I amaze myself sometimes. For example, this is my first review on YouTube and I'm about to emasculate myself to many of my viewers in the first paragraph. So, here it goes: I'm not that into cars.
Really, I'm not, and that's weird, because I live in the south and I drive a 2010 Mustang. I know how to change my tires and oil, and that's about it. But even though I know how to do those things, I don't. I pay people to do those things, so there's my contribution to the consumer economy.
But anyway, I picked up Driver: San Francisco from my local Red Box after I learned that it deals with Astral-projection and time shifts and other sci-fi, nerdy things that excite me like a new episode of Jersey Shore excites a college freshman.
The game starts off in a particularly clean depiction of San Francisco with two dudes, one white and one black, both with grizzled, 5 o' clock shadows that could cut diamond, driving around in a car that looks suspiciously similar to Starsky's infamous Gran Torino.
The two manly-men are John Tanner and Tobias Jones, respectively. You play Tanner, by the way. They're supposed to be cops, but like all game-protagonist cops, they never wear the uniform and Tanner's exceptional driving skills apparently make him exempt from every traffic law EVER as they drive 180 miles per hour into oncoming traffic and cause millions of dollars in property damage with every 2011 Camero that they smash to bits as they chase down street racers...ironic!
I do have to give the game credit, though, because Tanner's free pass only doesn't make sense for the first 10 minutes of the game, after which he is tossed into a coma from being hit by a truck and you spend the rest of the game in a fictional dream San Francisco, so who cares about traffic laws in a fake world?
Also, Tanner has magically gained the ability to project himself from his car and possess the driver of any car in the city at any time. Believe me when I say that the Astro-projection ability has officially made Driver: San Francisco the most fun driving game I've ever played and certainly the most fun video game I've played in quite a while.
There's nothing quite so satisfying (and downright hilarious) as being in second place in a street race, then projecting yourself into a semi a mile down the road and plowing into the guy in first, allowing your own cheating self to snatch up first place.
That might not sound very sporting-like, but Tanner is a cop at heart, so most of the story missions will involve using his powers for good, which will always mean taking over for a lousy police driver like you're his over-protective mother.
The story missions are interesting and the atmosphere is light. The worst damage you can do to a car is a crunched frame and a ruined engine, so no one ever dies through the course of the game (presumably because most of it takes place in the dream world). Even if you do the typical Grand Theft Auto thing, the one where you try to mow down civilians on the sidewalk, they just jump out of your way like the "force" has granted them visions of the immediate future.
I'd like to say that the game is nicely varied, but we're talking 100 percent commitment to drving. There are certainly plenty of side missions and purchasable vehicles to keep you distracted from the truth that all you do in this game is drive. That, and fly about in your projected form, but the only reason to do that is to possess another driver so that you can drive some more.
Speaking of buying vehicles, I respect the fact that they're all real models from real companies, not that "Bord Rustang," "Farly-Gavidson," trademark-infringement loopholing nonsense that most sandbox games pull to avoid royalties, the conniving cheaters.
That said, the use of real manufacturing companies and their cars makes the game a product-placement bonanza. I couldn't help but notice the abundance of 2011 Cadillacs roaming the streets as opposed to the rare appearance of a sports car from any other company, so I think we know who pitched in the most greenbacks.
All of my complaints are pretty minor, though, and they don't draw away from the overall effect of the game. As I said before, I've never been a fan of driving games, but Driver: San Francisco has made me wonder if perhaps the entire purpose to life really is to spend all my savings on a fast car and drive like a maniac through crowded streets.
Not really, but it's a great game, so pick it up. Parents, be warned: There is some bad language.
My investment suggestion: Rent it. I finished it in three days, and unless cars are your life, there's not much room for replay value. Sure, you could try to get all the trophies and buy all the cars, but it'll quickly become a grind. Personally, I didn't bother. Just appreciate it for what it is and don't try to squeeze it for extra joy.