Thanks to the awesome guys over at Ubisoft, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days last week exploring the Reflections Studios up in Newcastle and getting some hands-on time with Driver San Francisco’s multiplayer modes as well as seeing what the single player has to offer.
Driver San Francisco is a reboot of the series and with that comes some new features that have not been seen in any of the previous Driver games. The most important feature to be added is the ability to teleport from one car to another using Tanner’s, the protagonist of Driver San Francisco, Shift skill. While in the single player games, and some select multiplayer modes, you are able to use the Shift skill to move from car-to-car with just a few button presses. In the beginning you will be limited to how far you can shift to from your current car but by progressing in the single player mode you will have the ability to shift from a car on one side of the 208 mile city to one on the other side, with no loading whatsoever. Although not a new feature, you can also no longer leave your car which will probably please some and disappoint others, but from my experience of the game, the shift skill is a much easier and far more interesting way of switching cars.
With the game featuring over fifteen multiplayer modes, both online and local split screen, there isn’t enough time to describe all of them in this preview but here are a few of my favourites from the day. The first mode I got my hands on was Tag, where one player begins by being tagged and will start to accumulate points. From there it’s up to the other players to crash into the tagged player using their boosts and shift abilities in order to become tagged themselves, the first player to one hundred points wins. Secondly, there was Blitz which is essentially a regular race made up of ten checkpoints and no ability to shift. You gain points depending what place you come in and repeat this five times and whoever has the most points at the end is the winner. The tracks are usually made up of crazy twists and turns and even if you crash right at the beginning that doesn’t mean you will lose the race. There are also regular two lap races in the game and can be done with or without shift but for those of you thinking someone could simply shift to the end and win a race, the developers have made sure that cannot happen as there are limits to where you can shift to and from.
One of the more unique modes is Trailblazer which has players battle it out to follow an AI car that has a blazing trail behind it and for every second you are in direct contact of these streams of fire you will gain points; as before the first to one hundred points wins. The great thing about this mode was there are so many different ways of stopping other players from gaining points be it driving a bus or fire engine in the way so you block all access to the trails or more interestingly, attaching your own car to a pickup truck by slowly driving up behind it, shifting into the pickup truck and then using that to knock cars out of the way. So much fun! The last mode that was available to play on the day was Chase which is your classic cops and robbers style of game, with one player being the robber and the others cops. The robber must try and get to his four or five checkpoints before being destroyed by the cops or running out of time. When all players have had the chance to be the robber the player with the most points through destroying robbers and getting to checkpoints in good time, wins.
All of the previously mentioned modes are PVP based with the exception of the cops helping each other in the Chase mode but there were two team based modes available on the day. The first was a capture the flag type mode which saw eight of us split off in to teams of four and race to the middle of the map to grab a package and try and bring it back to our ‘base’. The other mode has one team protect their base from the attacking team who must simply drive to the core of the defending team’s base. Well, it sounds simple but once inside the base the attacking team are not allowed to shift and if they are even scratched by a defending team they become a heap of scrap metal on the side of the road. In both these modes, good usage of Shift and boosting are what’s needed to win, as well as a big sturdy truck to blast your way through their base!
Although there was no hands-on time with the single player, I was lucky enough to have Martin Edmondson, the father of the Driver games, walk me through the beginning of the game and explain some of the features that are in the game. It begins with Jericho being transported in a prison truck and off to what appears to be his execution but Tanner is still on edge and can’t relax until the day is over. While parked up, Tanner and his partner hear an explosion nearby and decide to investigate where they find Jericho has hijacked the truck and is trying to escape. The following car chase teaches you the basics of the game and ends up in a car crash where Tanner enters a coma and where the rest of the game takes place. To accept missions you simply shift into different cars and you will be greeted by an opening talk between people in the car and then take control of the driver. Aside from the main story missions there are over one hundred side missions all over the city from races to pick-up tasks.
The game features over a hundred and twenty licensed cars, eighty licensed music tracks which is a first for any game in the series. If you find a car you really like and don’t want search the city again for said car, you can park it in one of the ten garages spread throughout the city. These garages can fit every car in the game and make picking the right car for a challenge a lot easier. There are numerous collectables in the game and for every ten or so collectables you find, you will unlock a video challenge which is basically a recreation of a classic car chase from films, usually from the 1970s.
To put it simply, Driver San Francisco is an amazing game and if you had any worries about the Shift feature ruining the game I can assure you it only adds to the gameplay experience. After playing some racing games after Driver San Francisco, it’s actually a little strange not being able to shift from car-to-car so when the game is released September this year, I for one am looking forward to getting my Shift on.