Ok, so you know all about John Tanner's coma and his rather interesting shift powers, you've heard about the innovative multiplayer the mechanic permits, and you've seen the first 15 minutes of the game in action. What you need to know now is what to expect from Driver San Francisco in terms of its missions - the bread and butter of the experience.
After realising he has the ability to possess the drivers of any vehicle in San Francisco, Tanner decides to take his new powers for a spin. Early on in the game, he shifts into the body a young chap in the midst of a driving lesson. The instructor - an arrogant old swine who seems to take great pleasure in his student's inability behind the wheel - manages to quickly get on the wrong side of Tanner, and so the wheelman decides to have a little fun. By driving through oncoming traffic, catching air-time, and generally driving like a loon, the idea is to send the instructor's heart beat soaring.
Elsewhere in the city, you can hop into the van of a television crew, who require exciting footage of fast cars, reckless drifts and police chases. By shifting into the appropriate cars, you can ensure all of this unfolds right in front of the cameras.
Jumping into the body of yet another driver, Tanner finds himself gearing up for a street race. Here, a young Chinese man has bet all his money on the race, hoping to fund his brother's college fees. With Tanner behind the wheel, winning isn't so difficult, and the pair scoop up the prize money without too much trouble.
Missions like these - those at a tangent to the main story - are known as City Missions. Often you'll have to complete two or three of them before cracking on with the story. Story missions tie into Tanner's hunt for Jericho, who escaped from prison at the start of the game. Quite what happened to Jericho in the real world remains to be seen, but you'd hope that all the detective work done in the coma isn't utterly pointless. This is one of my biggest fears about the game, in fact; ensuring there's a point to everything that plays out in Tanner's subconscious.
Tanner's partner, Tobias Jones, doesn't believe what's happening to his buddy - and who can blame him? Possessing the drivers of other cars? What a ridiculous claim to make! So Tanner decides to prove it. An erratic driver further up the road catches the detective's attention, and Tanner makes a prediction: next, he's going to use a transport lorry as a ramp. "Whatever..." says Jones.
Tanner shifts into the body of 'the jackass', and sends the car flying off the ramp. "You get a tip off or something!?" says Jones, still thinking his partner has a screw loose. Next, Tanner predicts the jackass will catch the attention of the Police, and proceeds to shift back into the car, ramming it into the back of a nearby cop car. "Anybody could have guessed that guy would catch the attention of the police!" says Jones.
To prove his powers once and for all, Tanner predicts the guy will attach himself to a pick-up truck - and shifts into the car to do just that. Jones is forced to believe his partner after this point, and makes a joke about what Tanner does when he shifts into the body of an attractive lady...
Outside of all this, there are checkpoint races, stunt dares to undertake, and a garage chock full of cars to unlock. Although there's a pleasant amount of variation to driving about San Francisco, forcing the player to undertake side-quests doesn't sit particularly well with me. If you want to crack on with the story, you should be able to do just that - side quests are side quests after all, and should be optional. That said, these City Missions I've played have been enjoyable, and offer an opportunity to earn extra Willpower which can then be spent on new vehicles and upgrades.
I've played the first two hours of the game now, and - even a few months away from launch - it's looking good. The car handling is excellent and a silky-smooth 60 frames-per-second (in single-player only; multiplayer halves it to 30fps) really works in the game's favour. Look out for a review around the same time the game launches in early September.
Driver San Francisco is due for release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii on September 2