Each car shares the same over-the-top feel--think Hollywood car handling rather than all-out realistic. Performing handbrake turns, doing reverse 180s, and driving under moving trucks is par for the course, though there are subtle differences between cars. For example, American muscle cars, such as the Ford Shelby GT, are very fast but a handful around corners, while cars like the Aston Martin Rapide combine speed with better cornering ability. Neither is particularly great off road, so there are Land Rovers and Baja Bugs for sale that let you tackle such missions with ease.
Thanks to the official licences and detailed visuals, each car looks the part too. There's a real feeling of pride as you drive around in your newly acquired supercar, with the sun glinting off the shiny paintwork along with the reflection of passing buildings and signs. Cars don't stay that way for long, though, with crashes and aggressive driving taking their toll on your car's bodywork. Windshields crack and lights smash, while hoods and side panels fly off in all directions. The environments are less impressive, but a lot of life has been injected into the city. Roads are always filled with cars, requiring you to weave through traffic at breakneck speeds to complete certain timed missions. It also means there's always a car around to shift into, so you're never left empty-handed. There are also lots of pedestrians on paths, which add to the living feel of the city--even if they have the uncanny ability to leap out of the way of speeding cars at a moment's notice.
Shifting allows you to easily jump between missions.
Even if you exhaust the many hours of content in the single-player modes, Driver features a range of multiplayer options, including split-screen. There are six different types of multiplayer on offer, each using your boost and shift abilities in different ways. Initially, you can only play Free for All in which up to six players face off in Trailblazer and Tag games. In Trailblazer, each player has to follow a DeLorean, which leaves a long yellow trail behind it as it moves. Driving in the path of the trail earns you points, but only one car at a time can catch the trail. This makes races a manic affair, as cars battle with each other using shift and boost to catch up to the DeLorean and ram competitors off the road.
In Tag, one car holds a tag trophy at the start of the race. Whoever holds the tag earns points, while the other cars have to ram that car to steal the tag. This cat-and-mouse system is a lot of fun, and with rapid shifting going on around you, any one of the AI-controlled cars on the road is a potential tag stealer. To unlock further modes, you have to earn experience points and level up, which is irritating if you just want to jump straight into something different. There are standard eight-player races that don't let you use boost or shift; takedown races, in which players take on the role of the police and chase down a getaway driver; and shift races, in which the first person to drive through a checkpoint gets the points. There are also cooperative team events, such as capture the flag and relay races.
The addition of shift to online races is excellent. Thankfully, you can't just spam the ability in races, with a gradually replenishing energy bar limiting the number you can make. If you'd rather take on a friend face-to-face, split-screen offers all the same modes. There are also additional co-op races like Clean the Streets, where you have to prevent marked vehicles from reaching their destinations, and a Freedrive mode, where you can kick back and enjoy a leisurely drive around the city. While on the whole these modes work well, there is a noticeable amount of slowdown when you enter heavy-traffic areas on freeways, which turns races into something of a slideshow.
Split-screen is a lot of fun, but the frame rate does take a hit.
While Driver: San Francisco is a lot of fun, it isn't without its faults: Missions can get a little repetitive toward the end (particularly if you're doing all the side missions), the storyline is ludicrous, and the less said about the incredibly frustrating final boss battle the better. These issues do little to sully what is a great driving game, though. A wealth of content, fast cars, and the inspired shift mechanic mean you're always kept in the thick of action-packed, over-the-top driving missions that are a thrill to play.