The ability to shift from body to body, car to car, makes Driver San Francisco a totally new experience, and that's not something that can't be said very often when talking about driving games - or any genre, for that matter. Developer Reflections also gets playful with its mission design now and again, using Tanner's coma to deliver some crazy situations that stand out as the best the game has to offer. Towards the end things really go up a gear or two, with some neat ideas making for some thrilling sequences both in and out of a car. There's no on-foot action though, which comes as something of a relief after what we've suffered in past Drivers.
Tying all the gameplay together is some competent and at times amusing dialogue from Tanner and co, who gradually become aware of what's going on. There's also some decent banter between Tanner and whoever he Shifts next to on his adventures: a hopeless street racer manages to start up a bizarre friendship as Tanner races to victory in a series of illegal competitions. Reflections also manages to conclude the story in a way that makes sense, both in terms of the plot and gameplay mechanics.
Core missions that develop the story are interspersed with city missions that must be completed in order to progress. On top of these there are tons of optional challenges, activities, dares, and felony missions to carry out, as well as 120 collectibles to find. Focusing purely on working through the main story will take around eight hours, but that could be doubled (or more) if you take part in all the side missions and diversions on offer.
Driver San Francisco also includes a substantial multiplayer offering for up to eight players, with a mixture of solo and team game types. These include modes for players who want a pure driving experience with no shifting, as well as several designed around the leaping mechanic. While perhaps the simplest mode on offer, I found TAG to be the most fun, with shifting making for some crazy multiplayer moments. If you're into number-crunching and social networking, the game also includes integration with an official stats website and the ability to make and upload videos. It should be noted that online play and the video creation are available to players who redeem a code included with new copies of the game - or bought by pre-owned players.
The play area in Driver San Francisco is massive (although it's progressively opened up as you work through the campaign), and thankfully in single-player you're able to cruise around at a smooth 60 frames per second, with only a slight hitch here and there. While the visuals are a little bland, the high frame rate can't be praised enough; multiplayer action is dropped down to 30 FPS, sadly, but this doesn’t hurt the core gameplay. Driving has an arcade quality that isn't seen nearly enough on this generation of consoles, and graphical flourishes can be seen in the numerous visual effects - the by-product of Tanner's coma - that bring some spark to a selection of special missions.
Driver San Francisco could have been a one-trick pony, but it has managed to use that trick in a variety of clever and interesting ways, ensuring the driving gameplay never becomes tiresome or generic. Get over the slightly ludicrous coma explanation, and chances are you'll have a lot of fun with what Reflections has delivered. With a bit of imagination, the dev team takes the open-word driving genre to new heights.