E3 2010: Driver San Francisco Hands-On

The Driver franchise started out strong but has lost a lot of its mojo since the original. After putting on a few sequels that disappointed and never recaptured the same thrill as the first, Ubisoft is hoping to bring the series back to its roots and is starting with the setting.

Driver San Francisco takes place entirely in San Francisco where the star of the first game, Tanner, is going to be tracking down his nemesis. The catch is that Tanner is involved in some incident that puts him in a coma. The gameplay portion I saw took place entirely in Tanner’s head. This allows Tanner to shift between cars on a whim and jump into the lives of the people that inhabit San Francisco. That is how the story progresses, by jumping around the city. In missions, there is the option to rapid shift to keep the action moving without wrecking and starting over again.

The reps made it clear that this isn’t a reboot of the franchise, but a sequel that brings the game back to its beloved roots. In total, there will be 100 fully licensed cars that show visible damage while power fishtailing around city corners. The weight of the cars felt good as different makes and models populated the persistent world ripe for exploration. Speed is another important factor for the series so the development team is aiming for 60 frames per second to burn some visual rubber.

The core of the game is rooted in driving and it plays well. The story has a lot of proving to do since the whole coma angle raises questions about how well the player will be able to connect with the game since the main character has so far only been confirmed to be in a day dream. The driving feels solid already, which is a great corner stone for the game, and the shifting mechanic will be one of the standout features.