Rated 4 out of 5 by 2
Rated 4 out of 5 i would recommend. my son says it's great.
Rated 4 out of 5 by icameforflesh http://lonelyglow.blogspot.com
At their best- racing games can illicit a sense of visceral and immediate mental investment no other genres can quite equal. When you win- there's no doubt that you scraped and fought to earn it, and oh it is ever rapturous. On the other hand- there's no other genre parallel that can inspire you to curb stomp your controller with such bitter prejudice. I've been demolished in plenty of games and yet, there's still nothing quite as curse inducing as being cheesed out of a first to last position mere feet from the finish line..in the matter of seconds. This will happen to you by the way, and pray no god-fearing soul be in your presence at the time.
Lets get right down to it- playing Driver: San Francisco is a blast, due in no small part to the introduction of the "shift" mechanic. D:SF is the first of the Driver (or any other) series to introduce the ability to telepathically "shift" your consciousness into other drivers. A silly idea, yes- but a creative way to kick-start the stagnant open world racing genre, adding a much needed strategy element that forces you to think as well as react, but more on this later. Unfortunately, this mechanic is problematic for the narrative, which will seem pretty silly up until the ending, which I very much encourage players to see.
D:SF plops you right back into the shoes of police officer John Tanner, six months after the events of Driv3r. You and your nemesis Chris Jerico have apparently survived the shootout in Istanbul, successfully ending the 7 year long cliffhanger from 3. Without giving too much away, you learn through a stylishly edited opening cutscene that Tanner has put Jerico into custody and he is being held in San Francisco. Tanner then travels to San Francisco to witness sentencing, but Jerico escapes on his way to court, commandeers a police truck, and as luck would have it, collides head on with Tanner, placing him into a coma. As rescue workers attempt to revive Tanner, he astral projects far over the city, and when he is finally fully recovered, Tanner realizes he can do this on command- and intends to fully utilize his new found gift to bring Jerico back into custody.
And fully utilize he does! Besides the usual fare of checkpoint following and collectible collecting of racing games past, this new shift mechanic implores you to play in exciting ways, whether you stop a speeding suspect in a vehicle by shifting into oncoming cars and ramming them into said vehicle, or winning 2 races at once while shifting back and forth between vehicles, the freedom to use shift as you the individual sees fit can make for some pretty unpredictable missions.
While the shift mechanic does a lot to invigorate the Driver series, it hardly rewrites the book. Most of the cars out there on the street are rather ordinary, and sometimes finding good use for them during a mission is impossible, and given that it's an open world game, traffic patterns appear to be randomized in both the flow and the type of vehicles. This makes for some very unbalanced missions, as oftentimes I would struggle with one for a few playthroughs only to breeze through it on my next go around.
Besides the practical mission uses, the shift mechanic makes traveling from place to place within the sprawling city less of a chore, and you simply shift out to overlook the city, and shift back into a vehicle nearest your desired destination. The interface is great too, clearly showing exactly what all the various missions are located, and as you overlook one, tells you exactly what type of mission it is.
The missions vary enough to keep you the player invested, though the side missions- not so much. These sides feel completely random and meaningless, as you help random people perform random vehicle feats for random reasons. I just didn't get it. The money you earn from these can be used to buy garages, vehicles, and upgrades though most of what you buy will ultimately be useless in missions that predesignate you to a vehicle or has you constantly shifting into different vehicles.
It feels like D:SF is intended partially as a throwback 70's cops shows, from the funkish music to the afroed sidekick, there's a decidedly retro vibe here, and it's quite welcome! (despite D:SF actually taking place in modern day) I couldn't help but be disappointed D:SF didn't invest itself fully in the lore of Dukes of Hazzard and etc. A re-imagining of said lore would have been an infinitely more interesting experience in my opinion.
Unfortunately, the writing in Driver: SF is by far it's weakest element, save for maybe the voice acting. Neither element of the narrative are uniformly bad, but when both are bad at the same time, D:SF sounds... well..like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThtApGmBsx8
I could go on about the narrative, but what it all boils down to is this: while it's easy to get lost on the winding streets of the fictionally rendered San Francisco, you likely won't lose yourself there. Hmph. I'm pretty proud of that closing sentence.