I will be honest; I have never really been into the driving genre since the first Need for Speed Underground, where neon and pimping up cars hadn’t become the be all and end all of every bloody racing game on the planet. All three of the past ‘Driver’ games passed me by, particularly as I was an N64 kid, and Vice City took much of my teenager years on my PS2. Driver San Francisco passed under my radar, particularly as Skyrim, Arkham City and Saints Row The Third have been taking up a huge amount of my time (Dragons, Batman and killing people with large purple dildos do surprisingly work well together)For £16 however, it piqued my interest to give it a go.
Driver San Francisco picks up with the protagonist, John Tanner, as he escorts his latest criminal catch, Jericho, to prison. As is standard fare for Hollywood and games in general, everything goes tits up, Jericho escapes, Tanner pursues and all hell breaks loose. I’m not ruining anything by stating that all does not go well for Mr Tanner as he is involved in a car crash and falls into a coma; think the British version of Life On Mars but with more action and a much larger budget. This then gives some kind of basis to Tanner’s new found ability to ‘shift’ at will to any car in the entirety of San Francisco. This effectively stops what boils down to a pretty bog standard driving game from being as such and give its much needed kick up the arse; high speed chases with other street racers never gets more entertaining when you end their race with 50 tonnes of lorry.
The missions themselves are hugely varied, with a combination of ‘dares’, checkpoints and traditional races. Tanner moves from a straight laced cop to an amusing speed freak who revels in the freedom he is given in the city which is now his play ground and some of the best lines come from the scenarios he has with the vast array of the populace. By far the best part are the obligatory missions that unlock further parts of the story as these are the highlight of the games humor show moments of comic genius. Helping two Japanese kids pay for college through illegal street racing to putting you in the shoes of a kid learning to drive and scaring the shit out of your driving instructor , you know just because you can, are two of the highlights of a fresh attempt at mandatory missions.
The soundtrack is hugely enjoyable, with a mix of soul, funk and rock to keep the blood pumping when you’re bombing through the city and I highly recommend buying or downloading it if its available (particularly Spans “Baby’s Come Back’- give it a YouTube at the very least) . The combination of the zany gameplay, witty writing and music lead me to believe this is a very good value package (months after it is released I might add) with one major downfall; its online play. The online component is average at best with the game modes given just a pretty crappy extension of the story without the writing or any of the licensed music therefore losing its fun edge. Another thing that drives me mad, particularly as I am a bit of an achievement whore, is that almost half of the achievements are based on online play. This sucks a huge amount of enjoyment out of completion junkies as picking it up at a later date is pointless as much of the online community has migrated to other games and pastures new, leaving the experience to be half hearted at best.
All in all a very enjoyable package; just don’t buy it for its online content.