Remember It? If you're one of our American users, you may know the game as Tag. Or if you're from one of the more remote corners of Papua New Guinea, you may know it (It) as "The Great Ritual of the Swooping Bird Who Must Pursue the Nimble Hare Until He Falls and is Robbed of Life." But that last version works a bit differently; in fact, under certain conditions the other player becomes your wife. I think.
In any case, there's a riff on It in Driver: San Francisco's multiplayer mode, in the guise of Tag matches. It's slightly different to the old game, in that once you become It you're the one who's chased: you gain a point for each second you remain tagged, but if one of your rivals touch you the power transfers to them.
Oh, and what with this being a Driver game, the entire thing plays out in vehicles, with the participants racing across Frisco in a selection of ludicrously fast sports cars. Think of the kids you used to play It with in the playground, then imagine that they've grown up, clothed themselves in hoodies, and started hotwiring cars across the city.
The spirit of the playground really is alive and well in the frantic chases of a decent Tag match, with upwards of six cars (there'll be more in the final build) fish-tailing across the roads, scattering pedestrians, and bouncing off the scenery in a frenzied bid to attain scoring status. Naturally there's a fair dose of Destruction Derby in there too, though if you're expecting an easy arcade-style drive you're in for a surprise: the combination of super-fast motors and a surprisingly sim-like handling makes for a demanding experience - especially given the constant pressure of the scoring arrangement.
Crucial to the whole affair is Shift - the key mechanic for Driver: San Francisco as a whole. Regardless of how you feel about the wacko narrative justification for this device, it certainly allows the chases to maintain a fiercely relentless pace. As we've described in our last preview, Shift allows players to hop from car to car as they see fit. You can roam the open world and carefully select your vehicle of choice, or you can skip straight to the first available car that's closest to the tagged player. As a result, the chasing pack is rarely more than a second or two behind their desperate quarry.
Quick though the mechanic may be, it still takes a second to transition from one car to another and assume control, and often that's all the time required for your target to get away.
A sneakier tactic is to jump to the tagged player, assume control of a vehicle further down the road, and to immediately veer sideways as soon as you take the wheel. You won't have time to see what you're doing, but with a bit of luck you'll steer straight into the path of the oncoming player. Get it right and they'll smash into you, tagging you in the process; get it wrong, and they'll sail straight past you - but even with a cooldown timer attached to your Shifting ability, you'll be able to launch a fresh attack mere moments later.
If you do manage to tag yourself you'll be granted a few seconds of invulnerability, but they don't last long.
It's worth restating that the entire open world is available for Driver's multiplayer, and while the single player's 60 FPS frame rate is halved the action remains swift and smooth. There will be 11 modes in total in the final game, with eight available for offline play. I've not tried the other modes, but in Tag Ubisoft Reflections has certainly found a compelling set of dynamics. It's chaotic, demanding, and worryingly moreish.
And unlike It, you won't end up in detention for playing rough.