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Driver: San Francisco

Five Things You Should Know
by Jeff Cork on Sep 05, 2011 at 06:00 AM
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Release:
Rating: Teen
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC

Driver: San Francisco screams into North America tomorrow. The holiday season is starting to gear up now, and it's likely that this is one of those releases that will be overlooked. That would be a shame, since it's a tremendous amount of fun. In case you haven't been keeping up with it, here are five things that you should know about Driver: San Francisco.

1. Yes, It Is Absurd
The game's first trailer at Ubisoft's 2010 E3 press conference was a stunner. Was Ubisoft really adding a bizarre supernatural element to a series that had, until that point, been (relatively) grounded in reality? Yes. Yes they were. Hero John Tanner is knocked into a coma after a chase sequence with his nemesis, Jericho. Inexplicably, he's then able to take control of drivers throughout San Francisco and tool around town, solving crimes, participating in races, and tracking down the source of a terrorist conspiracy. And he manages to do all of this from his hospital bed. Fortunately...

2. It's Also Quite Fun
Once you're done snickering over the ludicrous premise, you'll find that Driver: San Francisco has a lot going for it. There are more than 100 different cars to drive, and they each handle differently from one another. One of the joys of the game is coming across a particularly fast car and tearing through the detailed city streets. The missions are interesting enough on their own, but the body-hopping gimmick adds an entirely new dimension to the action.

3. Shift Is Awesome
Regardless of that coma thing, Driver: San Francisco's big bullet point is how the Shift feature fundamentally changes gameplay. In one mission, you might have to tail and disable a fleeing criminal. Sure, you can ram it with your squad car and whittle away its health bar. It's far more effective (and fun) to simply jump away from the action, leap into the driver's set of a bus in the opposing lane, and smash into the bad guy like a homing missile. In races, it's just as easy to sabotage the efforts of your opponents by throwing firetrucks, vans, and other obstacles in their paths. Best of all, there aren't any artificial constraints or limitations to the ability. If you miss your target, hop into another one and try again.

4. There's Plenty To Do
Aside from the single-player game's story missions, there are dozens of side activities and dares to keep you busy. Some of them are focused on stunts, such as power sliding a specific distance. Others are more inventive. In one memorable mission, I had to drive a spider-bite victim to the hospital as he grows increasingly more delirious. The catch is that he'll die if his heart rate slows beneath a certain threshold. The solution? Keep him awake by driving against traffic, drifting around corners, and catching as much air as possible. Everything you do earns you credits, which you can spend on additional cars, vehicle upgrades, and other goodies.

5. It Has A Great Soundtrack
Driver: San Francisco's buddy-cop story is accompanied by a fantastic range of classic and contemporary funk, blues, and soul. There are more than 70 tracks, and they all work together to create a soundtrack to a '70s cop movie that never was. It's truly outstanding stuff, and it adds a surprising amount of texture to the game.