Going back to its arcade rootsUbisoft claims that Driver: San Francisco is “returning to its roots," and for those who have played the original Driver, the comparisons are obvious. Pedestrians, for example, have the reflexes of ninjas, refusing to be run over by trucks and cars alike. The cars kick up litter as you whizz past even when there is none on the road, and alleys that snake across the map are full of jumps and cardboard boxes just begging to be spilled into the streets by speeding cars.
There is, however, one key difference from all the previous games. For the first time, there are over 120 fully licensed cars that you can drive, so this is certainly the most authentic of the Driver experiences. This level of realism, coupled with the new destruction physics - not dissimilar to GTA IVs - makes crashing all the more satisfying. (Admit it; trashing a DeLorean is much more satisfying than trashing a ‘Ford Siesta’!) And you will crash a lot while playing Driver: San Francisco, mainly because the controls are quite hard to master. The difficulty curve isn't because the cars handle badly, or the control scheme is poor, but largely because controlling vehicles just takes a bit of getting used to, especially if you're used to a simulated driving experience. In fact, it’s clear that Ubisoft wanted to make the vehicles feel a little out of control, like they’re right out of a 70’s cop show, and in that respect, handling feels spot on.
The back end of your car swings round as you drift around corners chasing suspects through dense traffic, threatening to spin you out if you can’t control it; but that’s half the fun of playing. Sure, you could make driving as easy as possible, but then what else is left? The hard-to-master driving ultimately provides substance, and you get a humble feeling of satisfaction when making a corner that others failed in multiplayer.
The online multiplayer in Driver San Francisco is tons of fun, and it provides a welcome change from being shot in the face by a 12-year-old spouting profanities into his headset. You can find the same game modes that are in the online multiplayer in the split-screen mode, but split-screen is no where near as hectic. The three modes featured are competitive, co-op and free roam, and each one provides hours of entertainment for you and your friends.
There are also some interesting and innovative modes featured, such as ‘trail blazer’, which requires you to stay in the trail of a speeding vehicle, and accumulate more points than your opponent. Unfortunately, split-screen doesn’t offer additional AI-players, and so doesn’t provide the mayhem online play boasts. The director mode featured in Driver 1&2 is back too, and manages to be even more complicated than before while having even less functionality Die-hard makers of Machinima will find it useful, but that’s about it.