We recently had the opportunity to visit Ubisoft Reflections in Newcastle to preview its upcoming title, Driver: San Francisco. As well as having a chat with Creative Director, Martin Edmondson, we also got to go hands on with both the single player and multiplayer sides of the game, and you can read our thoughts below.
The single player starts off six months after the events of Driver 3 where Jericho shot Tanner in Istanbul. Driver: San Francisco starts off with Jericho having been charged for said crime and as we join his he is awaiting sentence. While being transferred from prison to the court room a daring rescue plan is implemented which sets him free. As Tanner you chase after the fleeing Jericho, although it doesn’t take too long for him to out fox you, as you find yourself trapped in a back alley with a tonne of prison trucks speeding behind you. Your only escape is forward, headlong into a fast flowing road, although as you head for freedom you are instantly blindsided by a speeding truck.
Enter the shift mechanic, a few moments later you wake up in the middle of waste ground dazed and confused. Paramedics can be heard in the background with the charge of the defibrillators ringing in your ears, a jolt from the defibrillator then brings you out of your car into the shift world. After several out of body experiences you take control of an ambulance which is carrying one John Tanner. Driving the ambulance to the nearest hospital you see your own car drive past and you hop back in.
The dream world in which you find yourself in has a Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes feel to it with large billboards containing messages for Tanner. An interesting small feature is when shifting from one car to the next you take control of the person at the wheel and also gain their appearance. This can be quite amusing as you can have fun with any passengers on board. One instance of this I witnessed was when Tanner shifted into a premium sports car in the middle of a test drive and started to drive recklessly at a high speed, terrorising the sales man; this certainly brought a smile to my face, not his though.
Driver San Francisco has a rough completion estimate of 12 hours, but for those looking for more the game does not disappoint. With the inclusion of “Dares” which are challenges which can include instances such as drive at top speed for 30 seconds or make a certain jump and so on. Additionally the 210 miles of road can be shredded up by 112 real licensed cars. These cars can be bought with the in world currency called “willpower” which is earned by completing mission, side missions, challenges and simply by having fun driving. The single player is enhanced by the 80 music tracks which can be played in a constant playlist (no fiddling with radio stations every time you swap cars) and then there’s the Movie challenges, another feature of the single player game which offer 10 collectable clapper boards scattered around the city. Finding the clapper boards will unlock challenges of driving chases which inspired famous movies. The movie challenges and any other fun you can find within the city can all be recorded by the “Film Director” which was featured in the first Driver game. These clips can then be uploaded so all your friends can see.
Even though the main story can be completed in the 12 hour bracket we have no worries about the value on offer here, thanks to the extra features mention above. The fact that the game runs at 60 frames per second is just the icing on the cake.
As explained above the Shift mechanic was introduced after a large car crash, and within single player shift is useful and fun to play with. It’s in multiplayer however that the full power of the shift mechanic is fully unleashed, making the enjoyment of Driver: San Francisco ten times what it would have been without it.
With 19 game modes ranging from classic racing to capture the flag. Before each mode can be started a qualifying round must be completed, this can involve anything from a tiny race to other criteria, such as which participant can do the most drifting.
The first game mode we got our hands on was “Tag,” a simple game mode which sees you competing to chase down an AI car and bash it to become “it”. Once you are the car being chased you will start collecting points with the aim of being first to 100. Players in pursuit can shift in and out of the surrounding cars while you must stay in your. The other players must simple hit you once to take over your position and start racking up the points. Tag really is a tactical game mode where the player who is being chased needs to stay away from heavy traffic, as otherwise this can become the enemy with a simple mistake.
The next game mode we tried was “Sprint” which is another free for all racing mode in which you must race around a small track to the finish. The tracks are usually small with tight cornering, allowing for plenty of opportunities to shunt your opponent into a wall. This is an ideal game mode for those looking for quick enjoyment, although it doesn’t make use of the shift mechanic in anyway.
“Trail Blazer” was an interesting game mode; Here you follow a DeLorean through the busy city keeping within its tracks. The is a very skilful mode which requires not only speed but quick reactions as the AI car will jump in and out of traffic. Large vehicles are best suited to this as you can smash into your opponent to gain the points.
“Takedown” was one my favourite modes, it’s a cops and robbers game with one person being the robber and the rest cops. The cops can utilise the shift mechanic to move to cars in and around the robber, any car the cops move to will be transformed into a cop car. To win the cops must smash up the robbers car; for the robber to win he must evade the cops until the time limit is reached. The robber can also collect additional points by picking up loot around the city.
“Checkpoint Rush” was described to us as an “expected hardcore game mode,” and we could easily see why. Checkpoint Rush is a FFA game where you are tasked with driving high speed down a busy freeway, while making your way through checkpoints. Sound easy? Well it’s not, because as soon as the leading car drives through the checkpoint it will start to flash red and will disappear. Although the shift mechanic can be used to move up the road you will only be rewarded points for each checkpoint you drive through. Ultimately this means the better your driving the more points you will score.
“Classic Mode Race” is what it says on the tin. There is no shift ability and you will have to drive a number of laps through the busy streets of San Francisco, therefore quick reactions and speed will get you through this.
“Blitz” is a defend-the-base style game where one team has to block the other team out, preventing them from reaching the centre of their base. This is a quick paced mode where communication is everything, the defenders must simply hit the attackers to prevent them from scoring. The attackers must gain entrance to the base. Small fast cars are recommended for the attackers where as large vehicles are recommended for the defenders to block off the entrances.
Lastly “Capture the Flag” this is a fantastic game type, enhanced by the shift mechanic. CTF sees two teams battling to grab the flag and return it to their base. Like TAG you can shift in and out of cars and set up traps for your opponents. To grab the flag off another you must smash their car up until they drop it, this means that team work is essential if you’re going to be protected.
Multiplayer has 11 online game modes and 8 offline split-screen modes, unfortunately there is no online split screen, however with the amazing choice of modes on offer this isn’t a big problem. Add in the 40 levels to rank up and you can see that this game certainly has plenty of replay value.
Initially I was concerned how shift would be used within multiplayer, however after a few hours (which seemed to go in seconds) I had picked up the basic understanding and it felt second nature to simply jump out of a car and jump straight back into the action. Although all this may seem scary and complicated to some it really isn’t. Keep a close eye on Driver San Francisco because this one may just take you by surprise.
Check out our interview with creative director, Martin Edmondson here.
Remember to pre-order Driver: San Francisco. it is released September 6 in the US and September 2 in the UK for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. You can pre-order the Driver: San Francisco Collector’s Edition (PS3 | Xbox 360) by clicking the relevant link.