The lights are on
Driver debuted in a pre-Grand Theft Auto gaming world and kicked plenty of butt with thrilling chases, jumps, and stunts. Ever since GTA innovated the open world landscape, the Driver series has been playing catch up to mostly poor results. Now Ubisoft has gone back to the drawing board to try to capture what made Driver so originally compelling, and developer Reflections has come up with an ingenious, yet completely wacky-sounding concept to stand out in today’s gaming landscape.
You play as original protagonist John Tanner who has been in an accident and fallen into a coma. The game is all in his mind so the team is able to implement a fantastical concept where you’re able to warp Tanners consciousness from the car you’re currently controlling into any other vehicle in the world. While driving along, you can zoom out to a top down view of the street at any time and use an aiming reticule to pick another ride. Over a hindered licensed vehicles are in the game and their make and model will display onscreen whenever you hover over one. All it takes is one simple button press and you’re driving the new ride. It’s such a surprising amount of freedom that I don’t really care too much at this point that the coma story could get ultra-weird, and the best part is you're never running around outside of the car. It's all vehicle all the time.
This top-down view can zoom so far out that you can see the whole bay area and this is where missions come into play. As you scan the city streets, mini videos of people in need pop up on the map and you can warp right into the situation at hand, kind of like the TV show Quantum Leap. We saw Tanner take over a cop in mid car chase. After a bit of pursuit, he scanned the road ahead and found an oncoming semi truck. After gaining control, he steered it directly into a nasty head-on collision.
We played a little of the Trailblazer mode in multiplayer where four of us had to all chase one car. The goal is to stay directly in the taillight trail behind the car as long as possible while bashing all of your rivals out of the way. What’s nice is if you’re knocked out you can always warp ahead to vehicles right next to the target car and get right back into the fray.
Driver’s car shifting system covers several recent racing trends in one swoop. Instead of rewinding after wiping out, you just warp to another car. Instead of physically jumping to another car like in Wheelman or True Crime: Hong Kong, you just shift over. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised Driver: SF and am definitely looking forward to seeing how it comes along.