Driver: San Francisco goes retro in this new trailer

driver san francisco trailer sfOver the last few incarnations of the series, the Driver franchise seemed to have lost its way. It just couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. After the first few games carved a bit of a niche with mission based driving that teetered on the insane (you kidnap the president in one game and have to avoid the somewhat irritated Secret Service), the franchise then styled itself as something closer to Grand Theft Auto. Besides some questionable controls in the driving missions, and putting aside the broken combat physics, the game just seemed to forget to have fun. It tried to go dark, and that was a mistake for the franchise.

Ubisoft seems to have recognized that, and the new Driver: San Francisco has done away with the GTA-like sections on foot, moved beyond the ultra-serious plotline, and is taking the franchise in a new direction. The gameplay will feature driving physics that are grounded in a sense of logic as well–they won’t play like a driving simulator, but they will all make sense in the context of the game whether you are in a super car or a truck.

The biggest addition though is the “shift” mechanic, which allows you to jump from one car to another on the fly. It is an amazingly fun addition, both in the hectic multiplayer and the mission-based objectives, but it also makes no logical sense at all.

So Ubisoft did the right thing and tailored the game’s tone to the shift mechanic. Rather than an ultra-gritty crime setting, the game harkens back to the detective shows and movies of the late 60s and 70s, like Bullit, Streets of San Francisco and Mannix. With that retro style comes a sense of over-the-top action that just works for the game.

We had a chance to play Driver: San Francisco at E3 in 2010 and again this year, and we liked it enough to award it our Best of E3: Best Racing Game out of a surprisingly crowded field of contenders.

Check out the trailer below for a look at the gameplay options, as well as a hint of the style you can expect when Driver: San Francisco is released on August 30 for Mac, PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii.