Cult Classics – Driver: San Francisco

by Ben Hanson on May 27, 2013 at 07:00 AM

During Ubisoft's E3 2012 press conference, the publisher proudly revealed the next entry in the Driver series. This was the part of the show where I slipped out for a bathroom break, but I should've been paying close attention. I'm constantly on the hunt for new gameplay experiences and the last place I would look is the racing genre. I like arcade racing games fine but didn't give Driver: San Francisco a second look until last year when Jeff Cork said "No, seriously, you should really play Driver: San Francisco."

The hook of the entire game is that the main character is in a coma, which allows him to astrally project himself (they call it "shift") into any other driver's body in the open world of San Francisco. It sounds laughable, but adding this borderline supernatural element to a racing game has made Driver: San Francisco one of my favorite games of the generation. The story is fresh and different, using its ridiculous premise to take players to the craziest and most interesting possible conclusion. Jumping out of your vehicle to a bird's eye view and choosing any other car on the map leads to some fun possibilities in single-player, but what locked this game in as one of my favorites is the multiplayer. More specifically, the highlight of the game is the split-screen Tag Mode.

I love split-screen gaming, and the simple game of tag with the added element of swapping to any car in the world leads to some amazing, competitive moments. It's tough to convey the mode in words, so I recruited Tim Turi and Dan Ryckert to show off Driver: San Francisco's Tag Mode in the video below.


As much as I adore Driver: San Francisco, I don't know if it makes me a fan of the franchise. Since the shift mechanic is dependent on a very specific story, it would be difficult to carry it forward into the next entry. For creating a new gameplay idea that puts an emphasis on fun over realism, I will be breathlessly recommending Driver: San Francisco (and more specifically the split-screen Tag Mode) to people for years to come. What a weird game.