Shifting Things Up A Gear
Pivotal to success in Driver: San Francisco is the correct utilization of your Shift abilities. However, this isn't always well implemented by the game itself. Whilst the ability to boost, switch between the many licensed vehicles and sabotage your opponents by forcing them off the road are good ideas, the game takes it too far with later developments. Some of which are never featured in the game again. In one cut-scene, Coma Tanner develops the ability to freeze time by clicking his fingers. You'd think he would be able to use that to win races by freezing time to allow him to get a head-start right? Nope, it never features again, with time freezing due to different reasons later on. I understand it would break the game if you could freeze time, but why introduce it if he never uses it again? To be fair, the Shift ability does provide some unique moments as well. A particularly memorable mission has you possessing a kidnap victim to find out her position. Most of the time, Shift works well indeed and makes San Francisco very unique. Occasionally ,however, it can be just downright confusing.
If you decide you really want to show off your driving skills , you can just drag a friend or relative round to bemusedly stare at it thinking you're wasting your time. Alternatively, you can (if you have a UPlay passport) use San Francisco's Director Mode to show off online. By editing the camera-work, speed and various other things, you can upload clips of your driving to the Driver Club online (a not-too-subtle homage to the Rockstar Social Club introduced in Grand Theft Auto IV) to show off. This is a good addition to show off to your friends across various social media networks, but for many it will lay unused. These kind of features though are fairly popular with those who like to show off, so San Francisco won't be harmed by their inclusion.
Can I Check Your Passport Please, Sir?
If you are one of those aforementioned people in possession of a UPlay Passport, congratulations! You can play the game's online multiplayer, one of its strongest points. If you're looking for a fun and crazy multiplayer experience, this is it. Whether it will suffer from the lack of community that Blur did is yet to be seen, but the multiplayer is great fun. For the offline split-screen multiplayer (for up to 2 players), you don't need the passport or the internet, so you can have some sofa-based fun with a friend if you bought a pre-owned copy. It's fine but not as good as the online multiplayer, which consists of 6 different playlists encompassing a variety of modes, including Tag and Team Rush. With a Call of Duty-style multiplayer including XP, unlockable abilities, vehicles and playlists; Driver: San Francisco's multiplayer has the longevity necessary for people to enjoy it for a long time. With Multiplayer Freedrive included as well, you and your friends can get lost in the city of San Francisco for hours to come.
The presentation of Driver: San Francisco is impressive. Graphically, the game is generally quite strong. The facial animations looking great for the majority of the game, but often there are slight problems with the lip-syncing. The tools for the job obviously being the vehicles, look impressive and representative of their real-life counterparts. The cityscape generally looks quite nice, apart from a handful of low-resolution textures used for the road surfaces and certain buildings, such as the Police Precinct you encounter at the end of the Prologue. However, with the game running at a steady 60fps for the majority of the time you spend in it (apart from some annoying slow-down in places), to some people that's a worthy sacrifice. The soundtrack in San Francisco also adds to the realistic feel that the game possesses. With a varied and interesting range of music, from newer acts such as The Noisettes to funky tracks by the likes of Dr. John, there is plenty to suit nearly all tastes, and they all go well with the setting. Engine noises are satisfying as well, and the voice acting is fairly strong, but not Hollywood standard.
Wrestling With The Wheel
For all of the good stuff that Driver: San Francisco boasts, there is one thing which has the potential to ruin it for players - the handling. For such a crucial component in the success of a game where you play essentially as a wheelman, the handling is a mixed-bag. In some cars, such as the Dodge Challenger RT, the steering feels incredibly heavy. This culminates in it sometimes feeling like Tanner is having to wrestle the car round the corner. Drifting is also impossible to judge, with a corner sometimes being taken really well and other times resulting in a spin. The handling is by far the weakest link in Driver: San Francisco and that's unfortunate, as it's arguably the most crucial point.
In conclusion, San Francisco might have its problems with heavy handling and an often confusing storyline, but it's a true Driver game. Not because of it being a strong and enjoyable driving game with plenty to do, but for a much simpler reason - when barrelling down the pavement in your car, the pedestrians will dive out of the way, just like they did in Driver. It's good to be back.
A strong return to form for the Driver series. A strong and enjoyable driving game with lots of replayability and things to do, if you have the patience. Great multiplayer.
Handling can feel a bit heavy and irritating, graphical slow-down in places. The story-line can be too confusing at times, with Shift abilities introduced but not explored and a handful of plot twists that are obviously going to occur.