Updated impressions of Driver: San Francisco

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I had posted my impressions of Driver: San Francisco based on an earlier, hands-off demonstration. At E3, I was finally able to sit behind the wheel and try it out for myself.

As you might recall, Tanner has the very unique ability to shift out of his body, or rather, he 'thinks' he has the ability. Shifting allows you to instantaneously leave the driver of one car and hop into the body of another, whether it's the driver directly ahead or all the way across the city. Driver: San Francisco will have 208 miles of roads, much of it accurately recreated, and absolutely no on-foot sections.

I went on a shifting spree through compact Fords, sporty RUFs, and some old-fashioned, American muscle. The cars already feel responsive and appropriately distinctive. The Neon did its best to zip in and out of traffic at the highest speed it could muster, while the muscle cars threatened to spin out around every corner, with wheels smoking as their massive frames drifted sideways. The physics won't stand up to Gran Turismo, but they are surprisingly solid..

A few people sat down with me to test out the multiplayer mode, Trailblazer. A car driven by A.I. sped along the course as two trails seeped out of the taillights. Catching the light was the only way to build points, and there was only room for one car in each trail, or one car sucking up both. We rammed each other back and forth, vying for the hole-position, but the usual rules of combat didn't apply. I shifted from car to car to stay ahead of the pack, and on one occasion, I shifted into oncoming traffic and plowed headlong into my competition.

I had a good time for the few minutes it lasted, although I seemed to have been the only person utilizing shifting. Against more resourceful players, my kamikaze attack would probably not have worked. Oddly enough, my favorite use for shifting was cornering, or lack thereof. Why bother with drifting or proper braking when you can simply shift into another car that's already around the corner? I'm not sure how Ubisoft will manage to balance shifting with traditional driving maneuvers and crashes, but I am glad that Driver is back to forging its own path, and not following in the tire tracks of other games.

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Brian Rowe
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