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I love co-op or team based multi-player games. There is nothing quite as much fun as playing a game with friends - thinking tactically as a group, getting support and having a laugh with your friends. It keeps a game fresh, fun and different every time.
Also, single player story games have become quite boring to play. Games are becoming as formulaic as films. They, on the whole, fail to offer interesting, fun, atmospheric or quirky experiences.
But Driver San Francisco got me excited for a single player game again, like a child the week before Christmas. First of all it's Driver - the original Driver: a game that is just about driving. There is no getting out of the car, running about, platforming or shooting - just driving.
And, it's Ubisoft who has impressed me over the last few years. They seem to be the only large production company that think creatively about their games. They create games that are aesthetically beautiful and, more importantly, that are happy to not quite fit in to pre-existing genre types. Instead, they come up with new and fresh ways of doing games. Assassins Creed Brotherhood, RUSE, Your Shape, From Dust, and Driver San Francisco all do things their own way.
For me, there is just nothing like the feeling of driving at speed through oncoming traffic in an attempt to lose the cops, nothing like that desperate chasing down of a felon in a car that's on its last legs, nothing quite like drifting around a corner and missing an oncoming truck by the narrowest of margins. And there has been nothing like this experience on a console for a while. Not in story mode, anyway.
I loved the Burnout series, enjoyed Split-Second, and thought that Blur (in multiplayer) was one of the most underrated game of the last few years. The adrenaline buzz of these beats any other type of game for me hands down -- the sheer feeling of immersion where you are truly focused on that four minute mission. Driver San Francisco took me back to this again.
I found myself transported back to my old PSOne days, not just because this is a reboot but because it was a great game to sit and play with my friends. Ignoring multiplayer and split-screen, we just passed the controller around as we took on the missions, challenges and dares.
Having a friend read the map, suggest tactics and laugh when you accidently smash your car.
Having a friend read the map, suggest tactics and laugh when you accidently smash into your own car while trying to take out an enemy, was something I realized I had been really missing. There is a multi-player, with loads of different modes - fun modes, racing modes and team based capture modes - but just driving around with your friends is where it is at.
This time there is a new Shift feature that in true Ubisoft style really opens the game out. I have to be honest, the idea of it worried me. The concept is that Tanner (the protagonist) is actually in a coma, but he is dreaming that his world has carried on exactly where he left it. The only difference being he has the ability to Shift from one car to another.
As a story idea, and an idea for a racing game, it sounds terrible. Surely it should take all the fun out of racing? It sounds like the most pathetic and ridiculous attempt at a plot device I have ever encountered. But when you play it, you realize its sole purpose is to give you the ability to change your car without having to have a clunky system of getting out and running to another car to get in.
As a story mechanic, it is still terrible but Iíll forgive this because it works so well in terms of gameplay.
Ignoring multiplayer and split-screen, we passed the controller around.
Far from making things too easy, the Shift mechanism actually introduces new challenges and limitations. You can't just jump into a car further up the map and win a race, and many missions have Shift turned off or limited; they have used it contextually throughout the game.
Whatís fun about Shifting though is that you can use it tactically by taking control of oncoming traffic, blocking cops who are chasing you or quickly zooming out, across the map, and back to get to a runaway truck you need for a takedown.
If any additions marred the game, it wasn't Shift but the ability to boost -- this just took the edge off the panic of driving through traffic. Some of the challenges which mimicked the original Driver were the most fun though - no boost, no Shift, just pure driving skill.
So what if sometimes the game is a bit easy, has a couple of features that it really doesn't need and has a story that is a bit short, it feels like home. It takes me back to a place and a time where games were inventive, fun and different, to a place where limited processing power meant your game could only really focus on one gameplay mechanic and so developers had to do it well.
Driver San Francisco recovered single player gaming for me.
Ubisoft have done that here. They have held back and allowed the gamer to have a single experience of their world, to have fun, to cheer, to swear, to hurl the controller across the room and burst into tears when you lose by half a second -- all with no distractions. It's been a while so thank you Driver San Francisco for recovering single player gaming for me.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: