When approaching a racing game, especially one with a title as basic as ‘Driver’, it wouldn’t be foolish to expect it to be fairly weak on plot, if not completely negligent. Like arcade fighters, or puzzle games, racers can simply go without a story and still be just as satisfying and immersing.
Indeed, the latest in the Driver series does this well enough, but also with a ‘driving’ plot (pun intended) behind it.
There’s no finer way to put it; Driver’s story concept is weird, very weird. You play as Tanner, highway cop and master behind the wheel, on the tail of the recently escaped Jack Nicholson-lookalike criminal Charles Jericho, but following the impressively intense introduction, you actually play in Tanner’s comatose mind following a huge crash.
In this dream world, he is able to ‘shift’ into the mind of any other driver in the city, and use their vehicle however he will. This is in fact how the bulk of the side missions are completed – taking the role of civilians on the road and carrying out tasks to ‘clean up the city’ and put criminals behind bars.
As the story progresses, Tanner learns more about his enemy and his plans through encounters he has with him in the dream world, and must apply what he has learnt to pursuing him in reality.
This unusual idea may be detrimental to the experience for those looking for an enticing narrative, as taken too seriously, its various plot holes and somewhat lack of believability may show through, but its introduction of ‘shifting’ is certainly an interesting idea, an original mechanic that can change the way the player thinks about tackling a task. For example, when chasing a perp, one can shift into a fuel truck and divert it right into the criminal’s path.
Beyond its zany context, Driver doesn’t do a whole lot to distinguish itself from other racers, but what it does, it does well. Driving feels smooth and natural, the game’s large amount of dialogue is performed well and with a constant sense of humour, and most impressive of all is how well the city of San Francisco has been rendered; with a huge 208 miles of road to explore, and classic sights like Golden Gate bay and the Bay Bridge have been recreated particularly convincingly.
For those who enjoy the odd Fast and the Furious film, Driver: San Francisco is a fairly ideal casual title to kill some time before November’s gaming madness. If anything else, it’s a laugh – so long as you don’t look too closely at its shaky premise.
Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft Reflections
Available On: Xbox 360, PC, PS3