With Driver's new Life on Mars-influenced storyline and 70s setting Ubisoft could be onto a winner
Back in the original PlayStation days, Driver’s car chases thrilled but then came Grand Theft Auto with its sprawling cities, criminal cool and freedom. Suddenly Driver’s cop focus and disappointing stabs at on-foot action looked old hat.
But now the series has returned to its roots and ditched the running around. In its place is a glorious tribute to the spirit of 70s cop shows such as Starsky & Hutch and The Streets of San Francisco with go-faster stripes, soulful rock ‘n’ roll, ice-cool cop chat and swells of smoke from screeching tyres.
However, the foremost influence here is Life on Mars, so much so that it nicks the TV show’s cop-in-a-coma twist to have you fighting crime in the San Francisco of your subconscious. And where better to set a driving game than San Francisco with its famous hills?
This silly but fun set up also hands you the ability to leave your cop body and possess other drivers at will. A neat trick when chasing crims as you can always commandeer a truck and ram it into them to slow them down.
This ability also means Driver’s 200-odd missions can mix up the action with diversions such as scaring a driving instructor with dangerous driving. The multiplayer games, which range from straightforward races to motorized tag, are also enlivened by it as players hop from car to car to get an edge.
In fact the biggest problem is that its attempt to present itself like a TV cop show is repeatedly undermined by short but irritating pitch-black loading screens. But with its bountiful supply of missions, silly rather than gritty approach and top-notch driving around San Fran on offer, Driver has thrills aplenty.