I’ve had my eyes on this one for a few months now so I couldn’t wait to run home and download the single player demo. With all of the positive buzz coming out recently from the different multiplayer modes and their innovations, it’s caught my attention a bit. While the multiplayer demo won’t be out until next week, playing anything was good enough for me. Still, after spending some virtual time driving around San Francisco, I’m a bit conflicted on what to think.
Thoughts below the break…
The demo doesn’t give much in terms of the overall story. You’re introduced quickly to the major characters in a cut scene that seems to have been spliced together to keep most things hidden for the retail release. The cut scenes themselves look great as the characters are well animated. My personal opinion here, but the main character looks a bit like Nathan Drake to me. Just my two cents. The shifting mechanic isn’t explained in terms of story, but I have a feeling it’s a medical thing.
The demo gives you 3 missions from the single player campaign to run through. Each details a different aspect of the game including shift races, and police evasion. Similar to what Criterion did with Burnout Paradise, the demo doesn’t let you free roam over the 210 miles in the game, as you’re limited to a predefined area. The first mission will show you how to use the shifting mechanic as Tanner basically messes with a jerk who cut him off in traffic. I have to say, shifting is a fantastic feature. I wasn’t so sure about it when they first revealed it, but after actually using it, being able to shift just makes the game more fun. Crashed into a car? Shift into another one! Want to drive that sexy Audi R8? Shift into it and have fun! The Shift mechanic adds a layer of fun to this one that’s hard to compare with anything else. I mean, where else can you shift into a bus and slam it into your opponents or create a roadblock only to shift back into your car and speed around the traps you just set? It allows for creative freedom and imagination.
The next mission involves a street race with you and a partner going against two other drivers. The trick here is that you have to finish first and second, so you’ll need to Quick Shift between both cars to ensure you complete the objective. The final mission involves you outrunning and trying to escape the police. It’s similar to what you’d find in Grand Theft Auto with the police having a flashing radius that you have to get out of. Stay out for 10 seconds and you’ve escaped. This one was the least fun, mainly because you were timed as you had to deliver a package before the timer ran out. The cops were very aggressive and many of what I thought were side routes were blocked by indestructible gates. Not as open or as fun as I would have liked.
Here’s what most of you came here for though: car handling. This is where things get a bit tricky to sort out. Obviously, the cars in the game handle differently depending on what you’re driving. Higher end cars like the Audi R8 or a Porsche for example will handle much better than a simple Ford. Still though, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that the handling was a bit loose. Taking corners at high speeds for example, will often make the car difficult to control. It makes evading the police tough when you keep running into things trying to pull off sharp turns. I do think this is something that will pass with time however once I get used to the game’s specific mechanics. I hope anyway.
Overall, Driver is a unique experience. The game has a real 70’s car chase vibe going on especially with its split-screen style shots and high production values. While the story aspect was kept hidden for the most part, the gameplay is solid. Car handling is a little tricky at first but I’m hoping that’ll go away with more playthroughs. I’m not through the roof in love with it after playing, but I did have fun with the title. Some of the missions weren’t as fun as I had hoped and the city isn’t as lively as I would have liked, but for the most part, Driver looks to be pretty fun.
Driver: San Francisco is shifting onto store shelves Sept 6. Check back next week for my thoughts on multiplayer.