Driver: San Francisco by Ubisoft review

Madly creative slice of driving mayhem. A surprise hit!
Photo of Driver: San Francisco by Ubisoft

Missing, presumed dead. That’s a fair summation of where the Driver franchise found itself. Having once been one of the biggest series in videogames, a very poor sequel – Driver 3 – drove the franchise into a ditch from which it’s since barely recovered from.

But with Driver: San Francisco, there’s a sense that it might just have scrabbled together a new place in the world.

Packed with mayhem
At heart, this is a mayhem-packed, occasionally quite bonkers arcade racing extravaganza. It’s full of tasks, missions and races, and the developers have clearly had a lot of fun putting them together. What’s more, it has come up with a driving mechanic that makes the game, at its best, an absolute hoot to play. You’re encouraged to push things to extremes, and rewarded when you do so.

Driver: San Francisco

It even gets away with its beautifully daft premise, and turns it into a intriguing variant on the genre as a whole. Protagonist John Tanner actually spends the game in a hospital bed, remotely controlling pretty much any vehicle he wants. The joy of this is you can fairly instantly leap to a different vehicle, and use it to your advantage. So, you can take control of a car that’s heading towards the one you’re chasing down, to try and cause a bit of motor mayhem.

Driver: San Francisco

Creative gameplay
The creativity at work here is to be commended, and it papers over some of the problems with the game. The single-player part, for starters, is a little too brief, while occasionally the outright exhilaration of something like Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is lacking.

But this is a startlingly strong resurrection of a franchise, and a very confident one. It’s a bold idea – even if it is glued to a daft narrative – and works a treat. When you factor in the extensive, varied and quite brilliant multiplayer options, too, Driver: San Francisco might just count as one of the unexpected treats of the year.

Positives
  • So much fun, and at times extremely creative.
Negative
  • Well, the story. It's necessary, yet awful.

Verdict

A hit out of nowhere. A fun, manic, bold arcade driving game, that takes a few risks, which pay off handsomely.