Now, two things here: this isn’t something we’ll do often, and this in no way contradicts any points made in William’s review of Driver: San Francisco.
Will’s right: the premise of Driver: San Francisco is ludicrous. It didn’t work in Dallas (see how I’m showing my age, here?), and it didn’t work in the game’s single-player campaign. However, after spending a good chunk of time with Driver at Ubisoft’s Melbourne Ubinights, I can’t deny that the gameplay mechanic makes multiplayer a true delight, and something far removed from the campaign. Hence, its own review.
Don’t like it? Tough. I call “Editor’s Choice” on the multiplayer component.
Being able to astral project — or, in Driver’s terminology, to “shift” — from one car to another is only allowable because you’re in a dream. Here’s the thing, though: you’re in multiplayer. There’s no story, only objectives to try to accomplish before your friends do. It doesn’t matter HOW you can shift, but only that you CAN. In the multiplayer sessions I played, it was shifting that really made the game competitive, strategic, and most importantly, fun.
I got to play four modes: Tag, Takedown, Capture the Flag, and Trailblazers. While CtF speaks for itself, and Takedown is a “good guys, bad guys” Need for Speed: Most Wanted-esque variant, I had the most fun with Tag and Trailblazers. In Tag, one car on the map is the tagged car; it’s your job to smash into it to take the tag for yourself. The longer you’re tagged, the more points you accumulate; you’re aiming for 100 points to win the game. As we were all new to the game, all four system-linked players saw the tagged indicator on the map and started driving halfway across it to track down the car. Ho hum.
Then, I figured out how to shift; hitting R1 on the PS3 controller flew me through the air where I could see my target; I shot into the car beside the target with “X”, accelerated into the tag, and started getting some points. Stupidly, I told the guys I was playing against what I did…and I lost my tag pretty quickly as a competitor used my own trick against me. It would be similar to insta-spawning right back on top of the action in a first-person shooter after you got fragged. As a result, the action is constant, in your face, and extremely tense.
Trailblazers also seems fairly simple: follow in the wake of a golden Delorean (nope, I’m not kidding). The Delorean has two yellow slipstreams that it leaves in its wake (see the photo); being in one or both of the streams changes them to blue and gives you points. Strategy is a must here.
I did the foolish thing of thinking I could catch up to my target sometimes, and that almost cost me the game; my competitors were constantly shifting to get a better position with zero fuss. I had an ingenious streak at one point near the end and shifted into a truck — I was moving very slowly, but I was on top of the target and was in such a large vehicle that others couldn’t shift into a better position.
I have to give Will credit, though: the cars handle in a most peculiar fashion. In multiplayer, I had the same struggles he did — no matter what you do, those cars just want to fishtail. In single-player, I can imagine that would get irritating. In multiplayer, it just seemed to add to the fun — with four people shifting, spinning, and crashing, the game had an over-the-top, cheezy action movie kind of atmosphere.
If you’ve got an internet connection at the ready, give the multiplayer a try. It can’t fix the storytelling of single-player, but it does elevate the title from its counterparts.