisco; initially the challenges are pleasingly inane (such as extorting cheaper lessons from that harsh driving instructor by driving aggressively into oncoming traffic) but later they're said to tie in more closely to the main story, with characters commenting directly on the on-going manhunt. City Missions fall into a number of categories, from Stunt missions and Races to Takedown side-quests (which have you chasing another car in an attempt to ram it off the road) and each has its own characters and dialogue to provide context. Naturally, the Shift mechanic can be exploited in almost every situation, allowing you to set up a series of cars for that perfect stunt shot, or ram rival racers off their line by misdirecting nearby traffic. There are certain limitations imposed for the sake of gameplay however - you can't Shift into other mission critical racers or Takedown targets and simply drive them off into disaster - that would be too easy.

Occasionally you'll come across a Dare while exploring San Francisco (such as driving at 60mph for 20 seconds without crashing); these challenges flash up as green dots on your map and earn you Willpower Points which you can spend in the many garages dotted about the city. 140 licensed vehicles are available for purchase and upgrade, and everything you buy (including the garages themselves) generates further income in turn, so you're never likely to be too short on cash.

Special mention is owed to the efficient interface and control system Ubisoft Reflections has implemented for the title; your mini-map expands with a single tap, and on-screen objectives or hints are never more than a button press away. Mission-relevant vehicles (such as police cars, or tow trucks that double up as handy ramps) appear on the map contextually, and your next expected location is always clearly marked and visible. This is not a game that will have you endlessly setting way-points, or checking menu screens to figure out what you're supposed to be doing; indeed, it's shaping up to be a fairly simple, focused affair, made interesting by its innovative Shift mechanic and range of fully-voiced NPCs.

Although it's yet unclear whether the loosely strung together missions we experienced will ultimately result in a coherent, compelling single-player narrative, Reflections' efforts to streamline the gameplay of  Driver San Francisco suggest that it's at least heading in the right direction. That's a sign we're always pleased to see on the route to release, and it doesn't seem as though it will change lanes or pull a design u-turn any time soon.

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User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Sat 27th Aug 2011 00:45, Post No: 6

shift is an original idea which tells you tht driver sf is completely different from all the other racers out there this is a great game u shouldnt let what ppl say or think stop u from buying this amazing new game in a long and creative series

User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 26th Aug 2011 16:44, Post No: 5

@anonymous post#4

"game stores don't make nearly as much as developers make it out to be".

but as developers don't make a penny out of pre-owned, and they do lose a potential sale of a new game.

the is a proliforation of more and more DLC so developers CAN make some money and sooner rather than later games will cost £5 for 1 hours gameplay with an extra 40 hours gameplay for £40 unless the preowned sales eroding new sales is stopped.

User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 21st Jul 2011 16:48, Post No: 4

here's why things like passport and psn pass are a bad idea. DLC. lets say i think this game is worth $30, new it sells for $50, but its a few months old and used so i can buy it from gamestop or w.e for $30 go home and play it, few weeks down the line iv'e beaten the game gotten some more $ in my pocket and decided i want to get in on that DLC. i go and spend more money on the game, right?


well if i know it will cost $40 because i want the online, but i don't value it at $40, i'm not going to buy it, now in 4-6 more months maybe the game is down to $20, and with the pass it will cost me $30, that was reasonable before, but the games got 6 months worth of population erosion now, am i going to play a dead game no? am i going to buy DLC for a game i never bought?  obviously not. 


developers feel entitled to somethign that they really are not entitled too, they made there money at launch and on all the new copies sold. they see gamestop posting huge profits, but what they apparently don't realize/consider is the gamestop is a retail outlet with employees to pay, utilitie bills at there retail locations, the trade in purchase price themselves, and lastly a good retail location, which costs a pretty penny. so how is gamestop and other companies like them making so much money? it's qunatity. they mite make $8 on a used game sale after all is said and done, maybe even less. but when you're putting out games hundreds of thousands at a time every month at say $8 profit a sale, it adds up for sure. 


in the end i think people are going to stop buying used games as much, and as a result less people will buy the DLC, as they don't have the game, unless game stores are willing to drop the prices $10 to subsidize the online passes, but as i pointed out game stores don't make nearly as much as developers make it out to be.

User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 04th May 2011 18:46, Post No: 3

I hope that the shift thingy wont be some kind of a gimmic which gets tired or repetative.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Reflections

User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 30th Jun 2009 21:57, Post No: 2

show me proof and I'll believe you

User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 26th Nov 2007 00:41, Post No: 1

Driver 5 is being made right now for the pc, it even has a site.