Thankfully, the handling is robust enough to bear the weight that's now been placed on it. This being Driver, there's an emphasis on heavy tail ends, inspiring aggressive slides that are easy to catch and delightful to snap into. It is, if anything, a little too tailored towards the theatrical, and the ease with which the cars can be whipped around means they often feel a little insubstantial.

Cars are also kitted out with a handful of arcade extras that just don't sit quite right. A rechargeable boost that can be steadily upgraded feels clumsy - not least in how it's awkwardly placed on the left stick. A ram feature feels just as out of place, and while it fills a certain place in the aggression of an online game of tag, it ultimately feels like an unnecessary appendage.

Reflections has at least ensured that while it's a theatre that's a little shallow it's one that's spectacular, with Driver: San Francisco's bespoke engine tailored to show the cars at their best. First there's the steady 60fps that makes them feel smooth as butter, and then there are the little details that give them strong visual feedback. Weight visibly shifts around, and tyre smoke, in particular, impresses, with thick white plumes dancing through wheel arches.

It's all about the driving, then, and it's incredible how much driving there is to do in Driver: San Francisco. Nearly every street corner of this expansive open world seems to harbour a fresh challenge: see how far you can jump in 60 seconds, drift 300 metres, leapfrog as many car transporters as you can...

These dares sit among straight races and each of Driver's eight chapters also hosts two to three core missions that must be ticked off before you can progress the main story. They're a novel bunch that only occasionally head towards the frustration that's mired previous Drivers, although one story mission, near the very end, is a teeth-grinding exercise in trial and error.

But the story and its various missions are just another distraction in a game that's positively drowning in them. First there's a car list that is, perhaps unsurprisingly given the premise, packed with dream cars. One moment you'll be dodging freeway traffic, chasing down a Murcielago in a McLaren MP4-12C, while another might see you off-road in one of a selection of Group B cars, Lancia Stratos taking on Ford RS200s on a mud track on the city's outskirts.

Move off the menu and there's more. Movie Challenges, available when you're parked up in one of the city's many unlockable garages, are a reasonable answer for those wondering how a pure Driver game would act this generation. The supernatural powers are stripped away and the set-pieces are stolen wholesale from seventies cinema classics. Thinly masked references to Bullitt's Mustang and Vanishing Point's Dodge Challenger are put to the test in a mode that comes complete with its own grindhouse filter.

San Francisco, of course, is the capital of the car chase and iconic locations such as the winding Lombard Hill and the steep steps of Filbert Street are used well. But otherwise, the city disappoints, drawn in a fuggy haze and with an overplayed sepia palette that's no doubt there to serve the dreamlike ambience - and in the case of the haze to keep it ticking over at 60fps. It makes for a curiously unengaging playground and a blight on what's otherwise an admirable game.

Driver: San Francisco isn't quite the jolt that the arcade driving genre needs to stir it from its own particular coma, then, but it's an endearing and eccentric experience in itself. In Reflections' best work since the Driver series began, it's managed to tame the ridiculous and conjure something quite sublime.

8 /10

About the author

Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

Features and Reviews Editor

Martin is Eurogamer's features and reviews editor. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

More articles by Martin Robinson

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