Review: Driver: San Francisco
Not knowing much about cars besides that I like driving and some cars are better, more expensive than others still doesn't turn me off most driving video games. The heavy sim racers are still hard for me to get into since I am not a gearhead and wouldn't fully understand the world the developers made for the grease monkeys. Driver: San Francisco fills in the gap of my love for cars but not knowing too much about them....and I had so much damn fun. Driver: San Francisco is a mix of one hell of a good time with some frustrations sprinkled in. The story takes place a couple of months after Driver 3 although I didn't have to worry about following the story since it held up fine without the backstory. The flow wasn't quite there in how the story unfolded, though once you see what I think the developer was going for in terms of flow, everything makes sense. I do like how the vibe of the story felt so much like a buddy cop movie with a little sci-fi mixed in. Yes, the story is a little out there and ridiculous but in a fun, enjoyable way. I hope I am not the only one who plays this game thinking your partner, Tobias Jones, looks like Sazh Katzroy from Final Fantasy 13. I kept waiting for a chocobo to pop out.
To help the 70's cop show vibe I was getting from Driver: San Francisco even further was the soundtrack. So much good music that need to remember to get the soundtrack when I am done writing this review. With songs from The Black Keys, Beastie Boys, DJ Shadow, Queens of the Stone Age you get a crazy mix of artists that somehow fit in the world of Driver: San Francisco. I did get annoyed at the end game credits music since it was one song on an endless loop, not that many people even look at the credits of the game to begin with. When driving around the city, you can switch the tracks being played with the press of the d-pad left or right.
As far as the actual gameplay goes, I never had this much fun in a driving game EVER! I'm usually the worst player when it comes to driving games since I always have trouble learning the physics to the car models in order to get control of the car and end up crashing every time I turn a corner. I found Driver: San Francisco's physics easy to learn and felt like a getaway driver whipping my vehicle around 90 degree turns with the handbrake without losing too much speed. Story mode seemed to end a little fast for me but that is not a knock against how short the game is, more-so it's how much fun I was having and I didn't want it to end. Of course there was some minor things that bothered me such as having to do city missions to unlock the story missions. That, to me, ruined the flow of the story a little. You do get some side stories from the city missions that loosely tie into the main story so I went along with it.
The "shifting" ability you get in Driver: San Francisco is a refreshing thing. It never gets boring shifting out of my body to jump into a tanker truck and use that to crash someone I am chasing. Having the option to cause a pileup so that the person you are chasing cannot get away or to stop would-be pursuers from getting you is satisfying every time I do it. I do wonder how the people I shift into survive head-on collisions at 100 mph though. There is a moment in the story mode where you have to control two cars at the same time. That really took me by surprise and I thought the developer who's brain it came from was insane. It was probably the most exciting part of the story mode for me. It wasn't ground breaking design or anything, it was just very unexpected and actually worked well.
Multiplayer was a great time for me but not for the reasons you may think. Most people play to win, especially in a racing game. I, however, had more fun wrecking everyone out of nowhere than trying to win straight up. Nothing like hearing 4 people scream "What the fuck!?" when a fuel tanker is barreling down at them. There are a lot of different modes to play so you can choose to play a straight up race with no abilities if you so desire. I am not sure why the multiplayer modes are locked until you level up though. You level up pretty fast so it's not too much of an issue (getting to level 9 unlocks the last mode) although I wish developers would just let people play whatever mode they wanted at the start. I love the freedrive area of multiplayer. It reminds me of the party mode for GTA 4 in that you can just run around town and do whatever you want with friends. Just driving around to check out the city with your buddies following you is relaxing and great for when you just want to chat about whatever while driving one of over 120 licensed cars in the game.
Driver: San Francisco was fun, pure and simple. Between the story mode, multiplayer, new game plus, and challenges (check out the movie challenges for themed challenges for Bullitt, Gone in 60 Seconds, Smokey & The Bandit just to name a few!) never once did I think I was bored. Even with some of the issues I had like crashing way too much during some of the city missions where you had to race in traffic. It was better to restart the race instead of trying to catch back up since the load times were fast. Another issue I had was just how some of the final story mode chapters were cheap and punished you if you screwed up just a little. Even with those issues, I never had this much fun playing a driving game ever. Driver: San Francisco is a game I will look back on later in life and think, "Man, I had so much fun with that game. Good times indeed."