Wot I Think – Driver: San Francisco

By Alec Meer on September 28th, 2011 at 12:57 pm.

I’ve spent the last few days behind the wheel of the delayed PC version of Reflections’ rebooted car chase game Driver: San Francisco, sinking myself into its open-world singleplayer. I hope to look at multiplayer, which I hear good things about, soon, but meantime here’s what I think of John Tanner’s latest tale of planes, trains automobiles, automobiles and automobiles.

Driver: San Francisco is so good, to the point that it entirely transcends the PC version being a fairly ropey port. It was impossible not to go into the fifth of Reflection’s car-chase series without cynical expectations, given just how badly the franchise got mangled – but now I’m earnestly worried that the poison hangover of Driver 3 is going to keep people away from the best time I’ve had in a pretend car for a good few years. I thought Trackmania 2 would be the zenith of pixel-based vehicular silliness in 2011, but turns out Driver is a slicker, wilder, more varied and far, far funnier experience even though it doesn’t have any mile-high, rock-carved loop-the-loops in the middle of the desert. It just has sharp-talking guys in cars.

DSF is tight and confident, it’s written by people with a sharp sense of humour and with a wry eye for the inherent absurdities of video gaming and it finds an easy blend of story-based progression and open-world mucking about. It’s too weird, I fear, to be a bona fide smash hit – but it’s got quiet cult success written all over it.

First, the crappy news. As was already painfully obvious from the delayed PC release date and the contradictory official claims as to its copy protection, the PC port – and port it most definitely is – appears to be the black sheep of the Driver 5 family. Graphical options are bare-bones basic, so you’ll need to fiddle with your card’s driver settings to eke the plain-looking best out of the game, while the industry-standard 16:10 widescreen monitor aspect ratio is not supported. On my 1920×1200 screen, I had a choice of black bars top and bottom or the game’s 1900×1080 image stretched blurrily into the black space. I speak from the relatively ignorant position of armchair developer here, but it seems very hard to believe that increasing the available resolutions and, if necessary, adjusting interface placement, is anything other than a very easy task. It seems straight-up shameful to leave it out, and so blatant that this game was really only designed for a console and its constant companion, the 16:9 TV.

The net result on a high-res PC screen is a bland and outdated-looking game, and which doesn’t feel as fast as it perhaps should – my weak jaw dropped in disbelief when the in-game speedometer told me I was pelting down Russian Hill at over 100MPH, because it felt more like 50. I’ve not measured the framerate, because BORING, but if there’s some sort of limiter in there I’m sure someone will reveal it very soon.

There’s no sense that love has gone into Driver 5 on PC, just a game that’s been uncaringly dragged over to a platform it doesn’t care about, but an outright mess it isn’t – it runs smoothly enough, the controls play nice with mouse and keyboard and without troubling you with Xbox prompts (though I confess I enjoy it more when played with a gamepad) and all the online elements such as leaderboards and video-sharing are all present and correct.

Fortunately, there is plenty of love in the game itself, and so much so that I very quickly stopped caring about the slapdash porting. After an initially rote, macho introduction, it swiftly appears to become absolutely delighted about what it can do. In some respects, it’s back to Driver basics – all you do is drive, and you have an enormous American city to do it in. There’s no on-foot stuff, no shooting, no mini-games that don’t involve being in a fast-moving vehicle. But what it really isn’t is a racing game; it’s worked on finding as many ways to turn the act and concept of driving into an action experience as it can. There’s an element of Burnout in there, but without the creepy lifelessness of the machine-only world or the emphasis on massacre-grade levels of destruction. Stuff smashes, and smashes constantly, but it’s to add to the car chase feel of the whole affair rather than to present challenge or obstacle itself.

The much-declared philosophy behind it is movie-style chases, with both the cars’ handling and San Francisco itself apparently designed to evoke this as much as possible. Cars in Driver 5 aren’t keen on cornering, because smoothly cornering just isn’t as thrilling as squealing around it dramatically, the car all but out of control and twitching like a mad horse that’s been snorting Red Bull as you feverishly fight to steer it back onto the straight and narrow. No simple act of under or oversteering will have the bucking beast doing what you want as soon as you come out of the corner – it’ll keep on protesting for a few seconds yet. Sometimes this is infuriating, leading to a monstrous pinballing from wall to oncoming traffic and back and around and back again, but most of the time it gets across what it’s supposed to – that you, the mighty and peerless Driver, are superhumanly making this crude machine do more than it was ever supposed to, far more than any other man, woman or Knight 2000 microprocessor could possibly coax from it.

Key to the whole show is that nothing should be taken entirely seriously, no-one is in mortal danger (it’s impossible to run over anyone – instead they’ll dive out of the way at the last microsecond and look horrified. You could argue this is a cheat but again I think it gets across the look and feel of the heroic movie cop on a desperate chase – a) he’s too good a driver to kill anyone and b) having to face the horror of committing manslaughter would quite simply interrupt the flow and tone of this Hollywood logic) and it’s possible to recover from even the most spectacular disasters.

In most any other racing game, this would lead to a chorus of dissent from unsmiling greyfaces about the lack of realism or simulation. Fortunately, Driver 5 has a clever get-out clause to avoid this, and it’s an idea that goes on to lend far more life and cheer to the game than you might ever have expected.

You might have heard about the Shift mechanic already. As a gaming system, it’s great – you can jump to any car in the city and assume immediate control, via an overhead map you can across. As a justification, it works brilliantly. You, as hero cop and automobile fetishist John Tanner, have suffered a rather nasty accident in the line of duty. You’re lying in a hospital bed, comatose – but in your mind, you’re this disembodied entity able to choose whatever host body you want, so long as it’s in a car. It’s Quantum Leap meets Deadman, with more than a touch of Life On Mars, but the mystery element of what’s really going on is almost totally academic. What’s important is that the game declares it is essentially one man’s fantasy up front, which means whatever it decides to do is absolutely inarguable. Moreover, that one man believes he is the greatest wheelman in history, so the fantasy panders to that and builds its rules around it. See that speeding getaway vehicle? The cops could never catch it. But Tanner could. See those two young teens who’ve bet their life savings on being able to win an underground street race? There’s no way they could do it. But Tanner could. That challenge to pull off a 45 metre-long jump in the middle of busy highway? Impossible. Unless you’re John Tanner.

He’s an undeclared egomaniac, and Driver 5′s San Francisco is the San Francisco he deserves – he’s an automobile-bound Batman, the only guy who can solve the constant vehicular crimes occurring across the city, and who spends his downtime performing insane stunts and spending the ‘Willpower’ he accrues from his activities on unlocking more and better cars and upgrades for fantastical abilities such as psychic speed boost or ramming other cars as though his vehicle is spring-loaded. Yeah, in-game currency and unlocks – boo hiss, right? But again, the fantasy justifies it. Tanner is a disembodied superhero whose powers are gradually growing. Without the rules of reality, the game is free to entertain – the power that lets you instantly jump from your vehicle to that of a partner’s during a police chase is a marvel of both silliness and drama, as you co-ordinate taking down a fleeing suspect in what, done right, is a steady stream of crashes and thuds and flanking and head-on collisions.

The dialogue strikes just the right tone between disbelief and drama, settling primarily on outright humour that somehow doesn’t undermine what you’re doing. Tanner swiftly ceases to be mystified or concerned by his condition (and he has no idea he’s really-or-is-he in hospital – this is shown to you, not him) and instead openly celebratory about what he can do. When he jumps into another driver’s body (retaining their appearance), he’ll heckle and tease anyone in the passenger seat, delighting in their fear at his overwhelmingly reckless driving and positively revelling in their amazement at the feats their formerly hapless pilot is suddenly capable of. It’s a stream of gags and absurdity, impressively well-written and well-performed, very rarely taking itself seriously and defying concerns of sadism towards the innocents in the passenger seat because, well, it’s not real. Probably. Maybe.

Tanner’s enjoying himself, and so should you. Occasionally, some awareness seeps into him – ‘what the hell am I doing?’ he’ll suddenly mutter, after you’ve spent a while simply haring across the city trying to perform sky-high jumps or head through oncoming traffic without braking. In theory, he’s supposed to be catching his nemesis, a criminal named Jericho. In practice, he’s in his dream playground, and is constantly distracted by all the races, stunts, car-collecting and vignette missions such as scaring the life out of driving instructors that it holds. Other than these occasional comments, there’s no pressure whatsoever to pursue the storyline missions: bits of the city and some of the abilities remain locked off until you reach certain milestones, but there’s always a ton of stuff to do and find at your leisure, and all of it with a steady stream of Willpower rewards to spend on cars and upgrades. Not that you even need to get those unlocks – you can always just borrow any passing car (and its driver) that takes your fancy.

After a slow start and the necessity to batter down my own wall of cynicism, I’m surprised and delighted by Driver: San Francisco. It’s car game-as-action game, it’s totally playful in tone and mechanics, and it has an excellent, non-obvious soundtrack that accentuates the thrill of its meaty yet movie-logic driving. I fear the game’s been a little lost in the shuffle of big-name shooty games, and the delay to the PC version probably won’t help, but this really is something quite special.

Note – this game contains DRM which requires an online check/activation at first run and attempts to do so for each subsequent run. There is an optional offline launch mode, which has in my experience has proven unreliable and thus means I would strongly advise against purchasing the game if you prefer to play on the move or otherwise do not have a permanent, stable net connection. However, if your connection drops while you are already playing the singleplayer game, it will continue to run just fine, but with online features such as leaderboards and video sharing disabled.

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98 Comments »

  1. Manburger says:

    I’m not the biggest fan of cars wot go fast, but I’m loving this game so far! I was also surprised by the witty buddy-cop atmosphere of the game, aided by some great (vocal) performances.
    The Shift-mechanic really elevates the game above being just another ol’ driving game. Hopping into oncoming traffic to smash cars you are pursuing is always a thrill. Cannot understand the (few) Angry Internet Men who have complained that it is “weird and unrealistic”. Angry Internet Man, you are BORING.
    Haven’t dabbled too much with ze multiplayer, but it is also good fun.

  2. Drake Sigar says:

    Definitely going to pick this one up soon.

  3. Bull0 says:

    Very surprising. I, like you, was expecting this to be a total mess. It sounds like it’s worth the investment just for the originality of its dialogue. That sounds like raucous fun.

    But

    “I’ve not measured the framerate, because BORING, but if there’s some sort of limiter in there I’m sure someone will reveal it very soon.”

    …kay? That’s quite an easy job too – easier than adjusting the game’s resolution and absolute positions of the UI. The presence of a frame rate limit matters quite a lot to many people – quick google yields that part of the delay was in optimizing the console versions to run at 60fps, so most likely it’s locked there although that’s not confirmation. If so, then I mean, meh – 60fps is pretty liveable.

    • AndrewC says:

      I’m going to pipe up for the ‘over 60fps is meaningless’ argument. It’s like sooooper high resolution textures. If you are actually paying attention to the game, you won’t notice.

      In fact, i’ll just go politely ad hominem here, because fights are fun, and say that this is just about having bigger numbers. FPS capping is the game making your number not as big, and this makes you feel small. This is how I feel about all technical gamers. This meta-game of ‘how big are my numbers’ is lots of fun in a community of people who care about the size of your numbers, but these concerns have nothing to do with the playing of the actual game.

    • simonh says:

      Yeah seriously; Windows-key – Fraps – Enter – start the game, there you go.

      If it was limited to 30 FPS that’d be bad, but the real danger to look out for when encountering a capped FPS is that it may be caused by VSync, which is an abomination that makes the game always run behind and causes noticable input-lag. For driving games it’s not such a big deal though as it is for shooters.

    • Bull0 says:

      It’s one of those things that makes a difference to some people and doesn’t to others. Tech hobbyism is a historically big part of the whole PC gaming “thing” and FPS limits represent PCs being restrained for no good reason, which will rile up people who are heavily tech. I think if we were to talk raw numbers, like I clearly said >60fps is not worth worrying about, it’s when you’re limited to 30 or 40 or whatever that people are more justified in getting angsty. Having a big go at people who care about 60fps+ is a bit straw man when I wasn’t even representing those guys, but I’ll represent them anyway because it’s only fair. So there you go.

      Also, you can ad hominem all you want to me, I’m not bothered because I’m not actually in either camp – I neither think it’s really important nor something we should chastise people for caring about – but I am in a third “don’t be an arsehole to people over their minorly divergent interests and tastes” camp. And we have cookies and a camp fire, and the hottest chicks. Come on over.

    • Bull0 says:

      Perhaps, but undeniably part of the field. But it’s okay, because you made us go find out for ourselves. Bit like a jigsaw puzzle that comes with a jigsaw. Or a dentist that asks you to provide your own anaesthetic.

      *edit* ooh, ooh, a better one! Like a doctor who gives you a diagnosis, but tells you to go work out the prognosis yourself! :D “I’m a diagnostician, that’s the sexy bit – you figure out the boring details”

      Yes, so it’s not really the same. I didn’t say it was a perfect simile.

    • clippa says:

      Yeah, surely this is why people are reading this, to find out how bad the port is, find out if they’ve capped the framerate and so on. You mention that 16:10 is unsupported but consider framerate capping to be unimportant. Sure, it’s boring, but it’s important to pc gamers. A 30fps cap for a driving game is a deal breaker for me. There’ll be people with 120hz monitors wanting to know if it’s capped at 60 too.

      “like I clearly said >60fps is not worth worrying about”, yes it is, I agree, for a driving game, 60fps is fine, but try playing something like cod capped at 60fps, then up your maxfps to 120, (yes, even on a 60hz monitor), then come back and tell me how wrong you are :D Tell me how much more fluid and responsive it is.

      It’s not about willy waving and just wanting to see a number go up.

      Looks like it’s uncapped – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YopnChp8Vco

    • Bull0 says:

      I could’ve phrased that part better… what I mean to say is that of all the frame capping issues, being capped at around 60fps isn’t justification to march on whitehall, compared to, say, 30fps. Oh, that is kind of what I said, looking at it again – but no harm in underpinning it. I fully believe you that it +60fps makes games feel more fluid – that’s why I splashed a month’s salary on a PC a month ago :D

    • Vandelay says:

      Right there with you Alec. I don’t need a number to let me know if my game is running smooth or not. Some of us haven’t even bothered downloading Fraps.

    • clippa says:

      Neither do I, I noticed brink singleplayer was capped at 30fps even though it was showing as uncapped in fraps :D
      Quite right bull0, I read too much into the phrase “not worth worrying about” I think :D

    • Harlander says:

      the real danger to look out for when encountering a capped FPS is that it may be caused by VSync, which is an abomination that makes the game always run behind and causes noticable input-lag.

      That’s true, but there’s nothing worse than tearing in a game. It looks terrible, it’s immersion-breaking and it triggers the nagging background fear that I’m about to have another graphics card explode.

    • Bull0 says:

      @Vandelay so for you buying, downloading and installing the game, then running it and judging the performance visually is equivalent to reading the information in a review? weird.

    • clippa says:

      @Harlander I suppose it’s just personal preference. To me, input lag is the spawn of the devil. I gladly take tearing over input lag any day of the week. I even drop things like ambient occlusion if it’s causing lag :D
      I expect we’re reeeeeeally boring alec now so we’d best leave it there :D

    • Reapy says:

      First off, I don’t mind its left off in an RPS Wot I Think since I don’t think of them as reviews, just, what they thought while playing the game.

      Capped at 60 FPS can be good or bad depending how they implement it. For example, in fall out new vegas, the vsync that capped it at 60 caused a huge amount of mouse lag which made the game feel sluggish and annoying…. yet say something like mass effect 2 played out just fine with vsync on.

      I play a lot of mount & blade warband, at one point in their patch cycle they increased the fps cap from 100 to 120. At 120 the game felt different to me, so I had to turn it back to 100. Again it really just depends on what style of game it is and how the fps limit has been implemented.

      From this Wot I Think… Sounds like a lot of fun, but probably more sub 20 dollars fun, so, will be waiting for some steam sale in the distant future.

    • Vandelay says:

      @Bull0 – Not sure if it’s just my reading comprehension that is completely up the spout, but I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. At what point did I say I will be needing to buy the game to find out myself? It’s not like Alec didn’t give us a good indication of the games performance in the review.

      I do not need to know that a game is running at 30 fps to know that it is not smooth. It seems that Alec has this amazing power too and he felt no need to run tests, because, as he says, “BORING.”

    • Bull0 says:

      @Vandelay Basically just that you’re replying to a comment on the glib dismissal of including information about the framerate lock being a bit lazy with the statement that you don’t need that information to judge the game’s performance.

      So there is a logical progression there, but were it not for that context you’d be totally right. And your point about getting as good an idea of the game’s performance from the language of the review as from explicit reference to the framerate lock is an entirely valid one too, but we weren’t talking about the game’s performance as a whole, just whether or not the framerate was locked, so in context that wasn’t what you were saying – etc

      The general issue is that your comment wasn’t really a reply to this comment thread, just to the article as a whole, but I treated it as a reply to the points we’d made and that probably wasn’t the thing to do. No aggro.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Alec?

      Alec?

      Where is that boy?

    • Vandelay says:

      Fair enough. No aggro taken.

    • Nick says:

      “VSync, which is an abomination that makes the game always run behind and causes noticable input-lag.”

      It does? Because I always have it on in every game ever and have never noticed input lag unless its in a broken as fuck game, which has happened once that I can remember.

    • clippa says:

      Yeah, vsync adds a ton of input lag, even at 120hz, as you say some games are laggy to begin with so it’s more noticeable in some than others. Everyone has their own threshold of what’s acceptable too.
      A lot of people use vsync all the time because they either don’t mind or don’t notice the lag, or just plain prefer it to tearing.
      I personally can’t play with vsync on, feels like I’m drunk or underwater.
      My monitor died recently and I had to send five back before I found one without input lag as replacement :D
      The w2363d if you’re wondering (thru mode enabled, 0ms input lag. It’s 120hz too so that gets rid of the tearing too unless you go over 120fps). You’ll be surprised when you see how cheap they are.
      I don’t work for LG by the way :D

    • Wisq says:

      Technically, vsync is going to delay frames, but we’re talking (ideally) no more than 1/60th of a frame here.

      Vsync is not going to *noticeably* lag you unless a) it forces you down to a lower framerate (e.g. 30 FPS), or b) the implementation is buggy.

      Tearing is one of those things where I used to wonder WTF people’s problem was, until I finally ditched my 19″ CRT and got a high quality (27″ 2560×1440) LCD. Suddenly, tearing was plain as day and I didn’t like it one bit. So yeah, I’ll vsync wherever possible, unless the engine is just borked or I need the extra performance.

      I’d rather wait 1/60th of a second to get a complete picture, and suffer 1/60th of a second of input lag, than get a torn image where half the image is 1/60th further in the future than the other half. There’s just no real value in that half-frame, IMO.

    • clippa says:

      Yeah, it just depends what bothers you most. You’ve got lag from the game, lag from your gpu, the lag from your mouse and your monitor, then on top of all that, you’re slapping another 16ms (at the very least) from vsync.
      I wish I didn’t notice or mind it, vsync totally throws my aim in every first person game. I’m reacting quickly, spinning round, lining up a shot and I’m waiting for the game to catch up with me. It’s just weird, you end up overshooting, everything feels really floaty and unreal, does your eyes in as well.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Is it just me or are the RPS crew grumpier than usual these days?

  4. President Weasel says:

    I am surprised by the positivity of your Wot I Think, but the poison hangover of Drivethreer is still going to stop me picking this up.

    • Alec Meer says:

      You really think this was made by all the same people, under all the same conditions and without any learning whatsoever?

      I had a bad plate of chips once. Amazingly, I have since gone on to eat more chips despite this.

    • MiniMatt says:

      I get this, it would be nice if all DRM’ed to hell and uncaring ports were also crap games. Call the hyperbole police but in the same manner that free speech is only tested when someone spouts obnoxious bile, principled stands against bad DRM are only tested when the afflicted games would otherwise be instant wants (Diablo 3 etc).

      edit: oops – misinterpreted “drivethreer” as “poison hangover of driver san fran DRM handling and poor console portery”

    • Bull0 says:

      More like if he got food poisoning at macdonalds, he’d probably not be inclined to have macdonalds again. “Poison hangover from branded thing” to “bad serving of generic thing” is sort of just mangling the image to make a point, isn’t it

    • President Weasel says:

      I had bad fried chicken from the fried chicken place from my house once, for a couple of days after that I did not have fun at all. I no longer buy fried chicken from that place,even though there’s a strong chance a different chicken-frier-person may be frying the chicken that day, although I still occasionally buy fried chicken.

      Your Wot I Think makes me sad, because it tells me I may well be cutting my nose off to spite my face, but nevertheless – take that, face! – I won’t be buying a driver game from ubisoft any time soon, and especially not a half arsed port.

      However, when Steam sale time rolls around, I might remember that Alec Meer said I was good, and pick it up for 3.99 or whatever.

    • President Weasel says:

      I just wrote a post to say that exact thing, Bull0.
      I no longer buy fried chicken from the fried chicken place near my house, after becoming ill for several days. I still buy the occasional box ‘o chicken from places that haven’t made me ill.
      I no longer buy Driver games from Ubisoft. I don’t care if there’s a different fryer on duty; I have concerns over their approach to hygiene and a bit of a grudge.

      Since Alec Meer has said it’s good though, I might pick this up for cheap in a steam sale sometime.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I was all revved up to go add it to my Steam wishlist until that DRM footnote. Which I thank RPS for bothering with.

      Maybe it’ll be gutted in a patch, but if they’ve tied it to “online features”, perhaps not.

  5. lanster27 says:

    Sounds awesome. And it is quite cheap compared to other big titles.

    Only question is, should I get the deluxe edition on Steam? It says it offers 4 new challenges in single player (taxi sounds the most fun) and other stuff, like bonus cars which I’m not really concerned about. Any suggestions?

  6. Jajusha says:

    Ubi what? No thanks

    • Khemm says:

      Any actual arguments instead of hurr durr?
      Ubisoft has made or published some awesome games.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      There’s a crack out to fix the online launch bit already. ^ ^

    • Wisq says:

      Ubisoft has published some great games (some of them even recently) …

      … which I won’t be playing because of their DRM.

      Yes, it’s not as bad as their always-on monstrosity. But I reject their notion that “two steps backwards, one step forwards” is “progress” and should be rewarded with a sale.

  7. Fetthesten says:

    Huh. Tried the demo, and while the Shift concept was pretty interesting, the driving itself felt clumsy. There was an odd sense of weightlessness to the cars, and the familiar boost/powerslide mechanic didn’t seem to be as well implemented as in, say, Criterion’s games. Also I found the script to be absolutely unbearable, but that might have been because it was just a tiny slice of the game (three separate missions, no sandbox gameplay), and because my Xbox for some reason thinks an adult wants to have Norwegian text and subtitles in an English-language game just because said adult lives in Norway.

    Auto-selecting language options based on geolocation or location settings – with no way of switching to another language – is something that must stop, by the way. There is no way the borderline automated translation-level localisation jobs most publishers deem adequate will ever be an acceptable substitute for playing a game in its native language, or a well done English translation.

    Apart from Driver:SF, the worst offender is – would you believe it – Games for Windows Live. In order to get an English-language GFWL client, I had to set my currency, date/time and measurement settings to English and manually change them into something that resembles the Norwegian standard. I found that a bit weird.

    • Iskariot says:

      “Auto-selecting language options based on geolocation or location settings – with no way of switching to another language – is something that must stop, by the way.”

      That indeed is a huge deal breaker. I would never ever buy an english language game that forces me to use dutch. Dutch translations and voice synchronisations in general are very, very low quality, bordering on moronic. For me this would make a game unplayable. I also refuse to use dutch subtitles on dvd’s.

    • whydidyoumakemeregister says:

      The script is bad, but most video games are. I keep reading that most gamers are in their 20s and 30s, but the dialogue in them continues to be written for (or maybe by) young teens. When is the last time a conversation in a video game actually made you think?

  8. AndrewC says:

    I’ve been loving it too, and basically for that tone you describe – the 60′s/70′s drive in aesthetic with the wacky 80′s attitude of enjoying the power. So much more fun than some self-pitying neurotic or monotonal human shell wailing about the tragedy! and horror! of the situation (see: new Batman movies, Deus Ex, hell even Gears Of War). And it’s sunny! And happy! and most of the music is very funky!

    It runs really well on my increasingly crummy duo core too.

    The DRM is un-fun, though if this comments thread gets bogged down with DRM arguments to the point where the game doesn’t get talked about, well, that would be worse.

    Now the social game stuff, with the game badgering you constantly about earning willpower for upgrades – ‘hey! you can buy a new car now!’ – really is icky. Still ignorable though, as there is an actual game to be enjoyed beneath that layer of collect-em-up addiction mongering.

    Like it!

  9. Tunips says:

    Well shit. I thought I could get away with not being excited about this. There goes that plan.

  10. Dominic White says:

    I’ve heard almost nothing but good things about this one – and for those worried about the DRM, a crack was released on launch day so that you can play offline without hassle. UbiDRM doesn’t seem to work at all.

    • Khemm says:

      That’s because it’s a simple “be online to verify the executable once, go offline later” variant like all DRMs on the market.
      The “always-online” is a super tough one to bypass for pirates, HAWX2 used its latest, most improved version and hasn’t been cracked to date.

    • pepper says:

      I think your are wrong Khemm, searching the usual suspect sites shows that there are plenty of downloads to try.

      Also, always online is just more annoying to crack, not harder. It usually is more time consuming depending on the implementation.

    • meatshit says:

      Really? Because I just looked and didn’t find a single working crack for HAWX 2, with the emphasis on working. There’s disc images without cracks, working console versions and cracks that only get you to the main menu (i.e. fail at the first server challenge/response), but that’s it.

      That’s not to say it’s uncrackable, just that it requires quite a bit more effort and expertise, which is why no group has bothered to crack an unpopular niche title like HAWX 2.

  11. Magnetude says:

    Can someone confirm that this has splitscreen on PC? It’s an instant buy for me if it does, but I’ll wait for a Steam sale if not.

    Edit: No, it doesn’t. Might just get this on 360 then and sidestep all the DRM bother if the graphics are no different anyway.

    • phuzz says:

      Same here, if I pick it up second hand on the 360 toy, then I don’t have to worry about my broken graphics card, the horrid drm, and I don’t actually give ubi any moneys (and I imagine that the gamepad will actually work out better for this game)

  12. Jockie says:

    Think I’ll try and grab this tonight. Where’s it being sold and anyone seen any bargain prices?

  13. evilmatt says:

    “I speak from the relatively ignorant position of armchair developer here, but it seems very hard to believe that increasing the available resolutions and, if necessary, adjusting interface placement, is anything other than a very easy task. It seems straight-up shameful to leave it out, and so blatant that this game was really only designed for a console and its constant companion, the 16:9 TV.”

    I’m surprised a PC games journalist hasn’t noticed just how prevalent this is these days; even big-name well-received PC-only releases just this year have suffered the same flaws. Especially since practically all games are 3D now – it’s not like you have to redo all your 2D sprites and backgrounds for different aspect ratios and resolutions, if you code your engine right it should just work!

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m wondering how it deals with 4:3, or its mutant brother 5:4…

    • AndrewC says:

      I don’t trust a man who has a 5:4 monitor.

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      :(

    • LionsPhil says:

      1280×1024 really is an abomination, but THE FUTURE keeps trying to make me leave my beloved XGA.

    • Sardukar says:

      2560×1600. It’s not that it’s awesome, it’s that once you are used to it, you can’t ever go back. So awesome becomes normal and anything less than normal drives you insane.

      Hence FRAPS and my constant quest to eke those last few frames out so things can look…normal.

      CURSED TECHNOLOGY. WHY must you redefine my mental frameworkses!

    • Outright Villainy says:

      @ Sardukar: This is pretty much how it is with everything. It’s why I dread the next generation of consoles, because then everything will look better, and we’ll get used to it, and I’ll have to spend more shit on upgrading. I’M HAPPY NOW THANKS EVERYTHING’S FINE LALALALA.

    • evilmatt says:

      @LionsPhil

      4:3 is even more horrifically black-barred than 16:10. There’s screenshots of it, but also a description of a hack to modify FOV, aspect ratio etc here:
      http://widescreengamingforum.com/dr/driver-san-francisco/en

      Edit: The disappointing thing is that the game’s engine appears to function perfectly at different aspect ratios. It’s just the HUD elements that get stretched a bit (which normally isn’t too noticeable at single-screen resolutions). Surely it took more effort to code in the anamorphic behaviour than just let it do it’s thing and have a little bit of HUD distortion?!

  14. somini says:

    I guess I will buy it when it has the same DRM as AssBro, offline mode available with no leaderboards/whatever.

  15. Temple says:

    Great piece Alec. This is one of those reviews which explain why RPS is so good.
    This was a game I had no interest in, and only clicked the link because Driver the movie is out and someone is telling me to buy the soundtrack before they have even seen the movie. Suddenly it became an engaging distraction, a nice reflection on enthusiasm without being over the top like so many feel they need to be. Oh yeah, now I want to play the game to.
    Wonder if Onlive have it for a pound…

  16. Nallen says:

    Sounds like one for the console to me (for my console, I’m not trying to get all high and mighty).

    • Bull0 says:

      That’s kind of what I was thinking. Brace yourself though, we’re at backlash alert five

    • johnpeat says:

      It’s definately a console/sofa game – it emphasises fun over everything else.

      It’s takes a silly idea (jumping into other drivers/cars) and makes a fantastic game out of it, but it’s resolutely anchored in an arcade driving model with AI traffic intent on making your life harder.

      It’s rammed with stuff like mad stunts, ramming other cars in a time limit, jumping multiple cars off car transporter ramps, racing multiple cars at the same time, drifting, knocking down bus shelters and so on and so on – and almost all of it allowing you to leap into other cars and cause (or avoid) mayhem!

      It should come with 2 tubes of Pringles and some popcorn ;)

  17. nigger says:

    Why the hell driving game does not support steering wheel?
    Pedals work, but wheel does not.

  18. bill says:

    Say what you want about driver 3 – but it definitely captured the “movie chase” feel.

    Except when your car was brought to a dead stop by hitting a cardboard box or an ant or something.

    • ShineDog says:

      I keep hearing murmerings of this type. That Driver 3 had it’s moments. Regardless, I couldn’t get past the absolutely awful miserable tanner. I really like that tanner in this one is a man with a sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye.

  19. johnpeat says:

    EASILY my GOTY but it’s a sofa game for sure – seek it out for your TV if you have that option first.

    It’s an bottomless skinner-box of a thing – tonnes to do, tonnes to unlock – the variety is astonishing and it almost never gets repetitive.

    The writing is even good – hell, it’s blindsided us all!!

  20. Phinor says:

    If anyone has played both the demo and the full game, is the demo a good representation of the full product? I see so many positive reviews of this game that I find it hard to believe the demo had anything to do with the actual game. The demo was literally one of the worst racing games I’ve played in a while. And I try to try all of them.

    • johnpeat says:

      I thought the demo was fun BUT it fails to show the expansiveness and variation of the full game – and it doesn’t choose the best bits by any means.

      Cars handles in a variety of ways (the demo only shows a couple of possibilities) and there’s a tonne of stuff to do.

      If you didn’t like the demo – you clearly don’t like the concept and/or arcadey driving games tho and so I’d skip it if I were you.

    • ShineDog says:

      Demo was good. If you don’t like it you won’t like the game. If you didn’t like the handling though I would strongly recommend giving the chase mission on the demo another go. Theres a learning curve in the game beyond that of most arcade racers. It’s definately arcadey, definately silly, but at the same time yes, you do actually need to break. yes, you will need to manually countersteer, and yes, gunning your engine actually makes the back step out and you need a little finesse to your drifting. It’s a little deeper than burnout, in terms of handling. I loved it.

      At the same time, if someone wants realistic driving, it’s not going to suit them either.

    • rottenspiel says:

      Reminds me of Dungeon Siege 3. I thought it’s a piece of shi-, yet lots of people enjoyed it. But then lots of people enjoy Runescape (and other shitty games, imo) too, so who knows.

  21. tobias says:

    I don’t need decent graphics to cement my enjoyment of a game, but I feel D:SF really suffers from severely dull presentation. It looks hopelessly dated and the colour palette sometimes borders on unpleasant. I actually thought it looked a little nicer on the ps3 demo I played, simply by virtue of the blurriness and stronger use of fog covering up the inadequacies. I can’t help myself being distracted by it’s unsightly parts, like a girl with a nice personality who won’t stop gurning…

  22. Flint says:

    I’ve not measured the framerate, because BORING

    I love you.

  23. Buemba says:

    Good on UbiSoft for finally releasing a worthy sequel to the original (And awesome) Driver.

    Shame on UbiSoft for releasing yet another PC port with minimal effort involved outside of bolting DRM to it. Honestly, I can tolerate most forms of DRM if they also put some work into making the game feel like it belongs on the PC, but unfortunately that seems like it’s asking too much nowdays.

  24. Sweetz says:

    Your “industry standard” 16:10 monitor is not really industry standard anymore – at least not in the US. 16:10 monitors are quickly being phased out in favor of 16:9. Try to get a 16:10 monitor in a typical big box electronics retailer and you can’t anymore; they’re all 1600×900 or 1920×1080.

    I’m not claiming that’s an excuse for not supporting the rest of the market still on 16:10 monitors – but then again, I’m betting 16:10 monitors are supported. Running 16:9 letterboxed at 16:10 resolutions is not the same thing as being unable run the game at 16:10 resolutions at all – the connotation of “not supported”. So find claiming that 16:10 is “not supported” to be somewhat questionable – unless you were literally not able to select 1920×1200 in game/launcher, but I’m guessing that’s not the case.

    It’s also not the first or only game do this – most notably the Assassin’s Creed games run at a fixed 16:9 aspect and will letterbox when run at non-16:9 resolutions.

    And forgetting any arguments about artistic intent, unless you actually have some 3D engine programming experience, I wouldn’t be so quick to make assumptions about how easy it is or is not to change the rendering aspect for a game developed with a specific aspect in mind. Many times when developing an interactive 2D overlay for a 3D viewspace (i.e. being able to select objects in a 3D world via a cursor, as you can in this game), you might make certain assumptions about screen space coords dependent on the aspect of that viewspace. Unless you choose to support multiple aspects from the beginning of development, it’s not necessarily easy to change it later on.

    • LionsPhil says:

      You might make certain assumptions about screen space coords dependent on the aspect of that viewspace

      You might, if you were being wilfully stupid. If nothing else, non-widescreen monitors and TVs still exist, even if you don’t want to think about arranging on the variations on the theme of those two form-factors (like 5:4 or 16:10).

    • Sweetz says:

      “You might, if you were being wilfully stupid.”

      Well I don’t know if I could call it stupid to save some development time (and corollary: money) by only targeting your game to the aspect that what, like 80% or more, of your potential market is using? If PC was it’s primary platform, then sure it would be a bad move. Even so, I think Assassin’s Creed seems to have done well enough on all platforms despite being locked to 16:9. It’s not like the letterbox bars are huge using a 16:9 viewspace on 16:10 screen.

      In any case it’s the reviewers prerogative to take issue with that if he wants to – I just don’t know that it’s appropriate, even with disclaimer, to comment about how easy it is to implement different aspects unless he’s also programmer.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, I’ll agree with you on that one.

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      I’ll give up my 16:10 monitor when you take it from my cold, dead hands!

    • Thants says:

      “Unless you choose to support multiple aspects from the beginning of development, it’s not necessarily easy to change it later on.”

      If the developers didn’t realize that monitors come in different ratios until a week before release it’s their own damn fault.

  25. danimalkingdom says:

    Truly, I was very, verrry pleasantly surprised by this. Not a big car drive thing game man, but I will be buying the full version of this. on pc. fancy that.

  26. Spazzo says:

    I’m hearing all these reviews that it is good with small flaws, but this is the first I’ve read that points out the lack of 16:10 support. This may sound to be a pathetic reason not to buy a game – but that is the one thing that made the decision not to. I’ll have to keep a somewhat eye out for a patch for it to support 16:10 resolutions.

  27. Pie says:

    I’ve been trying to install the game for four hours now.
    ……..I hate Ubisoft.

  28. Hyperion says:

    Allways-on DRM and no DeLoreans. I am sad.

    • Hindenburg says:

      Pretty sure I’ve unlocked a DeLorean, mate. It’s the first unlock from….one of those billboard destroyer activities.

    • KenTWOu says:

      @Hyperion
      It’s not always-on DRM, Note – this game contains DRM which requires an online check/activation at first run and attempts to do so for each subsequent run… if your connection drops while you are already playing the singleplayer game, it will continue to run just fine….

  29. manveruppd says:

    @Alec I really wish 16:10 were “industry standard”, but when I was shopping around for a 1920×1200 monitor last year I couldn’t find one for love or for money! :( It’s all 1920×1080 these days, which is ok for movies but really sucks for everything else. I can actually get less of a webpage or document to appear vertically on this thing than on my old 19″ 4:3 monitor!

    PS. Beaten to it by Sweetz. I’m in the UK though, and it’s the same over here.

    PPS. Thanks for the DRM warning at the bottom, I think it’s a great idea and you should institute it for all your reviews. It lets you mention if a game is hamstrung by intrusive DRM without creating a negative impression of the actual gameplay.

  30. clippa says:

    Just in case folk want to know, the framerate is capped at 120fps (weirdly) and the refresh rate is locked at 60hz.

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