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Driver: San Francisco Hands On Preview

Players who have lost hope in the Driver series might want to look forward to taking it for another spin.

As time has gone on, the Driver series has become less and less relevant thanks to some sub par entries into the long running series. However, Ubisoft is trying their hardest to revamp the series and restore it to its once honorable position.

This latest edition of Driver features a couple major changes that have some strong potential to actually make the game quite engaging and enjoyable. The first and most basic upgrade, is the inclusion of licensed vehicles. Though this has never been done in the series before, Ubisoft is kicking things off right with over 120 legitimate vehicles being featured in the game. Furthermore, each and every one of these vehicles can be driven by the player.

The next upgrade is the new "Shift" ability, which just so happens to be tightly linked to the story of the game. The main character of previous Driver games has gone into a coma after a particularly bad crash, and in his dreams, he believes he is such an amazing driver that he can pilot any vehicle on the road. As such, players can now "shift" from one car to another car at will. A simple button press will remove the driver from the car, and as a floating energy, he can possess another vehicle on the road.

As players move through the game, they will be able to shift further out of the picture until they can eventually see the entire city. By shifting out, players can easily navigate to other parts of the map in order to complete missions. Playing off of the shifting mechanic, players learn that each and every car they possess, they are actually possessing the life of another person. As such, each life has a story and some problem to solve. These stories and scenarios become the basis for the missions of the game.

At the show, one such mission was demoed. The driver took over a police car that was in a pack of other police cars which were all involved in a high speed pursuit of a criminal. The driver was able to hop from car to car in order to get a better position on the criminal, and possibly take him out. Rather than completing the mission in this traditional way, the player shifted out of the police cars and took over a truck which was traveling in the opposite direction further up the road. Needless to say, this truck was used to cause a head-on collision, subsequently stopping the criminal.

It wasn't clear if there were preferred ways to win each mission, but if I were to guess there will be either grades or bonuses to be earned based on how you complete each mission in the game.

After the single player mode was demonstrated, we had the opportunity to go hands-on with the title's multiplayer mode. The game seemed to control very well, and shifting was easily executed and felt very natural.

The objective of the mode was to trail a car in order to build up a meter to 100%. The closer you trailed the more quickly you filled the meter.

Interestingly, shifting could be used to both get a better position behind the fleeing car and to stop your opponents who were also trying to fill their meters. The match quickly grew frantic once everyone fully understood the shifting mechanic, making it quite enjoyable and intense. It's clear that the mechanic is effective and enjoyable when put to the right use.

Though Driver has seem some tough times, Driver: San Francisco appears to be a big step in the right direction. Those looking for something a bit out of the ordinary should definitely keep a close eye on the game, which releases this fall on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and PC.



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