Sunday, 14 April 2013

My Usual Spiel: Driver San Francisco, Story-driven, action driving at it’s finest

As I said in my previous post I do apologise for the lack of blogging, I just need to get on with it now it’s a bit quieter.

Release Date: September 1, 2011  
Genre: Driving/Racing
Publisher: Ubisoft  

Developer: Reflections
Platform: PC, PS3, XBOX360, Wii
Players: 1-2 Splitscreen and Online

It’s been awhile since I’ve played a Driver game, a long while. In fact the last time I did was Driver 2, I think back then it was before I got a Playstation 2 and was able to play Grand Theft Auto that I quit driver entirely. My experience with Driver 2 was fairly bland, it didn’t look too good even back then being on PS1, wasn’t too exciting and was quite hard in some parts. It wasn’t until my good friend Brok who is a huge fan of the driver series and I went to the Mana Bar on a Wednesday night for the Driver San Francisco launch party, well there wasn’t too much party but there was a lot of driver, we got there at 3pm and didn’t leave until 11pm though we mostly played the multiplayer which included split screen multiplayer for the first time in the series. I saw a bit of the singleplayer which looked quite fun and funny at the same time.

Driver SF is indeed intense
So then according to the chronology Driver San Francisco would be the 5th one in the series (disregarding the portable gaming device ones) I wasn’t really interested in most of them having played Driver 2 on the PS1 one of the main reasons for that was we didn’t have a PS2 and therefore couldn’t play GTA3 so after we did get a PS2 it was Grand Theft Auto all the way and I never really paid much heed to the Driver games after that. They were sort of a mix between the crazy driving of GTA and the (slightly) more civilised driving of Need for Speed and Test Drive Unlimited but when Driver San Francisco came out it looked good, it looked really good, it was possibly the most hyped of all the games since Driver 2 and was at least a once play. So when I finally got round to it I was excited to start the singleplayer and it sure as hell delivered, it did the usual driver thing which switched between game world and digitally animated cinema style and the whole thing went off with a bang. But almost immediately after doing the semi-playable opening sequences I ran into quite a big hurdle.

"Hey Jones, what's that huge yellow and black beacon in the sky?"
I found that after much fuffing around I couldn’t actually use my Logitech PS2 style controller for the PC the same way I did in a lot of other games namely Test Drive Unlimited, I couldn’t seem to use one stick to steer and the other to accelerate brake no matter what I tried, this was largely due to the game being a console port which being a mostly PC user, constantly filled me with rage. I knew what I had to do, I bought a Logitech PS3 style controller for PC which has the ‘bumper’ L2 and R2 buttons which are used to Accelerate and brake, wasn’t all that bad since I needed one anyway though with some dismay I realized after purchasing that only the wireless version of the controller had force feedback which I found incredibly stupid since if you were buying the wired version why wouldn’t you want the force feedback as it wouldn’t use up battery power. I could have used a wireless controller had I have known though the benefit of having no cord to mess around with might not have outweighed the annoyance of needing batteries all the time, well It’s a matter of how often you used it I guess.

The key/button controls are annoyingly hard to work with and also have no  secondary option.
But anyway once I had my controller sorted I launched into the game and I gotta admit it was entertaining the way the story panned out. Basically Jericho (the arch-nemesis of the game) has escaped from prison (possibly again) and it’s up to the hero cops John Tanner and Tobias Jones have to stop him, cue the one of many hectic car chases and Tanner and Jones car is smashed into by a truck. After this Tanner realizes that he has an ability to sort of move his consciousness into another person aka “shifting” and is able to take control of their vehicles, this leads to quite a few funny situations i.e. Tanner shifting into an Ambulance and a Learner driver on his test, I did laugh though when Jones made the comment about shifting into a woman’s body. The mechanic is very useful and fun to use though it’s obviously required throughout the whole game as you have to repeatedly shift around in order to damage/stop other vehicles, get back in the race/chase after crashing, perform stunts and just basically make things easier for yourself, it does make some interesting technical holes for example they don’t really explain what Jones does while Tanner is out of his body, apparently Tanner’s body just drives the car automatically, but I suppose there’s a lot of things overlooked for the sake of a fun game mechanic.

Flyin' like Superman
Oooh yes that looks very nice
The story mode consists your usual open-city driving game romp through quite a large area of San Francisco with you hovering above the city as Tanner’s disembodied “spirit” where you can pick from various missions dotted around the city. Which include the storyline missions and the “required to continue the storyline” side missions  which involve things like street racing to protecting a Security van by smashing into the bad guy attackers using any vehicle available with trucks and buses obviously doing more damage so your consistently hunting for them if you need to stop anyone. Even in some of the street races you need to come both first and second which requires you to constantly shift between two cars. All of the main story missions and “main” side missions involve you shifting into someone else’s body and the ensuing dialogue between you and the passenger is hilarious. There are also other missions where you can random stunts and dares for money and "willpower" which allow you to purchase more cars and abilities. In these missions you drive a car that isn’t the famous Dodge Challenger, this part was fairly interesting as you have the main story car, then you have some other car that you purchase from different garages around the city for doing stunts/dare’s and other non required side missions. Apparently for the first time ever a Driver game has licensed cars to buy/drive and thus they are all lined up in brand order on your car select screen. I found it fun using the older slower cars then upgrading to some newer, quicker ones and seeing the difference when doing the challenges.

Most of the side missions involve breaking the law in as many ways as possible for material and personal gain,  nothing new I spose.
The story is pretty much what you’d expect, the game is largely as all Driver game are a detective mystery storyline with those great “last time, on Driver San Francisco” parts, it  goes through pretty much every possible way Tanner can use his newfound ability, posing as gang members and other cops in order to stop Jericho. I won’t reveal anything more about the story you’ll just have to play it.

"No Jones that's just wrong, besides it'll be me inside her"
I’ve already explain my difficulty with the gaming controls but after you get over that hurdle it’s easy enough though the Driver games as you’d probably know by now have one of the most aggressive police forces out there and sometimes it is seriously hard to evade them, you’re just tearing down a straight or round corners as fast as possible and sometimes it’s really frustrating to be just about to lose them then crash into something. The controls are still quite arcadey more then so Test Drive Unlimited but slightly less so then say the Need for Speed series, but their ok once you get used to them and you have heaps of fun simulating movie car chase scenes, powersliding and crashing all over the place which is where the movie editor mode really shines. I can’t tell you how many good scenes my friend Brok has done in this game but I’ll give you a hint which everyone will know by now anyway. Get the Delorean to 80mph and you’re in for a surprise. One of the few things that irked me though was that the way all the pedestrians just happened to get out of the way right at the last second which I suppose this isn’t GTA but I kind of missed mowing them down but that’s more then made up for with you being able to crash through most things on the street including bus shelters.

Dem cops be hard to lose, this is also a 70's style mission, where you have no  boost, ram or other special powers.  All the other cars in the mission are 70's too which is pretty awesome.
The story mode some great animation, the characters look very real and it’s great the way it changes in and out of the game world to the cinematic. Driver San Francisco’s graphics have got mixed reviews or so I’ve heard,  I’m not the best at judging graphics I’d gladly lower them in order to play more smoothly but the game isn’t exactly a rival for Crysis 3 so I don’t really need to bother (well not anymore with my current PC) I think the graphics look fine, the cars look great, the city looks great, the cinematics look great too even if it does look at bit weird when it transitions from them to the game world but meh it looks good enough and the atmospheric effects especially the sun glare look good too.

Using the in-car mode you are able to look around and there's full interior detail for almost every vehicle and when you do a sharp turn you actually see your self spinning the wheel all the way doing the hands-over thing which is pretty impressive.
The multiplayer, which includes 19 different games modes such as competitive tag and trailblazer was especially fun when playing at the Mana Bar with friends I didn’t do any online multiplayer myself but I suppose it could be fun for a while. There’s a real sense of fun playing someone else split screen as you hurtle and jostle along trying to keep in the slipstream of the player controlled car. I don’t really have much else to say, I wasn’t particularly interested in the multiplayer after that marathon session just wanted to finish off the singleplayer.

Trailblazer: Don't let him get to 80mph!
I would recommend Driver San Francisco to anyone, it’s obviously a must play for fans of driving games. Having not played the series for a while it felt refreshing to see what Driver had come up with and it was good, I usually like car games where you create your own character and start as a nobody with a shitty car then work up to being greatest racer in the country/world/universe etc though this was almost like acting out a car-themed movie which is awesome fun. This ain’t no cutting edge physics and graphical driving simulator, and it shouldn’t be this is a story-driven Action/Adventure driving game at its best.


The road less travelled is fun for a while

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