Xbox Live finally dropped the demo for Driver: San Franciso on Marketplace, so I decided to go for a test drive. In DSF, Detective Tanner returns once again to take down his longtime arch-nemesis Jericho, who has escaped  from a high-security prison. It’s as simple as that but I’m sure there’s a lot more to the story once we get the full game.

More importantly, it’s good to see the franchise make it on the next-gen platform after mediocre releases such as Parallel Lines and Driver 3. At first glance, DSF takes us back  to 70’s car-chase scenes that are full of adrenaline, excitement and carnage. Very much like the acclaimed titles on the original PlayStation.

I’m also really impressed with new additions from Developer Ubisoft such as over 120 fully licensed cars- including the Porsche 911 and Mustang Shelby for DSF. This is simply one of the best features to ever happen to the franchise. Quite frankly, tearing downhill on the streets of a beautifully rendered San Francisco in an Audi Le Mans is just  awesome.

Another cool yet odd feature to Driver is Shift and this where Driver for all its realism in car chases starts to get hairy. During the first mission, Tanner begins to explain to his partner after his near-death experience in a car-crash that he has the ghost-like ability to take control of anybody driving other vehicles. Like Jones, we find this crazy talk just as unfathomable. Suddenly we’re taking a reticule on screen that can hover over all of San Francisco then zoom and shift us into a different car.

Now Shift is a really cool dynamic that adds something fresh such as trying to finish a race in both 1st and 2nd place as you transport hundreds of meters between vehicles. However, I can’t get over the fact that Shift pushes out the all the realism that other original Driver titles once had. Developers trying to explain Tanner’s new-found powers will leave hardcore fans of the series a bit confused. Like why can’t we just jack other vehicles like normal people in GTA instead of becoming a ghost that can control cars?

Other than that, the gameplay is promising with realistic physics and smooth graphics and texture you expect to see on the next-gen platform, but it also has its shortcomings- The demo is riddled with environmental glitches as your car tends to smash through walls and get stuck in buildings. In addition,  the cars are somewhat built like tanks and handle roughly but after a few runs, you get used to the cars and better at driving.  Since this is the demo, we can cut Ubisoft some slack and hope to see a more presentable retail version when DSF hits stores Sept. 6.

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