San Francisco: the City By The Bay. Home of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower and Lombard Street. And (no arguing permitted) the greatest location in the world for a car chase.
From Steve McQueen in Bullitt to Nicolas Cage tearing after Sean Connery in The Rock, its steep slopes have been used to iconic effect countless times. So if you were going to set a car-chase game in a real-life city, it’s the obvious choice.
Step forward (is “roll forward” more accurate?) Ubisoft’s Driver: San Francisco, the latest in the long-running, um, driving series. It picks up immediately after Atari’s Driv3r and the events of the game unfold within a Life On Mars-style coma — undercover cop John Tanner is injured trying to take down crime lord antagonist Charles Jericho, who has broken out of jail.
That allows for two things. One: the ‘what’s real/what isn’t?’ plot dynamic that served John Simm so well. And two: the Shift feature — an added fantasy ability to switch instantly from your car to any other in the city.
It aids the gameplay immeasurably, because if you wreck your vehicle you don’t have to stop, get out and then try to commandeer another car. The flow is barely interrupted at all, no matter how often you crash, but you do have to recharge the Shift meter through power slides, big jumps and driving into oncoming traffic.
We were given an exclusive play of the finished game, including single and multiplayer formats, and access to all its secrets. And we can now reveal its most thrilling feature: 13 chases all inspired by petrol-fuelled cinematic dust-ups.
The makers haven’t limited themselves to pursuits set in San Francisco, either. So you’ll have to deliver a 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 over the Golden Gate Bridge before your deadline passes in one mission that apes the original Gone In 60 Seconds from 1974 (located in Los Angeles). Or evade a comically huge number of police cars in a reimagined Blues Brothers “mission from God” (transferred from Chicago).
And of course, the Steve McQueen classic hasn’t been overlooked, so you’ll soon be able to live out your King Of Cool fantasies for real. Albeit sitting alone, on your couch, with a bag of nachos.
Driver: San Francisco is released on PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Mac on 2 September