If it's crap ... We'll tell you
You know, today is just missing something. I can't quite put my finger on it. Coffee? No. More news about the PSN outage? Nah, that's not it either. I know! Car chases through the streets of San Francisco.
I'm getting too old for this shit.
You know, I don't know what it is about a car chase with a Dodge Charger, rock and roll, and cheesy one-liners that just gets me going. Even though I've never been what you would call a 'car guy', there's something about watching an American Muscle Car bouncing around the streets of San Francisco that just never fails to put a smile on my face. But anyone can produce a good trailer; the real question is whether Driver: SF can pull this ailing series out of obscurity or whether we're in for one more disappointment.
Games like this are a truly tricky proposition. It should be the easiest formula in the world: mix some crime drama with fast racing action and voila! Instant success. But while some games like GTA, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, and Burnout have managed to catch the basic tenants of this formula, others like the Wheelman have completely missed the mark. What's a developer to do? Do you skew in the direction of realism, punishing every missed turn with failure, or simplify and risk putting off hardcore driving enthusiasts? It looks like Ubisoft has picked a little bit for Column A and a little from Column B. Behold: the Shift System.
What is this ominous sounding feature? Well, the developers have decided that instead of rewarding a wrong turn or crash with instant failure that the player will be able to 'Shift' from car to car. Basically, in a plot point that's too stupid to even mention, Tanner has the ability to teleport from car to car in an ever-widening range. This ability has a cooldown, so it won't be something players can use to insta-win, but it will at least keep instant failure from setting in every time you make a mistake. But does this system stretch the limits of disbelief too far? In a game which seems couched in a fair amount of reality, will such a feature work without completely ruining the tension of the chase? Most important of all, why doesn't Tanner just shift into Jericho's car and run it off a bridge?
Only time will tell. In the meantime ... well Bullitt ain't going to watch itself.
For those who want to see more of the Shift System here's the 2010 E3 demo.