Driver: San Francisco Updated Aussie Hands-On

We neglect the road rules and tear up the asphalt in two new multiplayer modes of Driver: San Francisco.

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The Driver franchise is more than a decade old, has seen some great games, and has had some spectacular crashes. The series has been in the mechanic's lockup for a few years now, with the latest game--Diver: San Francisco--almost ready to take to the streets. With this in mind, GameSpot AU recently got behind the wheel of an updated E3 build of the game to check out two additional multiplayer modes.

In case you've missed our previous coverage of Driver: San Francisco, here's a quick recap: A couple of months after the events in Driver, main character Tanner is in a coma and is dreaming the events of the game--one badass fever dream if we've ever seen one. The big new feature that Ubisoft Reflections has added this time around is shifting, which means that with the press of the R1 button (on the PlayStation 3), players can move around the map and take over whatever car they desire.

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We've already looked at shift tag, which is pretty much a carbon copy of the schoolyard game tag, but Ubisoft recently showed off two new modes: Trail Blazer and Takedown. Trail Blazer sees players chasing a DeLorean DMC-12 as it speeds around the city, leaving trail marks behind it for about 30 metres. The aim is to get inside of the trail to accumulate points; if you get perfectly behind the DeLorean and get your vehicle behind both trails, it doubles the points you earn. The player who gets to 100 points first wins, so naturally, you want to spend as much time behind both trails as possible, as it's the easiest road to victory. The DeLorean is controlled by the AI and runs around on a track, so it's possible to learn the turns that the car is going to take, but the unpredictable nature of our human opponents and the traffic made it difficult to counter where the car was going.

During our time with Trail Blazer, we started off using performance vehicles to get behind the nimble stainless steel car but quickly found that shifting was a much easier way to get closer to our target than relying on skill. One of the most fun (and arguably cheapest) ways to get within the trail range is to shift into a bigger car, like a fire truck, and just push your way onto the trail. It's easy to get pushed around as a sports car, but there are few vehicles on the road, short of a tank, that can boss around a fire truck.

The second mode, Takedown, sees one player assume the role of a criminal who is being pursued by the police (the other players). The criminal needs to make it through a half- dozen or so checkpoints around the map before escaping, and it's the police's job to ensure that the law-evading denizen doesn't escape. Players who take on the role of the criminal get a whole lot more health than the cops, but they're stripped away of their ability to shift between vehicles. The cops, on the other hand, don't have a whole lot of health but can shift between vehicles when their service car packs it in. Most of the time, we found it much easier to shift into closer vehicles than attempt to catch up with the suspect vehicle.

The racing genre has been through a bit of a rough time lately, with game sales for several big titles failing to meet expectations. While it might be easy to write Driver: San Francisco off as just another Burnout rip-off, the shifting mechanic that allows you to jump between vehicles is a welcome addition that really changes the way you have to think about and play the game. Whether it means financial and critical success for the game is impossible to tell at this stage, but it's certainly one of the more interesting mechanics that we've seen developers try to implement in recent years.

Driver: San Francisco is due out on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and PC in September.

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