Driver: San Francisco also exorcises the ghosts of Driver 3’s rotten handling. While the storyline is fantasy the cars are real production models, and though the emphasis is on fun rather than simulation, each Alpha Romeo MiTo, Corvette or Maserati has its own distinctive feel. The sense of speed as you swerve through the city traffic brings Burnout to mind, and in a way Driver: San Francisco nods back to Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Burnout: Paradise, even if it’s a more cinematic game.
And if the new Driver does feel cinematic, then its the city - San Francisco - that’s the star. This isn’t quite the real San Francisco – street layouts and elevations have been changed to suit the action – but it’s the San Francisco you know from the chase sequences in Bullitt or The Rock. All the major landmarks and those legendary ramp-like streets are very much in evidence, and if you want to play through some of Hollywood’s greatest car chases, then Driver: San Francisco is the best game to do it yet.
Visually, it’s a stormer. The cars look gorgeous, the city gleams in its cinematic sunshine, and the frame rate never seems to drop. We’ve seen more detailed urban scenery, while pedestrians are a little short on supply (not to mention impossible to hit), but Driver: San Francisco practically exudes cool. The music certainly helps. The funk, soul and gritty blues on the soundtrack is a perfect match for what’s on screen. And while we’re heaping on the praise, the script is genuinely funny. Each situation Tanner finds himself in has its own characters, jibes and punchlines. They all add to the infectious sense of fun.
Of course, Driver: San Francisco isn’t perfect. It relies too heavily at times on arbitrary time limits, making completing some missions a bit of a chore, and the game feels like it's running out of fresh ideas as time goes on. For all the excellent movie presentation, the storyline is more a framework than a compelling reason to play, and Driver: San Francisco only half-way convinces you that this is a city that lives and breathes. Yet any complaints pale into insignificance when you’re playing. Urban driving games just don’t get much better than this.
A superb fresh start for the series, Driver: San Francisco is smart, slightly crazy and packed with cinematic cool. It's one of the finest urban driving games around.