So off you go, “shifting” into various vehicles at will, which turns out to be a pretty neat concept once you get past the absurdity of it, not to mention the fact that it goes against everything the Driver
stood for. There are a whole range of different cars, trucks, bikes, and boats to commandeer, as well as the occasional piece of heavy machinery. As the game progresses, your shifting powers grow and allow you to jump at longer ranges, so that you can instantly catch up if you’re falling behind in a race or chase. It’ll probably take some getting used to, but it can provide for some really interesting scenarios and fast-paced action, while also functioning as a rudimentary means of fast-travel so that you don’t have to spend time putting around between map markers.
As outlandish as some of the game’s primary elements may be, so are the various side missions you’re required to undertake in between story-related ones. The developers must have brainstormed for quite a while to come up with such a variety of different situations to insert the player into; you might find yourself helping a reality show crew film over the top wrecks, win a street race to pay for college, hunt down a pack of chimps that escaped from the zoo, or annoy fellow drivers on the freeway as a senior citizen. Considering that there’s a whole other category of optional side missions to undertake, you might find yourself becoming somewhat fatigued by it all if you just want to find out what happens next in Driver: San Francisco
’s gripping narrative.
If the abundance of repetitive side missions irks you, you might wish pretend those giant transparent walls don’t exist, either. You know, the ones that arbitrarily block off entire sections of the city until the game deems you worthy of exploring it all? That sort of thing is annoying enough in Grand Theft Auto
when they at least have a plausible reason for there being temporary road blocks on a bridge, but doesn’t Driver: SF
take place in a dream? Why shouldn’t the guy whose mind is controlling everything be able to go wherever he pleases? At least his nostalgic imagination explains the 40-year-old cars, Hollywood-inspired action sequences, and implausible vehicle handling characteristics. Yes, such a design makes the game more accessible and entertaining to some, but those looking for a more serious experience may be disappointed.
As you careen down the hilly streets of a painstakingly-reproduced San Francisco, you’re rewarded for showing off your skills behind the wheel. Rather than earning generic experience points as in so many other games released these days, DSF awards you a currency called Willpower, which is used to unlock new cars and garages, as well as enhance the potency of your dream-powers. Sadly, you cannot upgrade your favorite autos, though this is probably just as well, due to their being largely disposable because of the Shift mechanic. Driver: SF
’s multiplayer modes make especially good use of the new feature to cause inordinate amounts of chaos.
Most reviews are quick to praise the developers for reaching the highly-desirable 60FPS threshold on consoles, but they’ve obviously made some concessions in order to achieve that. Just about everything but the cars themselves looks very dated, with slightly higher-resolution textures being the only thing separating environments from looking like they were ripped out of GTA: San Andreas. They do use some moderately fancy effects to try and distract you from paying too much attention to that, but there’s no looking past the omnipresent haze that covers up far away objects and merely provides the illusion of a great draw distance. On the bright side, there’s enough crashing and ramming through roadside props going on that keeps you focused on your immediate surroundings.