It’s fair to say that Driver 3 wasn’t very well received a few years ago. Now Ubisoft are publishing the game with Reflections still at the helm on the development side of things and the good news is this game gripped me from start to finish and just got better and better the more I played it.
You still play as Detective John Tanner and as arch-criminal Jericho is on his way to jail after he was caught in Driver 3, the escort is attacked and he manages to escape. Unfortunately you also get caught in the carnage and then things get really weird. You see, the game’s only actually played in San Francisco at the very beginning and end of the game.
The rest of it is played inside the imagination of Tanner as he’s lying in a coma in a hospital bed. His struggle with Jericho in the game is actually his internal fight to gain consciousness! I know it sounds ridiculous but it actually gives a genuinely different spin on things and opens up the game to let you do a whole load of original things.
For a start, you can teleport into the heads of other people in other cars, taking in a snapshot of what they’re up to – a bit like Scott Bakula in Quantum leap only not as early 90s. You can then take on all sorts of missions as these people such as performing stunts, scaring driving instructors, going on street races or capturing criminals as the police. Do a few of these missions and you can then do a Tanner mission to progress the story. There are also tonnes of blue icons scattered about the maps which include garages you can buy to access hundreds of licensed cars, dares to increase your willpower which can be used as currency for upgrades and more races to try out. You see all these from an out-of-body perspective as you float above San Francisco and choose the next car you want to leap into.
Handling of the cars varies depending on what you’re driving but oddly, the Dodge Charger you drive as Tanner is one of the worst to control. Get into one of the sports cars however and things move at a hell of a pace. Just make sure you change the controls from default because using the left stick you steer with to also boost can be a little tricky.
The game runs very smoothly and in an open environment like this, graphics are bound to take a hit. However, the textures on the faces during dialogue are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game. Voice acting is also top notch and there are some genuinely funny moments in the game when you take on the personas of other drivers and their passengers wonder why you’re acting all weird.
I raced through the story pretty quickly because it’s genuinely intriguing but didn’t see much value in playing through all the extra missions on the huge map or in directing my own movies. Still, the option’s there so if you’re into that kind of thing then fill your boots. The game also boasts multiplayer modes, challenges and split screen so if you want more than just a story that’s also there for you.
Think of it like a cross between Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Burnout Paradise. Both individual games do their thing better but Driver: San Francisco is a happy medium with a reason to be driving about – even though it’s all happening in your head. It gets an excellent 8 out of 10.
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