Last month at E3 one of the first things that really took us by surprise was the sheer volume of racing games that were coming out. Forza 4, Need for Speed, Ridge Racer and more were waiting to display themselves around every corner, and they all had something specific going for them, some gimmick or catch that set them apart. But of them all, Driver: San Francisco was our favorite and the winner of our Best of E3 Driving Game Award. The main reason for that was the “shift” mechanic.
Driver: San Francisco is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is a racing and driving game, not a simulator, so it is not constrained by the same rules that more realistic titles are. And that is where shift comes in.
The shift mechanic is an integral part of the game, and one that you will need to quickly become acquainted with in order to succeed. When you are in one car, either in a mission or just driving around, you can lift yourself up and look at the map, then use shift to jump into any other car you see. For example, if you are in a mission where you need to stop a fast car, you can shift into a faster car to peruse, or even shift into oncoming traffic to cause a head-on collision. If you have time, you could even cause multiple wrecks in order to form a road block of destruction.
As you progress through the game, you will earn more shift powers through completing objectives and pulling off memorable driving moves. In that, the shift meter is a de facto experience gage, and you will need to earn upgrades for it.
It is also a major part of the multiplayer experience, and one of the best competitive games Driver: SF has is a tag-based game where the person that is “it” will be on the run, as the other drivers continually shift into nearby cars to try and strike the target car and become “it” themselves. It was frantic, slightly insane and one of the most fun original multiplayer experiences at E3.
Check out the video from developer Ubisoft Reflections discussing the shift mechanic, and look for Driver: San Francisco on Mac, PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii on August 30.