Replay Value:
Online Gameplay:
Overall Rating:
Ubisoft Reflections
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
August 30, 2011

The original Driver exploded onto the PlayStation scene in 1999; it garnered widespread critical acclaim and plenty of fans. Unfortunately, the series went downhill from there and actually, we haven’t even seen a new installment in quite some time. Enter Ubisoft Reflection’s Driver: San Francisco , a game that brings back undercover cop John Tanner and his enemy, the hardcore criminal, Jericho. It’s a driving adventure that sports plenty of variety, some impressive visual work, and a unique “shift” feature that separates this racer from the rest of the pack. It’s a really solid package, but the story is just plain ridiculous and the difficulty can really spike.

In many ways, this game’s graphics surprised me. The large amount of detail is most appreciated and during cut-scenes, you’ll see some beautiful character depiction. The developers clearly put a lot of effort into making the storyline segments shine, and the large, thriving city of San Francisco is nicely designed and always engaging. The effects are on point, too, because this pretty driving quest runs at a pleasing 60 frames per second. There are a lot of cars and each one of them is immensely well implemented (from bumper to bumper), and although I found some parts of the environment flat and unattractive, the new Driver definitely has plenty of flair.

If you’re familiar with my reviews, you know I always ask for a powerful soundtrack to accompany high-octane experiences like this one. Thankfully, I get just what I want: a kickin’, intense, and most importantly, fitting, music selection that continually enhances the action. The voice acting is good but some characters are inconsistent, and the audio effects are sharp without being invasive. Everything blends together nicely. The balance can be a little off during hectic situations and I still think some of the cars don’t sound quite right, but the soundtrack is a highlight, and one that definitely enriches. Don't ever underestimate the importance of great music.

I mentioned the absurd story above; let me elaborate now: Jericho busts out of prison and during ensuing events (no spoilers here), Tanner ends up in a coma. From that moment on, everything takes place in Tanner’s head , which explains that supernatural Shift ability. It also helps to explain the over-the-top scenarios that often seem like a cross between Stuntman and Burnout , and would certainly earn the ire of every cop in the area if the game was even remotely realistic. Now, I gotta say, the whole “story in your head” thing is a little goofy.

On the other hand, it allows for plenty of great action and we don’t have to suspend belief; what happens in our brains when we’re in a coma is…well, complicated, I’m sure. Anyway, back to that Shifting skill that makes Driver: San Francisco singular. Basically, with a press of a button, you can jump between other drivers; this can be done automatically or manually. At first, it’s a little confusing. But then you start to realize that this is a game-changing feature, as a whole new level of strategy comes into play. You start looking ahead, seeing “jump” possibilities that will halt opponents in their tracks.

It also lets you get an overhead view of the map, which can be useful. The developers make tremendous use of Shifting, giving you multiple situations in which to test out the godlike ability. You can try it in chases, races, tailing, and various other missions, which usually remain fresh. This leads me to the other big positive in the game: the variety. You never really do the same thing twice; if you do, you did a ton of stuff in between. I don’t think anyone will complain about repetition in this game. On the downside, there are a few significant flaws that keep the title from rising into the upper echelon.

Firstly, despite the great potential – which is mostly realized – of the Shift function, I do feel we have to rely on it too heavily. Secondly, the actual driving mechanics are a tad strange; they’re mostly arcade-y with a tinge of simulation, but there’s too much of an emphasis on the hand brake and power slides. The control doesn’t necessarily let you down, but it takes some getting used to. Thirdly, certain missions can be mind-numbingly difficult and they’ll come out of nowhere; this is the epitome of “difficulty spike.” And I don’t think they’re simply challenging; I think the game throws too much crap at you at once, which becomes ultra-annoying.

And I really have to say, as much as this game isn’t as much about the storyline, the plot is just plain loopy. So loopy, in fact, I found myself rolling my eyes a few times. I won’t condemn it for this drawback but I do consider it a slight flaw. Back on the plus side, the online and split-screen multiplayer modes are tons of fun, and the Shift feature really takes center-stage. You can disable the function for certain missions, and overall, playing with friends is a great way to pass the time. The campaign will end after maybe 8-10 hours and honestly, I’m not sure they took full advantage of the city. It’s really big; we could've done more in it.

Driver: San Francisco shines brightly in some areas and comes up a little shy in others. It can be immensely frustrating, the story is insane, and the Shift feature really does feel overused in the campaign. At the same time, the inherent diversity and versatility is excellent, the graphics are pretty and presents great detail, the soundtrack is awesome, and the control is reliable (if a little weird). It’s one of those games that can really grab you and if it does, you’ll probably have to see it through to the end. Just bear in mind that beneath a glossy veneer and a continually entertaining experience could be a surprising challenge spike.

The Good: Impressive detail and character design. Fantastic soundtrack. Shift function makes the game feel unique. Great variety of missions. Top-notch presentation. Multiplayer is big fun.

The Bad: Story is too ridiculous. Shift feature feels overused at times. Massive difficulty spikes. Odd Control takes some getting used to.

The Ugly: “Something…is going…to get…broken.”

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9 years ago

Gah!!! I need my r3 review. I can't take it anymore lol.

9 years ago

darnit Ben youre the first well known gaming site to give this game a rating under 8 :p heh cant wait to pick up my preorder tomorrow

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Um…I see several sites that gave it below an 8.

9 years ago

When I played the demo, the soundtrack definitely stood out to me the most. Is it customizable?

Anyways, I might pick this up when its price drops, too many good games this fall that I've had preordered for months.

9 years ago

I played the demo too and I would share the same opinion as Ben. The character detail for Tanner and his partner is very well-done, the rolling roads of San Francisco is there, and the accompanying soundtrack fits the game's current mood.

That said, I found the drifting too difficult to master. While I'm no driving expert (because I do not drive in real life), the driving mechanics for this game is (like Ben said) somewhere in between arcadey and simulation. I had no problems controlling cars from arcade racers like Need For Speed, but I just can't quite grasp the drifting in here. Even if I make a sharp turn and press the handbrake while doing so (as the game instructed), I found my car making wide drifts that I usually hit upon the poor pedestrians in the sidewalk. Hilariously though, it appears that they don't get hurt or are masters at evasion. That's one less thing against my conscience at least. LOL

9 years ago

This game will make a terrific weekend game session as a game rental while my $60 +tax goes to that other game with the multiple yellow eye creatures…… WHERES the R3 review Mr dutka!! Sorry im impatient 🙂

9 years ago

I thought as much after looking into this game… pretty average, not worth the time and money…



Last edited by Qubex on 9/6/2011 12:24:09 AM

9 years ago

how can a story be "too crazy"?
thats the best part of the game!
its nice to finally be able to play a game that does not take itself too seriously, the lines had me cracking up quite a few times.
yea its cheesy but thats the point, its the games charm!
the best way to describe this game is prototype.
fun as hell free roaming doing whatever you want, but boring and infuriating as hell once you start the missions!
for the same reasons too, prototype was buggy as f*ck!
driver is buggy as f*ck!
prototype was extremely hard and unfair.
driver was extremely hard and unfair.
prototype was extremely repetitive.
driver was extremely repetitive.
in fact there so alike im almost convinced they were made by the same people!

another thing thats really annoying is some cars feel perfect, its so easy to get them into a drift and hold them there till you can see nothing but smoke!
other cars you try to catch the slide and you end up in a tank slapper!
one way catch that, the other way catch that, the other way catch that.
some cars you can hold down and just slightly tap the sticks to stop the car spinning, other cars you need to come off and hold the sticks down, other cars are just impossible to stop tank slappers.

though the best part by far is the city itself.
its such a hilly city, and theres so many back streets your racing down such a narrow road then catch air, land and within 1 second of landing your up again, rinse and repeat for a minute and you got a massive smile on your face!
even the mobile ramps, so much fun boosting onto them and taking your car in the air onto oncoming traffic.
or the 1 mission where cars come at ya and your constantly swerving around them.

the story missions are so much fun, but the side missions are so unforgivably hard, and repetitive it just destroys the whole game!
and to make things worse theres like 3 side missions for every story mission so you got triple the bad to the good.
its a shame they had all the side missions so hard and frustrating, and its a shame they had the side missions so boring.
they should of had all the blue markers as the side missions because they were 100000000000000000000 times more fun!
give me smashing x amounts of bus stops over escaping from the police which stick to you like bird sh*t to a car bonnet!
its FAR too hard to loose the cops, and thats basically the whole game…… even though your a cop oddly enough…….
why did they not have more missions of you taking down the baddies since YOU ARE A COP!
instead of vise versa?
its like they have said ok these are all the fun missions so theres a very few of them, or b there all extra missions which dont count to unlocking story missions.
what the?
you force the player to do the boring frustrating crap, but then let him decide if he wants to do the fun stuff?
its almost as if they want the game to be as frustrating and boring as possible!

9 years ago

How can you say this game's story is "cheesy and enjoyable" when you condemn Uncharted for having what you call a "cheesy" story?

Btw, you really need to learn how to capitalize at the beginning of sentences.

9 years ago

Mate, try shifting into cars down the road from you. Ram the police to stop them, then shift back to your original car. It put a big smile on my face last night when I managed to make a successful getaway challenmge in a freakin' BUS by using trucks to smash the police into bits 🙂

9 years ago

i never said uncharteds story is cheesy i said uncharteds story is far too typical holywood.
as for driver thats what i always do, but as i said every single time you loose the cops and the timer counts down there just happens to be another 2 cop cars waiting for me every 200M.
so its either stop and go back risking the previous cops to catch you, or continue going forward and hoping you can get past them.
only area you dont have cops magically waiting in front is on the dirt roads but allot of them are so short there waiting at the end of the dirt road and since there so short you dont have enough cool down time.

totally ot, but why is there a R&C all 4 one beta on PSN?
just popped on there to redeem my code for the ACR beta and there it was sitting there.
downloading it now, hope its got allot of content because its almost 3 freaking GBs!

9 years ago

Whats this?!?! Different cars handle differently?!?!

Are trying to say a cadillac land barge won't drift as easily as an rx-7!?!?!


9 years ago

Damn, I had slightly raised hopes for this title as well.

9 years ago

Well, seems like this one's gonna be bought used. I enjoyed the demo too much to not buy it, but its obviously not excellent enough to purchase full price.

Btw, where's that R3 review Ben?

9 years ago

I got this yesterday and I really like it. It's great fun to play and the shift (although a little kooky) adds a new element to car chases.

Last night I kept shifting into drivers down the road to use them to crash into the police cars chasing me before I shifted back to make my escape. Good entertainment.

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