Thursday, 7 February 2013

Your eyes on the city

It's been a long time coming and I have wanted to write this blog entry since I completed my last one. I'm not usually a a fan of driving games, but Ubisoft Reflections provided a game which may change all that, and at the very least a game I will play over and over and enjoy every minute.

 Interestingly the Reflections studio of Ubisoft is a local studio to me, being based in my home city of Newcastle in North East England. It holds a special connection with the name Geordie Green Lantern!

This Driver San Francisco blog entry will be focusing on 4 elements: The Plot, The Gameplay, The Music and Replay Value. I decided to not write about the graphics because I don't have much to say. They are very good and the cars are just beautiful. I am not very good at describing graphics and my car knowledge is very minimal!

The Plot

You get to play as undercover cop John Tanner. Partnered with his buddy and fellow cop Tobias Jones, you drive through the streets and roads of San Francisco in a mission to find and take down the cop killer and smuggling kingpin Charles Jericho.

Jericho- one bad motherflipper. 
The Gameplay

IF the game was just about the thrill of the chase and the excitement of a busy city of streets and roads, this game would still be a joy to play. However it is more than that. For a start I remember giving up on the first Driver because it was just too hard from the start, I don't like getting frustrated near the start of a game. Driver San Francisco however has a beautifully balanced and gradual learning curve, something that other driving games should learn from.

The variety of cars is another thing. One minute you can be driving the sexy Dodge Challenger with speed and grace down long straight roads, the next you might choose to carefully maneuver an oil tanker or wind a fire engine carefully through hilly streets and dirtroads.

There is a boost option available, a meter that increases after you gain more willpower which is available early in the game. While fun and very useful it is not the element that makes the game so unique. That comes with the shift ability. In previous Driver games you could use different vehicles, but in a standard "get out of your car and get in the new one" way.

In Driver San Francisco however, you don't need to get out of the car. The shifting ability is something that can be used across vast distances of the city, although relatively limited at first (like maybe a few blocks or streets away) you can eventually shift into a car from where you are driving or parked to the ends of the map. This is not only very useful but essential in some parts of the game.

This is how you first see shifting. 
So far in terms of gameplay I have mentioned the boost option, the core gaming mechanic of the shifting ability, the thrill of the chase and the variety of vehicles. The number and quality of main missions are a good amount. You have to finish some side missions in order to proceed to further main story missions but these are fun and varied.

The cut scenes are wonderfully cinematic and tell a rollicking fun, funny and action packed story. Dialogue is just superb, especially between Tanner and unknowing passengers. It isn't just one offs though. Some missions require you to return to a certain vehicle.  As a bonus an interesting narrative develops about the lives of the passengers including a police officer having an affair. And then there's the final level which is so brilliant if I were in the company of friends, I would ask them all if they had played the game and if they hadn't then I would just say nothing at all, with a big grin of course!

"I don't care if that's your serious face Tanner, I refuse to even hint  why the last level is awesome."
The Music

This was simply a delight, there was a decent variety which made the game even more fun!

Here is a song I discovered because of the game which not only captures the essence of the game but is also my personal favorite and the one I would hope for most on the in game radio.

Replay Value: There are only 4 X-box 360 games I own that I would gladly play over and over again and Driver San Francisco is most definitely one of them. It is worth it for the replay of the story, the feel of the missions and of course the game is loaded with very enjoyable extra missions, stunts and jam packed with extras like extra races and the ability to purchase all the vehicles in the game by spending willpower points.

With all that in mind, I have described why I think it is a must have game. Now for something a little more personal: what the game gave to me.

  • Being able to buy a Corvette in game was a beautiful wondrous thing, it brought back memories of when my Granda used to take me for rides in it and we would go to car shows in it. He's still alive, but the Corvette is long gone. The memories of it were brought back in Driver: SF. 
  • I get bored of games where you are shagging hos and killing random bystanders in the street, so a car game where someone does good is a refreshing change. Yes you can have chases with the police but they aren't exactly innocent bystanders lol. Well the ones in the cars might be, but they don't come to harm so it's ok.
  • Speaking of justice, let my inner vigilante say it is an absolute pleasure to destroy the cars and other vehicles of villains.
  • And on a lighter, final note: I love this game so much that I even bought myself a John Tanner outfit for my Xbox avatar, and this is what it looks like:


  1. As you say, driving games aren't usually my thing but Drive SF is so enjoyable. The music is a major highlight, I could actually leave the game going in the background just to listen to the music. I love that more tracks unlock as you advance the story too.

    I can report that the local multiplayer races are brilliant. I especially love the tag one, Paul and I get so competitive in it.

    1. Sorry about my delay in reply I tend to be busy between blog posts. I still save my Sundays where I can specifically for my drives in the game. The Sunday Times, Driver SF and a cup of tea is actually me at my most British lol.

      I still have bits to unlock in the main game but I might consider buying a uplay passport to do some of the competitive stuff!

      A shame the picture at the bottom of this post is gone somehow, but you have me on Xbox Live so you can see what my avatar looks like anyway. I added a Luchador design cap for fun lol. Adding a little of my own style to John Tanner via my avatar lol

  2. Brett.

    So glad you enjoyed the game (Britt, I remember chatting with you guys about it way back).

    The dialogue between Tanner and the civilian passengers is one of my favourite things about the game, there is a huge mix of personality types in the game (a representative range of ages, genders, races for SF, as it happens) and my single favorite line in the game belongs to "Talk Like a Pirate Day" guy who panics when police chase you and breaks character.

    Don't give up by the Noisette's is also my favourite track in the game, one I'd never heard before working on it... and one I heard everyday for a long, long time.

    Anyway, good blog, Brett. So glad you liked the game.