Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Driver: San Francisco

Last E3 Ubisoft finally showed off a new Driver game, with quite a large twist in its portfolio. The ability for our old fan Tanner to magically jump to any driver seat in San Francisco. How? By being in a coma. No this is not a spoiler people, that's the basic setup for the game! Colour me intrigued, hit the jump for my review of Driver: San Francisco!

Driver: San Francisco - Reviewed by: Tobbii Karlsson 
Developed by Ubisoft Reflections
Published by Ubisoft
Played on PC - Also available on: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 (Wii Version is a different game)

Let's just get the story out of the way first. DriverSF picks up at the end of Driv3r where John Tanner caught the big-time criminal Charles Jericho. Jericho escapes his jail-transfer vehicle and Tanner and Tobias Jones are back on his trail. Unfortunately, Tanner suffers a critical injury as he gets in a car-crash and goes into a coma. During this coma he's stuck in a dream, still chasing Jericho. He discovers that he has a special ability to 'shift' between people and take over their bodies for a while. It sounds silly, and it is. But in a good way, it's just that right amount of silly that it's fun and enjoyable but not something you'll bury your head in your hands over.

Unfortunately, the script itself is not always that way. Every line delivered by David Anthony Pizzuto as John Tanner is funny and witty in a great way, same with Tobias's lines. But the other characters mostly fall flat, some even being down-right stupid. When it works, it's great. When it doesn't, it's nauseatingly bad. There's one side-mission where a dad and his sons godfather needs to save the son from a murderer, the lines are well written and pretty good delivered, then there's another mission where you need to get a performer to a show and it's simply awful both in writing and delivery, apart from Tanner of course, who shines through.

The music in the game is hard to talk about. It sounds great to my ears and I think a lot of people would enjoy it, but it's also a question that will most certainly be brought down to each persons taste. So don't take my word for it, give some of the songs a listen first. Now the visuals on the other hand are... Interesting. Allow me to explain. The game seamlessly mixes CGI and in-game graphics in a way I have not seen since the Final Fantasy games on the old Playstation. It's a great way to present some very nice cutscenes without knocking down the framerate too much.

Speaking of framerate, this game is smooth. I played it on PC, and as you might know I don't have the best PC you can get, especially not in the video-card department. But this game set to high runs great at a steady 30 FPS with no drop what so ever, I should point out that I do not play with any anti-alising though, so my screenshots don't represent the best the game can look. I also play in low resolution because I prefer window-mode. But be happy that Ubisoft actually did a great job on this port, optimization and good standards are something I think is worth waiting a month for, which is how long the console version has been out. It's not perfect though, on (very) few occasions I've had the road become see-through on me, I managed to catch a screen of it, but it only happened to me twice. Hopefully we will get a second patch soon enough that fixes that.

The gameplay is almost perfect. The game gives good fun diversity in missions and it's a great run all the way through, but there's one major issue weighting everything down and that's the use of rubberbandning. For those unaware what that is, allow me to explain. A lot of racers implement a feature called rubberbanding, this is when the game allows the racers that are behind the leader speed-up to make it easier to catch up. It's unfair and something I've never liked, but almost every game these day does it, from Mario Kart to Split/Second. DriverSF suffers greatly from this as some missions require you to flee, making the rubberband a literal cheat for the pursuers. Not cool Ubisoft, not cool. There is also multiplayer which mixes the good old standard fun race modes with the new shift mechanic, it keeps it fresh and makes it really fun, even if the rubberbanding still is a issue.

The good old Director mode is back allowing you to edit your own great car-chases down to the way you want them. Place cameras, cut and upload to Ubisofts server. I recorded one myself that I posted yesterday, it's not perfect, but it was a lot of fun. The Director always saves the last, I think, 5 minutes of driving and allow you to edit it freely, the maximum upload length is right below 2 minutes if I recall right, but you can still save larger files to your hard-drive. It's just as fun as it was back in the original Driver and is something that I've missed since it was removed in the last major release, Driver: Parallel Lines.

Ubisoft hit the nail on the head here, with some fine tuning Driver could be back on all four wheels as the king of free-roam racers, as for now, it remains an amazing race, but doesn't quite catch up to some other games on the system, I'd still rather play Burnout: Paradise when it comes to some stunt-racing, but I'll stick with DriverSF for a bit and see if any more patches elevate it to something even better than it is.

Story: 7/10 Gameplay: 8/10 Controls: 8.5/10 Replay Value: 8/10 Visuals: 8.5/10 Audio:8/10
Total Score 8.5/10.0 - Amazingly Fantastic
Recommendation: Buy This Game

Play Info: Tobbii played DriverSF on PC for about 10 hours total. Tobbii finished the game once.

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