Time to reveal the favourite video game I played this Summer vacations, one take took me three weeks to complete, one that surprised me of just how much fun I could have in virtual San Francisco. That's right, virtual petrol-heads, the greatest time I spend in front of my PC this Summer was at the wheels of one Detective John Tanner, SFPD and Driver with capital "D". You will have figured by now I'm talking about Driver: San Francisco.
Reflections has been under my radar all the way back from PlayStation's debut title Destruction Derby. It was just so much fun to smash cars around without the guilt of real life property damage or injury. Well, that's not really true because the first ever game by them I ever played was actually Shadow of the Beast on Commodore Amiga, but for this arTAYcle purposes, let's stick with their driving games. And along came the original Driver. If there is one thing I love about their games is the vehicle physics. That virtual yellow Dodge Challenger plays and feels just like an American muscle car should. Pulling J-Turns is just so, so very satisfying. And of course, so is driving like an absolute maniac… but always for the good guys!
Do I really have to? I don't want shift into Johnny Knoxville...
Being a virtual gearhead is something recent for me, I can't really pinpoint when it happened, about five or so years ago after I began watching Top Gear. Some sort of middle age crisis I assume. However I still find proper simulation racing games boring (leaving that field to my father, the proper gearhead if you will). So and as it always has been, I regularly stick to arcade style driving games. I did play Driver: San Francisco when it came out… the Wii version. It's good, in fact probably the best racing game on the system outside of Mario Kart. But the big HD version was the one that had my curiosity peaked: Shifting not gears but from body to body or rather, from driver to driver! Silly concept for sure, but for a video game design it's pure genius.
When this baby hits 88 mph, you're gonna see some Shiryu's sh*t...
(No really, try it in-game!)
The game takes place plot wise immediately after Driver 3, an entry in the series that failed to build upon the previous games. So for DSF, Reflections opted out for any sort of on foot shenanigans. A good call because Grand Theft Auto already has that market cornered. Oh, don't worry there are people on the streets, because no matter how much you try, they will always dodge you like Neo from bullets. Again, there was no need to copy GTA. The real stars of the game are the 125 controllable vehicles. From dump trucks to super cars and everything in between, every vehicle feels unique, each with its own dashboard, something that must have been a ton of work to pull off but worth it since I spent the entire game playing in the inside view. Felt more realistic that way and even induced the sense of speed vertigo when driving our crazy European super-cars.
"Lambos-a-lot" (™) will be the name of my future car dealership.
Well, I don't think I will be spoiling anything three years after the game came out if I mention that John of course can't really Shift into other peoples bodies at all. After a very close call with bad guy Jericho, Tanner goes into a coma. For about 90% of the game's story mode, we are playing out Tanner's mind investigating Jericho's path that it's being fuelled by the hospital TV news cast. So the ability to zoom in and out and shift into anything with at least four wheels ( sorry , no bikes here) turns the 300+ kilometres of roads in virtual San Francisco into the ultimate toy car sandbox.
Deep, real deep undercover Detective work.
It will also allow you to cheat your way to win if you so desire. Say you're in a race event, you're second place and can't even see the guy who is ahead. Shift out, zoom out, find the guy, shift into an oncoming 18 wheeler, drive said 18 wheeler straight into that guy's wind shield, shift out, return to your original vehicle and smile has you speed pass the wreckage. Playing as a cop and you can't catch your prey? Shift into a city bus and jack-knife the whole road ahead. The possibilities to create unspeakable chaos are truly this game's selling point and I'm buying it. Most of the time, you will be with your partner on the passenger's seat, with our current day buddy cops speaking in70's style banter. However, shifting into other civilian vehicles will result in hilarious, dynamic dialogues. These are really well done and add a lot of charm to the game. One of my favourite ones was in fact a cop car I shifted and my partner was an ex-Russian Police officer. I laughed out loud when he proclaimed " Is this legal in your country?" in a thick Russian accent, just after I ploughed through three civilian vehicles. Brilliant!
A Shelby a day will keep the doctor away! Maybe. Results may vary...
But what fun is driving without good music, right? Reflections got you covered there as well. The game progressively unlocks more music as you advance the main story mode. I eventually came across some familiar tunes among the 76 that made up the official playlist: 22-20s – Devil in Me, Death in Vegas - Sons of Rother, The Heavy - How You Like Me Now, The Prodigy - World's On Fire and one of my all-time favourites Primal Scream – Kowalski. You could of course just play your own custom soundtrack if you so desire (I tested it, it works well with Shiryu Music), but I found that the offerings within the game were more than well suited to the action.
Where we're going, we don't need roads...
By end game, I had all 125 cars in the garage, played tons of challenges and side missions. It was buckets of fun and I am glad I finally got to experience what is in my opinion the very best car game I ever played. Although I might not be able to play it anytime soon, I am looking forward on how Reflections will be able to surpass this game as The Crew arrives in its final release form. Oh yes, here is a video of one of my favourite side plots, the last race with the Japanese brothers who went from zero to heros in the underground racing circuits thanks to Tanner's driving skills (and by Tanner I really mean mine). No Shifting! Keeping it clean for this one. Highlight at 3:58!
That Pagani can sure fly…
Would I buy it today on Wii U?
Right now! It's hard living with just the utter brilliant Need For Speed Most Wanted for nearly two years to fix my road raging needs. Until Project C.A.R.S. arrives, there is not another single racing game coming to my current home console of choice ant that saddens me. I have noticed the PC version does not include the Playstation 3 split screen multiplayer options. This would work neatly on the Wii with a player playing on the Gamepad just like in Call of Duty. Would also love to be able to play on the TV screen with nothing but the dashboard on view, leaving touch screen GPS navigation and assorted car gages on the Gamepad. Oh well, it will surely never happen, but I would truly love if to bits if it did.
I am fairly certain that when you win at life, they give you a Pagani.
Yieks, over 1300 words!? Sorry for the long read. Hope you enjoyed and if for some reason or another like me you haven't played this one, hope this ar TAYcle at least peaked your curiosity to play Driver: San Francisco. Be warned: Some possible side effects of playing this game include you trying to jump of car carriers in real life. Catch you on the bounce! ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ
Previously on Games of Summer 2014: You Died. You Died. You Lived! Nah just kidding, you Died.
Next on Games of Summer 2014: Epilogue - At Summer's End
*OMAKE* Guess what, my dad hates this game! He doesn't seem to be able to fit into American traffic patterns and 90 degree turns on every city road. Yet he has no trouble blasting virtual Nürburgring at virtual speeds of over 300 kms/ph. Life is funny like that!
See you next time, Tanner.