E3 2010: Driver: San Francisco PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jun 14, 2010
What We Know: Driver: San Francisco takes the long-running yet languishing Driver series back to its purest, most French Connection-y roots, and introduces several new game mechanics, hundreds of licensed vehicles and plenty of graphical improvements to bring the game up to speed with other next-gen racing titles. The game is being developed by Ubisoft Reflections, which is just the new name of the series’ longtime developer, Reflections Interactive, and will be available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC later this year.
What We're Seeing Now: The E3-specific demo that Ubisoft showed off during their pre-E3 press event a few weeks back distilled into a few minutes the essence of what Ubisoft Reflections is hoping to achieve with Driver: San Francisco. And that essence consists of throwing players behind the wheel of a wide variety of vehicles and letting them experience the thrills and spills of being part of one Hollywood-caliber car chase after another.
The difference this time is that, not only are there zero on-foot missions -- it’s all driving, all the time -- the game features a new mechanic that Ubisoft is calling Shift. There is actually a narrative explanation behind Shift, but that’s kind of under wraps right now. All you really need to know at this point though is that Shift lets you “shift” into the bodies of any NPC driver in the game world and control them. If this sounds kind of crazy and more than a little ballsy, that’s because it is, and I definitely to need to see more of it before I decide how I feel about it, but it was by far the most compelling aspect of the demo.
The little of the game that I saw ran smoothly, featured some solid vehicle destruction and the chases -- Shift and all -- were as thrilling as one would expect from this style of racing game. Whether or not the game can shake off the cobwebs and distinguish itself among the ever-growing field of racing titles isn’t clear at this point, but it’s taking some bold steps, and that’s reason enough to keep an eye on it.