Recently GotGame was invited to an exclusive preview of Ubisoft’s upcoming Driver: San Francisco, where lucky journalists were allowed to play about thirty minutes of the game’s Single Player Story Mode and participate in a 4v4 multiplayer showdown showcasing some of the nine multiplayer minigames, several of which have not been announced until now.
The first thing to note is the titular environment. As a lifelong resident of Oakland, CA I was totally blown away by Ubisoft’s attention to detail in recreating the Bay Area. It’s all there. Every recognizable landmark in San Francisco stands proudly before you in highly-rendered sparkling detail, and I could even cross the Bay Bridge into the port of Oakland (woot). Recreating SF alone is impressive, but Ubisoft has actually improved upon the hell that is driving in SF in reality by cutting down on the gridlock and removing all those awful one way streets. They should be city planners. But enough about the world; let’s get to the gameplay.
This is not Grand Theft Auto. Ubisoft made this point crystal clear by omitting the option of leaving your car and walking around (which you could do in Driv3r and Driver: 2). This is a game about driving; not walking and not shooting. There’s a huge list of real cars to choose from for all the auto-freaks out there. But how do you try out all these cars if you can’t steal them? By astral projection of course. That is, entering a disembodied, ghostly overhead view of traffic and possessing the passing drivers (think Quantum Leap, Sliders, or The Matrix). Fans of the past Driver titles will recognize this as the revamped Shift feature, and it’s the driving mechanic of multiplayer strategy as well as a multiplier for single player possibilities.
Remember, the single player game is a sandbox style, living, breathing city of San Francisco, and while there is a main story arc to follow, using the Shift feature to enter other cars will unlock side quests and otherwise hidden achievements. If players grow tired of the cops and robbers style story (which they probably won’t, since it plays out like a crime movie), they can shift-possess a prototype sports car for some racing missions.
The feature is also of paramount importance to multiplayer strategy, as you’ll frequently find yourself trying to possess cars ahead of your opponents to block or smash them depending on what mode (or mood) you’re playing in. Speaking of multiplayer modes, did I mention there were NINE?
I was lucky enough to play some of them in an intense 4v4 heat with other press outlets, and though I got my ass kicked, I could see the tell-tale signs of concentrated immersion in the cold eyes my competitors as they savaged each others’ cars in pursuit of victory.
Players join a party with one console in charge, and that player chooses the multiplayer mini-game. Obviously, there are the straight up racing mini-games, as you would expect from any driving game, but Driver: San Francisco goes above and beyond, offering Team Capture the Flag, Tag, Trailblazer, Cops and Robbers, and more. In team capture the flag, two teams attempt to capture the opponents flag and return to their territory without getting smashed into by other players, which transfers ownership of said flag. Defensive ploys especially will require some coordination with the shift feature, and I can already imagine awful irate gamers screaming into their headsets at noobs. Trailblazer features a careening, high velocity AI controlled car that players must tail closely, getting more points for staying directly in the highlighted path the car leaves behind, and Cops and Robbers divides the players into two teams of predictable vocations that must either escape justice or hunt down criminals.
All in all Driver: San Francisco is a slick looking, all purpose driving game with tons of hours of content and replayability given the array of multiplayer and single player options. If you’re into cars, you’ll love this game. Driver: San Francisco is set to release on August 30th, 2011 for XBox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, and 3DS.