We’ve already had some hands-on time with the latest in Ubisoft’s Driver series, but this was our first chance to sit down with the game’s myriad multiplayer modes. While pretty much every racing game has some sort of generic race against the other guy multiplayer these days, we were excited to see that Driver SF is bucking the trend by integrating the innovative Shift feature into game modes with other people.
For those unfamiliar, the Shift feature gives you the ability to warp out of whatever car you’re driving, enter a God Mode perspective, and then transfer into any other car you see roaming the streets. Imagine you’re the ghost of a bitter car mechanic, killed by a reckless driver on their cellphone, who’s out for revenge. Coincidentally, keep an eye out for my new summer blockbuster, in theatres soon!
Here’s a look at some of the more memorable modes we played:
As the title suggests, this mode has players chasing the “It” car, touch the “It” car and you’re “It”. The winner is the player that can stay “It” the longest, which is easier said than done when you’re the sole target of your enemies. This was a good mode to get accustomed to the Shift feature, as it really stressed that Shifting after a crash or spin out was much faster than trying to recover and catch up like a traditional racing game. The Shift ability adds an almost FPS quality to the game, as learning to swing the Shift reticule around and lead your target is incredibly important in these multiplayer modes. Being able to quickly swap out of a car and time it correctly so that you can block/ram your target takes some practice and is essential to good play.
The players follow a pace car that has two yellow streams trailing behind it, and players must jockey for position behind the car, as remaining in the streams awards the player points. The pace car travels at a steady speed, so this mode rewards precision driving more than raw speed, though Shifting into an enormous fire truck did allow us to briefly get a leg up by knocking the other players out from behind the pace car. Interestingly, the pace car itself is totally indestructible and immovable, if you try and ram it or block it, it steamrolls right through you. As much as we enjoyed this mode, we did end up feeling a little like a bunch of groupies at an R. Kelly show; aggressively fighting over who got to get the yellow stream sprayed all over them.
While it’s a familiar mode to gamers, cops chasing a getaway driver, the twist here is that the cops can Shift, but the car they Shift into becomes a cop car itself, a la The Agents from The Matrix. This gives the robber a little advantage, as he gets to drive a slightly faster, slightly more nimble vehicle, while the cops are stuck in the ho-hum squad cars. The robber must survive for a set amount of time while hitting checkpoints and avoiding the black and whites, while the cops must slam into the getaway driver until his health bar is depleted. This mode is another one where learning the timing of the Shift ability is really important; being able to lead your target is essential, as if you Shift too soon or too late, you’ll miss your chance to smash into the target.
Capture the Flag was probably the most hectic of the modes we played, as it involved eight players, two teams, and a constantly changing flag bearer. Players are allowed to Shift in this mode as long as they aren't holding the flag; flag bearers can’t shift and get a visible health bar. Once the flag bearer gets smashed hard enough, he’s forced into Shift mode and drops the flag. Anyone can pick it up at this point, and the resulting chaos to grab it is always entertaining. Flag holders seem to have little health in this mode, so it’s essential that the teammates help escort the flag bearer, lest he get annihilated by the opposing team.
Each team must then get the flag to their respective drop point, which are conveniently located on completely opposite sides of the map. This makes the game a huge battle of tug and war between the two teams, as any good CTF match should be.
While not all of Driver SF’s multiplayer modes involve the Shift mechanic, there’s more than 10 to choose from, and the game modes really work with what could have been an extremely imbalanced feature. We’ll admit that we only rarely spend our personal time on most racing games’ multiplayer modes, but Driver: SF and its unique Shift feature have piqued our interest. Driver: San Francisco is set to release August 30th, in North America, and September 2nd in the EU.
Jul 14, 2011