Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.The number of racing games that have been released throughout the years is by no means unhealthy. Whether you enjoy the realism of a Forza or Grand Turismo title, or the chaotic fun of Mario Kart, there’s a racing game for almost everyone. It may not have been a racing series per-se, but back in 1999, Reflections Interactive brought us a game that was all about zooming from place to place before the clock stopped ticking. Driver was pretty awesome back in the day, and over a decade and a few good and bad games later, we get Driver: San Francisco. Released in September 2011 and developed by Ubisoft Reflections, we have a game that’s all about fun, fast cars, and racing until your tires are as hot as Mount Vesuvius.
Driver: San Francisco is best described as an “arcade racing” game. While the game is not completely bonkers in some respects, it isn’t tied down by the need to feel realistic. As you meander around the huge city with the many vehicles on offer, the emphasis is more on driving as fast as possible and pulling off insane stunts in oncoming traffic rather than putting on your Sunday best and paying attention to the Highway Code. Unlike the mess that was Driv3r, this instalment goes back to the series' routes and focuses on what made the original great. You play as detective John Tanner, the protagonist who has been with us for almost every Driver game. His arch nemesis, Charles Jericho, is at large once again after escaping the clutches of the police, and yes, you guessed it; Tanner is on the case to chasing him down. However, all is not as it would seem.
Throughout the game’s single player mode, you participate in a wide array of missions that involve putting your foot down and screeching those tires throughout the streets of San Francisco. As well as the main chapter missions, you can take part in a fair amount of side missions and activities. These range from smashing down a long path of signs or objects in an allotted time to drifting down roads and dodging traffic by a millimetre. This keeps the game fresh and exciting as you never know what you could be doing next. Like I said, it’s an “arcade racing” experience which is not necessarily supposed to be realistic. "Why is it not realistic?" I hear you ask. Well...
Remember when I said all is not as it would seem? The thing is, our main protagonist spends the majority of the game in a coma (and that ISN’T a spoiler). Thanks to an almost fatal accident in the starting mission, Tanner is lying in a hospital bed before the game even gets going. However, the fact that he is in a coma gave the developer’s an excuse to add in a wacky game mechanic.
“Shift” will become very familiar to you as you play Driver: San Francisco. You are essentially in a coma dream that Tanner is experiencing in hospital. In this dream, he has the ability to transport himself into the body of any driver in the city and take control of the vehicle they are in. As you are in the process of "shifting", the screen will zoom out and present you with the living and moving map of San Francisco. You can then go to anywhere you fancy and switch into whatever vehicle you feel like causing havoc with. In the beginning, you will be limited as to how far you can zoom out, so you will only be able to switch into a vehicle round the corner. Eventually, though, you can practically go from one edge of the city to the other in a matter of seconds. It’s a unique aspect of the game that adds a ton of fun to what otherwise would have been a very bland and forgettable racing/driving title. The mechanic becomes absolutely necessary in completing certain missions throughout the game and so mastering the art of shifting will come to you soon enough. The game doesn’t pride itself on an enthralling story, so this element keeps it interesting enough to come back for more and see what will happen next.
With all this shifting going on, crazy abilities and cars are a sure thing. As you progress through the story, you will unlock abilities such as boosting to get you to speeds you could only dream of. You will also be able to buy shiny sports and muscle cars to your heart's content once you gain enough of the in-game currency, "Willpower", and purchase garages all over the city to store your beautiful purchases. With these cars, you can enjoy the many "activities", "dares" and other challenges that the game so joyously throws at you. A "dare" usually requires performing some sort of stunt or difficult manoeuvre, and an activity tends to be a longer sequence where you need to continue along a path in the time limit while bashing objects or something else just as hazardous. While these can be fun, the later ones can be extremely frustrating as there is no room for error. Let's just say the last activity had me shouting profanities at my TV for a fair bit before perfecting it. The challenges act as a throwback to car chase movies of old and are a very fun addition due to the way in which they are presented in the game.
Racing around and around in San Francisco is extremely satisfying with the shift mechanic, so why not get some multiplayer in there too? Unlike your standard deathmatch, Driver: San Francisco has many different modes that take full advantage of the way shift works. While there are your standard races and the like, there's also "Capture the Flag", Relay races, and an usual take on the game of "Tag". One mode worth mentioning is "Takedown", where it's essentially a game of "Cops and Robbers". One player is on their own in an attempt to escape the police as they reach a number of different destinations before their vehicle is completely destroyed. The police are the other players, and their only task is to obliterate (take down, if you will) the player who is trying to escape from them. "Blitz" is also great fun, and is very simply a storming of a base while the opposing team try to defend their own base by, of course, smashing up the other players. These are all very fun modes, but sadly, and inevitably, the multiplayer community is very slim by now. If you get a group of friends together, you will have a blast with this, and it takes all of the key elements from the single player and crafts them into a heap of car-crashing fun.
To get the full 1000G in Driver: San Francisco, you will need to put in a good bit of time in both the single player and multiplayer modes. While these modes are fun, there is some grinding to be done. The Master achievement springs to mind, where you need to reach Level 38 in multiplayer to unlock it. The game isn't short of its multiplayer achievements either, so by the time you grind out all of them you will be well on your way to the magic number. At this point, though, boosting will be needed if you want the completion.
On the single player side of things we see a similar trend. Lots of complete all of this and collect all of that. You have your fair share of achievements at the start of the game and other story-related ones, but they'll eventually start to unlock further apart as time goes on.
Just short of 14,250 people have shifted into San Francisco to foil Jericho's plans, but only 682 have managed to keep him down for good. That's a small 4.79% of players completing the game. I'm sure multiplayer is playing a *small* part in that.
Our community has given the game a pretty solid 3.9 and the critics over at Metacritic have also said, "yay," rather than "nay" on this one and given the game a very nice 80.
If you're in the U.K, you can bag yourself a copy of the game for just under £15, and that's brand new! In the U.S, you can get it for just under $30 when bought new (and when it's actually in stock), and weirdly enough, you can get it pre-owned at exactly the same price.
It's been a heck of a long time between Driver titles, but the wait was worth it to see the return of the franchise. Although it doesn't focus on pure realism this time around, it gets rid of stupid and pointless gunplay for an experience that is driving, racing, and then more driving and racing. San Francisco is vast and beautiful, especially when utilising the shift mechanic, and you will have an immense amount of fun when messing around with Tanner in this sandbox title. The multiplayer may well have a tiny community now, but if you're willing to get a few friends together and go for a round of "Takedown" or "Trailblazer", then you will not be disappointed. Cutscenes are remarkably pleasing to the eye and graphics are certainly not an issue. When pieced together, it's a trip to San Francisco that you will not want to miss out on. Just try not to get into a coma yourself.
If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!
We've got the full list of Driver: San Francisco achievements - check the list for guides to unlocking them.
This game was featured in our Best Xbox Arcade Racing Games Available in 2018 article. Why not check it out to see what else made the cut?