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Driver: San Francisco Hands On Preview

An impressive re-creation of San Francisco and a city full of cars to crash. What's not to like?

The creators of Driver San Francisco have digitized the city using a combination of Google Maps and their own photographs. While they did have to redesign some of the less-interesting roads, Marin County, Chinatown, the Castro district and everything in between are all there. I would've liked to have checked out the bridge but everything seemed so big and a few areas were locked that I just decided to play a few missions and mess around in free drive mode.

The missions that I saw seemed to mostly revolve around running from cops but there were plenty others, like staying over 50mph for a certain amount of time or glorified Crazy Taxi point-a-to-point-b-in-a-time-limit deliveries. Getting ahead and out of the police cars' line of sight to finish a mission made for just the right level of challenge for a newcomer like myself.

Choosing an objective made for an eye-popping transition. Pressing L2 and R2 zoomed in and out from the car to an aerial view of the city at any time and you could maneuver a reticule over to one of many mission points to start a different one; it was like zooming in Google Maps with street view, only the cars would continue on in slow motion. Even better, just about any of the numerous licensed cars could also be selected using this zoom. Depending on the mission, anything from buses to big rigs could be driven as well.

Collisions produced the expected window shattering and body damage was fairly gradual; stoplights would collapse, but pedestrians were basically unaffected. Car carriers, what you might see transporting vehicles from a dealership, could occasionally be spotted and driven up for some nice air.

Squad cars were appropriately relentless and could perform the PIT maneuver even in the game's wide highway roads if you slacked off. I thought the handling for most of the cars was too slippery or didn't perform well with 2-wheel drive. Even at lower speeds they tended to skid around, but maybe they were supposed to; I'm not a car expert. A four-second nitro boost was done with the left analogue stick. Boosting to high speeds while trying to navigate traffic was a tricky tradeoff.

Driver plays thoroughly arcadey in a sandbox-style version of the real world. There will be plenty to do and see when it goes on sale in August.


 

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