Driver: San Francisco – First Impressions

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Driver: SF – Muscle cars, epic chases, immortal pedestrians!

Click the video above to watch a quick sample of the action you’ll see quite often in this newest incarnation of Driver! It was made using the Xbox 360 version’s in-game Film Director mode, which should be very familiar to you if you remember the classic Driver games. I love how they included it, even in the console version, since the GTA IV movie editor mode was only on the PC.

Anyways, yeah, Driver: SF. Is it any good? Balls yes.
Is it freakin’ awesome. BALLS yes.
Is it the most fun I’ve had with a racing game in years? BALLS YES.
Is it a worthy addition to the Driver franchise? Um…

Here’s the thing about DSF. In many ways, it’s just not like any other Driver game of the past. It’s got much more in common with games like the Burnout series. Is that a bad thing? It might be if you really loved the original Driver games, specifically the first one and Driv3r (I still hate that “3” title). But for me, it’s not bad at all, and really is the most fun I’ve had with a racing game in a few years now.

The biggest change with DSF is the “shift” gimmick. Basically, the protagonist, John Tanner, goes into a coma and discovers he has this ability in his dream world to shift into other people’s bodies. This allows him to instantly transfer into the driver’s seat of any of the cars you see in the world. Of course, this allows for some absolutely unique and insane situations. For instance, you may need to perform a takedown on a speeding opponent. You could go the Burnout route, chase them down and smash them into a wall. Or you could just shift into a massive truck a quarter mile ahead and ram into your opponent head-on, then shift back to your car and continue. It’s just weird at first, but once you get used to the idea it is a ton of fun!

Gravity-defying Ford Gran Torino FTW

Another change is the licensed cars in the game. Generic vehicles have been part of Driver since the beginning, but now you’ve got like 125 licensed, realistically-modeled cars to play around with. Everything from classics like the Bel Air, Charger, and Trans Am, to high-end cars like the Lamborghini Diablo, Dodge Viper ACR, and Jaguar XKR, to very welcome unique cars like the Delorean DMC-12, AMC Pacer and VW Camper van. This of course means the damage models aren’t as intense as previous games, but I still find it a welcome addition and helps make the game world more believable.

But the best part of the game for me so far are the missions and challenges themselves. They’re intense, varied, frequent, and extremely satisfying. Usually in a racing game you start seeing repetition pretty quickly, or you run into some race types you don’t really like. I’ve run into neither problem in my nearly nine hours of playing. There is always something new to do, and even if it’s the same type as one you just played, it’s going to have a new twist or the intensity is going to be ramped up. Also, I have yet to play the same “track” twice. Strange how often in open world games like this you end up racing through the same route so many times, but with this one I can’t remember a time I’ve been forced to go back and played the same exact place.

There is so much more I could say, but those are the things that have really stood out so far. Sure, the premise of the game is cheesy and the whole feel of the gameplay is entirely different from previous Driver games, but I find this to be incredibly fun and addicting. It really does feel like a mixture of the styles you see in games like Burnout Paradise and the old-school Driver games, which is very weird at first but took no time to get used to and love. It’s always a good sign when you look at the clock and realize several hours have passed and it feels like no time has passed at all, especially when playing a racing game.

It really is so easy to screw up a racing game, especially when you’ve played as many as I have and know exactly what you like and don’t like. But DSF gets so much right to me it’s crazy, and I wholly recommend it if you want something a little different… and just plain exhilarating.


3 comments on “Driver: San Francisco – First Impressions

  1. Kevin Dady says:

    DRM fail

    I am not going to beg ubisoft for a special ONE TIME code when I need to reinstall my property, EA already fucked me over on a tiger woods game in the past (I was able to install it once then they took down their “service”) that was more than enough for me.

    Frankly I am tired of being accused of being a thief for purchasing software, and companies who hold that policy do not exist anymore in my mind.

    • If you’re referring to the Uplay code requirement, that has been completely removed and there is no DRM on the game now. I have a rental copy, with no Uplay code, and was able to unlock the extra features for free. They were planning on making Uplay a paid-for addon if you didn’t buy the game new, but due to their negligence in not shipping proper codes they’ve made the features free for all, no matter what.

      This is with the console version at least, the PC version isn’t out yet and I presume that one will have that stupid launcher program instead. Which is garbage, I won’t be buying that version new. If I happen to find it in a bargain bin someday, sure, I’ll buy it and crack it.

      I certainly do agree with your stance on such things. Being treated like a criminal when I’m a valid customer is complete and total BS, which is why I only rent or borrow these titles. I’d have easily bought the game otherwise, so that’s one less purchase for them. DRM hurts legit consumers, and pirates in turn have the better product.

      • Shagittarius says:

        I’m completely with you on the DRM issue. I buy lots of games but when it comes to invasive DRM the only correct response is to not play or rent the games. Don’t flee to a different platform that doesn’t send a message at all. Avoid buying it all together and like you say, once it’s the price of a movie ticket maybe I’ll buy it, if the servers are still up, or crack it.

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