Driver: San Francisco

24 January 2012 - 02:14 By Julia Beffon

Imagine you're a tough cop who has battled to put one of the nastiest criminals in the world behind bars in Istanbul, and, just when you're about to kick back and celebrate, he escapes from a prison van in the US.


AGE: 12+


Forget the beer, then, and roll out to stop him.

Instead of disappearing quietly, though, Charles Jericho decides its personal and comes after you. And wins.

That's the premise of Driver: San Francisco, where our hero, John Tanner, spends most of the game flat on his back in a coma.

But maybe he's not. Is it a weird ongoing dream, or is Jericho just messing with your head? It's all very silly.

However, the ambiguity allows for the introduction of the marvellous Shift feature, which allows you, as Tanner, to jump between vehicles and take over the body of any driver as you desperately try to discover what terrible scheme Jericho is plotting for the Bay area.

Although not the first in the Driver series, San Francisco is the first I've played. It's been about five years in the making, and the extra effort seems to have all gone into perfecting the driving and "shifting".

As befits the title, all the action takes place behind the wheel of a host of vehicles (Tanner is only out of a car in the linking movie clips), though it's otherwise an open-sandbox game with San Francisco as your oyster.

In order to continue with each segment of the plot, you have to first complete a range of side missions, such as helping other cops stop street racers, or protecting armoured cars, that get progressively harder. There are no guns; you "arrest" the bad guys by destroying their vehicles. Mainly because the cityscape is so beautifully recreated, the game is not as one-dimensional as it might be. In fact, it's ridiculously good fun - particularly "shifting" between cars.

Another plus is that you can collect film reels to play iconic film car chases through the city. Channel your inner Steve McQueen as you fling your accurately rendered vintage Mustang around in a pursuit that follows the route of the Bullitt chase, for example.


Brilliant mechanics and a superbly realistic San Francisco make getting about and playing the missions a delight.


The plot. It took five years to come up with this?