Driver San Francisco (PS3)

By Wayne Webb

Driver San Francisco manages to do something other games in long-running franchises often forget, surprising the player with something totally new and unique. By adding the “Shifting” element, Driver San Francisco raises itself well above the typical driving sandbox games.

Driver San Francisco is the latest in a series of games where your character moves forward in pursuit of criminals, furthering a complex and entertaining plot, yet driving like a maniac about an open environment. The environment in this case is San Francisco, and while it’s not perfectly to scale – it’s a very good rendition of the hilly city and its many bridges. So if you’re at all familiar with the city you can be zooming over the Golden Gate, the Bay Bridge or burning around the Presidio in no time.

You play a cop who is chasing down and evil nemesis that has escaped custody and has put you in an altered state of “Life on Mars” consciousness where you can body swap from one person/vehicle to another at will. An accompanying dialogue track of ambulance workers and medical professionals adds an element of the surreal to your city driving experience on occasion, but as you seem to take body swapping in your stride this is just icing on the cake.

The concept of shifting adds something I’ve not seen in the open sandbox driving game before, you can exit your current body, fly astrally above the city at varying heights, find new cars and missions, then zoom into them in a swift and simple process that can alter the landscape of missions, multiplayer games and basic free driving. This means you can be chasing a bad guy, lose sight of them, swap to an astral view, zero in on them and jump into a car right behind them and close your lead. Alternately jump into a car that is ahead and plow headfirst into a collision and stop them that way. The possibilities for this manoeuvre are seemingly endless and it’s loads of fun to do – especially when playing with others.

Driver San Francisco has more to offer than just this unique new feature and a huge open environment. The missions, challenges and unlockables are extensive and extend the life of the game. The sheer scope and inventiveness of the San Francisco/Coma patient setting makes for an enjoyable romp I found hard to put down. 

Pros: Innovative Shifting concept, huge realistic environment, entertaining story and 70s retro design
Cons: Occasionally repetitive.

4.5 Shacks Out of 5