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E3 2011: Driver: San Francisco hands-on

DriverE3 2011

It’s perhaps testament to how badly Driv3r tarnished the franchise’s reputation that you can just walk up to the Driver: San Francisco demo units at E3 and play without having to wait in any queue. There was no-one behind me, pressuring me to hurry up, but instead free demo units on either side of where I was standing.

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Driver has reformed though. The San Francisco demo is already a better game than Driv3r ever was, although that’s not exactly difficult. Here Ubisoft have gone back to basics to revive what was a series with outstanding pedigree. Gone are the on-foot sections – now you just drive. There were three modes on display: free exploration, a team race and a mission. All were essentially the same as each other: drive from A to B. Really fast.

I began by exploring the city. There are some instantly noticeable cues back to the previous games. For instance, you can’t run anyone over; they get out the way just in time. Ample alleyways are present to dart down at your convenience. The car handing feels solid, a balance between being able to powerslide with ease, but without making it seem like Sega Rally.

Up next was a mission. I didn’t catch the plot, but essentially it involved driving from one point to another, being chased by the cops and then losing them. It’s what you expect, but it was fun nonetheless. The third, and perhaps most interesting mode, was a team race. Here the objective was for you and another car to finish 1st and 2nd in a race against another team. The novelty is that you can switch between each of your two cars at any time, and doing so is essential to winning.

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Each of the modes were enjoyable enough in themselves, but it’s not yet clear how the whole game will fit together into a cohesive adventure. This is really where the challenge lies for Ubisoft and it won’t be clear for some time whether they’ve succeeded or not. If they do, this could be one game to look out for.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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