You Don't Know What You're Missing - Driver San Francisco
It has been a LONG time since I did one of these, last posting on Sniper Elite V2. (Since that post there have been two sequels, a spin off series about to have another sequel, and an HD remaster). I've been playing through my backlog and touching on forgotten games, and this one came up. Let's take a look at the excellent, tragically forgotten Driver San Francisco.
What it is: An open world driving game, with the hook that you're basically a ghost.
Why you didn't play it: The driver series had fallen into the shadow of Grand Theft Auto, with many modern gamers completely unaware of the original focus the series had on pure driving. This was the last in the series to date, one that returned to the series original focus, but it felt like the publisher and the media all just kind of let it get released into the either. On this site, it's also possible the lengthy achievement list, with a large number of multiplayer achievements, scared people away as well.
Why you really should play it: I honestly don't think there's ever been a game quite like this. The core of the game is driving, with a selection of vehicles that seems to prefer muscle cars, and emphasizes the weight of vehicles on the road. San Fran is a great place to set the action, with lots of hills, jumps, turns, back alleys, and other route options that reward risky, skillful driving. What sets it apart is the game's "hook", the "Shift" ability. This lets you fly around, from a bird's eye view, and possess most other vehicles. This creates an interesting world of possibilities, as missions might have you trying to catch a pursuing vehicle, or have a particular car escape a chase. Using shift, you can, say, take over a bus and have it block a route, or drive a sedan into the pursuers. It really doesn't get old.
What's more, the production values are sky-high. The cars and the world look great, and there's a ton of well-voiced dialog in the game. There's a great sense of humor, with lots of unexpected reactions as your character suddenly takes over a driver and the passenger reacts to the sudden personality change in their driver.
Mission variety is pretty impressive, particularly the story missions, and the "historic" missions. The latter are based on major set-pieces from driving movies, using the same (or similar) vehicles and tracks you will recognize from movies such as Bullit.
One More Thing: The good news is that Driver: SF is backward compatible. The bad news is that is not currently available through the digital store. (I'm guessing expired rights to the cars within?) If you've got the chance, I'd recommend tracking down a physical copy, as we're not likely ever going to get a gem like this one again.