Driver: San Francisco E3 2011 Multiplayer Hands-On PreviewBy Stephen Johnson and Dana Vinson - Posted Jun 22, 2011
In keeping with the rather unconventional approach Ubisoft Reflections is taking with its long awaited Driver: San Francisco, primarily the fact that the game basically takes place inside the head of a man in coma, Steve “Bullitt” Johnson and Dana “Death Proof” Vinson decided to team up to share their impressions of multiplayer, specifically Tag mode. Buckle up, folks. Bumpy thoughts ahead.
STEVE: First off, I am a much better driver than Dana Vinson, because she is a woman. I had to prove it to her using Driver: San Francisco, because proving my superiority in meaningless contests is how I roll. Get it? “Roll?” And it’s a car game?
DANA: I’ll be the first--er, second--to admit that I’m a horrible driver, because I’m a woman. I mean, it’s just that simple.
STEVE: I’m not sure if you know this, but Dana Vinson is over 17-feet tall, so she can’t fit in normal cars. She drives one of those double-decker buses from England. It’s filled with college volleyball players...This preview isn’t going so well.
DANA: I think normally reserved previews editor Jake Gaskill will actually kill us if we don’t actually talk about Driver: SF.
STEVE: Fine. I’ll be honest, I was expecting some lame bs when it came to Driver’s multiplayer, like some damn race or time trial or something. To be honest, I just wanted a drink, but instead of a vodka and vodka, Dana and I got on networked computers with a couple of other oafs, and we fired up one of Driver: SF’s nine multiplayer modes, Tag. The mode is like reversed tag, where one car is “it” and all the other cars chase him around. Touch the leader, and you’re it. Remain it as long as possible for big points and self-esteem boosting.
“I’ve played that in other games,” you may be saying. Well, Mr. I Know Everything, in Driver’s Tag mode, you can switch from any car to any other car in the game’s open-world in your pursuit of the leader, just like in the one-player mode. You turn into a ghost and fly through the air, your spirit inhabiting some other set of wheels at your leisure.
The cars handle really well, with the older, muscle cars sliding out satisfyingly, and new tuner style cars feeling nimble as a French acrobat, but driving well is only a small part of winning in tag mode. Maybe the least important.
DANA: Actually, we were playing on PlayStation 3s, Steve, but I didn’t want to interrupt your flow. Playing tag proved to be much more awesome than I anticipated. Like we discussed before, I can’t drive for shit. In fact, I drive much like a snake slithers: never in a straight line and always in the direction of danger; however, when we were playing Driver: SF, I didn’t feel like my lack of driving abilities made the game less fun.
The mechanic where you can switch cars with any of the cars on the map transforms the mode to make it more about strategy than pure driving skill. With a correctly timed and well executed Shift, you can take the cup (becoming the “it” car) and deftly out-maneuver the other cars, at least for a time.
STEVE: Everyone first instinct is to Shift into a car behind the leader and try to catch up. This, it was quickly discovered, is a mug’s game, a losing strategy for losers. Instead, the smartest move you can make is to astrally project yourself into a drone car that’s directly in front of, or to the side of, the lead car. Then, slam on the brakes or turn the wheel, and they crash into you. Bam: You’re the leader! Much like in real life, Dana is great at slamming into other cars. Dana’s inability to drive in a straight line actually helps her in this game.
Everyone in the four-player match figured out this strategy at around the same time... instantly, the game turned into a quickly switching leader, until someone figured out how to drive into areas with fewer cars and was able to hold onto the trophy a little longer. Strategies develop organically, and you could see how eventually they’d become very complex. Before long, I forgot about the drink I wanted, and when the match ended, we all asked, no demanded, that Ubisoft let us play again. And again.
The takeaway: Driver: San Francisco’s tag mode is ridiculously fun. The kind of fun that makes you remember why you like video games to begin with. It was one of the most complete surprises at E3, and I can’t wait for the full version comes out so I can get back behind the wheel.
DANA: What Steve said.