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Driver SF Demo Impressions

I realize it’s a bit weird to give impressions about a public demo but I've read and heard a lot of folks write off Driver San Francisco as a title that’s going to flop.  Given the sour taste Driv3r left in most fans' mouths I completely understand.  As someone who started playing the series with Driv3r and regard it as my #2 game of last generation I feel it prudent to try and wrangle the non-believers and help us all see the potential in Driver SF.  If the demo is any indication this Driver is going to deliver Hollywood driving action like no other.

Right now on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network there are 2 Driver San Francisco demos; single and multiplayer. I played last night for several hours and had a blast.  It's not often a game makes me smile and laugh from pure joy. 

Gameplay wise the controls are solid.  Reflections studio has tweaked the handling of real world cars to be less Forza and more Hollywood.  Tail fishing around corners is a synch and made me feel like Elwood Blues.  Colliding into other cars on the road isn't as detrimental as simulation games either.  I was able to push through traffic without taking much damage but do it enough times and car performance suffers.

The single player demo features 3 non sequential missions from the campaign.  Overall the missions are campy fun.  It's been asked before by editors here at Gameinformer. "How come we have campy B movies but not games?"  The impression I got from Driver is that it may fit the bill.  First is the story which involves protagonist detective Tanner waking from a coma with the telekinetic ability to possess the bodies of other people; so long as they are driving.  There was no on foot gameplay in the demo and I don't expect it in the final game.  Secondly is the dialog, both in the words themselves and the actors' presentation.  If I were in a friend's car who suddenly decided to crash into a cop the first words out of my mouth wouldn't be, "This is madness!"

The Prove It mission has the player possessing a jackass driver and making him jump a truck, hit cops and hitch onto a tow truck all to prove to Tanner's partner his Shift power is real.  Team Colors ups the ante on traditional racing by having players shift between 2 cars and making sure they finish 1st and 2nd place. 

Escapist was the most fun for me as it involves outrunning the police.  This is handled similar to GTA4.  Each cop has a radius of sight around them that players have to pull away from.  Stay out of sight for 10 seconds and your home free; even if you manage to roll over your car and have the police drive by you a moment later.  The boost feature is absolutely necessary when fleeing the cops as it is the only way to drive faster than they are.

I'm glad Ubisoft decided to release a multiplayer demo as well.  In my opinion it stands head and shoulders above the singeplayer.  The Trailblazer game type tasks players with following an AI controlled car as is races through the city.  Stay within its tail light trails to earn points.  The fun comes from slamming into your opponents as you all fight for the same spot behind the car. 

The frantic game mode Tag has given me the sense of what the phase "pulse pounding adrenaline" means.  Tag in Driver works opposite of the game we all played in grade school.  Instead of one person tagging someone else to make them it, players need to tag the it car.  Being IT is how you earn points but evading your pursuers is teeth clenching tense because they can, and do, shift into any other vehicle on the road.  It doesn't seem that crazy to have 5 cars crashing into each other like a demolition derby.  Imagine if an entire city block suddenly went insane and started smashing into each other.  It's like a never-ending Crash mode from Burnout.

The only experience I had with the demos that worries me is the hardlocks.  My 360 froze once on the singleplayer demo and again during multiplayer.  The disclaimer states the demos are not representative of the final product, but that product is scheduled to be on store shelves in a week and a half.  I still plan to pick up the game when it releases on August 30th.  I already know the gameplay is going to be the most fun I've had all year.  But don't take my word for it.  Download the demos and judge for yourself.