E3 2011: Hands-on with Driver: San Francisco

on June 13, 2011 8:30 PM

The fine folks at Ubisoft were gracious enough to give me ample hands-on time with one the central multiplayer modes in their upcoming Driver: San Francisco. It’s basically a Tag mode; one player is “it” and is scoring points, and wants to remain it. Other players are attempting to smash into that player to rob them of the it. Of course, San Francisco changes it up a bit with its own special twist, so read on to see just how much it’s going to change how you play.

The twist that keeps Tag mode from becoming a tedious ring-around-the-rosie for the non-It players is, naturally, San Francisco‘s signature Shift mechanic, something this mode borrows from the main game. Shifting allows any player that isn’t it to immediately jump out of their current vehicle and scan the roadways for another car to commandeer. That means that any time your target is escaping in a super-fast vehicle, you can just jump out and quickly grab yourself one of the cars in the oncoming lane a few hundred yards ahead of them, then swerve in for the collision to steal the It.

It actually works surprisingly well in practice. Shifting feels fluid and picking the right car quickly is pretty easy with just a little practice. It can be just a little awkward at times, since picking the correct type of car is often secondary to finding a car in the right place. There are tons of different cars on the road in this vision of San Francisco, and jumping between them can mean jumping between cars with vastly different speeds and ways of handling. So every once in a while, you’ll pick a semi truck or something similarly unwieldy, so even if you do manage to snag the It, you’ll be a sitting duck for the next guy.

In general, the Tag mode is fun, unpredictable, and easy to play. It remains to be seen whether or not it’ll be the kind of game mode you keep coming back to night after night, but it’s certainly a fun and worthwhile addition to Driver: San Francisco.

Danl is a home-grown Minnesotan gamer, artist, and programmer. He loves rhythm games, RTS, and platformers. He loves building computers, too. His favorite games include Phoenix Wright, Dance Dance Revolution, and Katamari Damacy.