Behind the Wheel of Driver: San Francisco • Page 2

How Reflections is steering the series back on course.

Nearly five years later that game is finally ready to ship. It's no doubt the game that the series needs as well, with Driver: San Francisco's bold nature kick-starting the Driver franchise and restoring Reflection's reputation for pushing at the boundaries of the genre.

"If you go back to the history of Reflections, all the way back to Shadow of the Beast, Stuntman and Destruction Derby, there's always a big level of innovation" says Edmonson.

"If the concept isn't totally original then something about it is totally original. That definitely got lost in Driver 3 and Driver 4. We wanted to get back to what Reflections has always done, which is two things: innovate, and be right at the cutting edge of pushing the machine hard."

Here that innovation comes from Shift, Driver: San Francisco's bold mechanic that's as strange as it is exciting; with the press of a button, you can switch out of a car, float above the traffic and pick another vehicle to switch straight back into.

"It's been a huge problem to communicate on paper," admits Edmonson, and it's easy to see why. Shift's an alien concept that's hard to decipher even when the pad's in your hand. It's only after a handful of hours' play that its implications become explicit, and when the novel tactics that it allows in a car chase become clear.

It's not helped by its introduction in the game, either. The plot's a convoluted tangle that sees lead Tanner sent into a coma within minutes of the game's opening, and what follows is a loose mess of Life on Mars and Quantum Leap influences told with varying levels of conviction from the game's cast.

To its credit, it doesn't take itself too seriously - and in the Assassin's Creed games Ubisoft has already proven that you can wrangle a hit series out of a comatose lead. Shift's not there for dramatic effect, though, and it serves rather as a neat gameplay tool that ensures the action is kept firmly behind the wheel.

Multiplayer's a large part of Driver: San Francisco's make-up, with nine modes on offer.

It's tempting to think that the mechanic was introduced in response to the criticism aimed at the limp on-foot sections that have plagued past Driver games, though Edmonson is adamant that's not the case. Regardless, what it does do is allow the studio to focus on what it has historically excelled at: the driving.

Driver: San Francisco certainly succeeds in this regard. It's a return to the aggressively cinematic handling of the first game - and its cinema is of a particularly seventies bent. Ever since he was smuggled in to a screening of Walter Hill's The Driver as a child, this world has transfixed Edmonson, and it has always been brilliantly evoked by the Driver series. It's at its best here, whether that's in the hazy, sepia depiction of a half-imagined San Francisco or in the game's love affair with soft-sprung muscle cars.

"We tried to make it feel like the first one - it's not the same code, obviously, but it's been tuned to make you feel that way," says Edmonson. The feeling has been recaptured perfectly; cars fishtail with ease, and the default position for a car in Driver seems to be flat-out, sideways and with a stream of tire smoke dancing through the wheel arches.

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