It's been over ten years since the original Driver drifted onto Sony's Playstation, offering players four huge, open-world cities to explore by car. As the series progressed, however, each game became more and more ambitious, focusing less on driving and more on run-and-gun gameplay. Now, Ubisoft is attempting to bring the series back to its humble roots in the upcoming Driver: San Francisco by focusing on what made the franchise so successful in the first place: the driving.
Driver: San Francisco once again stars undercover police officer John Tanner, although this time in a much different way. Due to the events at the end of Driv3r, Tanner has been left in a coma. In his mind, Tanner is still chasing after his longtime arch-nemesis Charles Jericho, yet he has no idea that he's actually in a coma. The fact that the entire game takes place in Tanner's mind seems to have little significance at first, but it actually is the cause for the game's core mechanic: the Shift mode.
The Shift mode is how you get from car to car in Driver: San Francisco. Essentially, it allows you to zoom out of your current car's perspective, and hop into any other vehicle. The mechanic is controlled with a press of the A button, and is handled really smoothly. There are numerous levels of zoom whilst using Shift, depending on how far you want to travel. For example, you can zoom out enough to see all of the cars on a single block, or you can zoom out far enough to see the entire city. And with 208 miles of drivable road in the fully realized San Francisco, being able to shift from one end of the city to the other with the press of a button is a welcome feature.
Of course, with the addition of the Shift mode, the on-foot portions found in the last few Driver games have been ditched. This time around, it's all about the driving, and Ubisoft has made a few important changes to make sure that gamers know it. Notably, this is the first Driver game featuring licensed cars over 100 of them. And each car handles significantly different, from the beefy muscle cars, to the luxury sedans. The actual driving feels tight and precise, which is essential since you'll be in a car the entire game.
The Driver series has kind of fallen off the radar in the past few years, but Driver: San Francisco is looking to rectify that. The driving is fluid and exhilarating, the Shift mode is easy and innovative, and the cars are varied and fast. The whole Tanner's-in-a-coma thing might not pan out too well, but it's too early to tell. For now, the driving is looking great, and that is really all that matters. Look for Driver: San Francisco to be released later this fall, on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PC.