Chasing down crooks in high-speed chases, performing death-defying feats of driving, or bringing down entire criminal organisations might be a bit much for your average cop, but Driver: San Francisco’s John Tanner takes it in his stride. As you take control of him and begin your beat on the mean streets of San Francisco, the reason why becomes clear: Tanner’s uncanny ability to “shift” into the body of citizens lets you do things other cops can’t, such as instantly drive any vehicle in the city, coax case clues from criminal passengers, or use cars as battering rams, to name but a few. While the premise behind this ability is ludicrous, it all makes sense as you soar over the living, breathing city for the first time, instantly transporting yourself to new missions and swiftly jumping between cars to take down criminals. Shifting is Driver’s coup de grace; the feature that puts memories of the mediocre Driver 3 to rest and reinvigorates the franchise.
Driver: San Francisco picks up where Driv3r left off; it continues the story of Tanner and criminal mastermind Jericho. After escaping from Istanbul, Jericho takes refuge in San Francisco, only to be tracked down and imprisoned. However, a routine prison transfer gives him the opportunity to escape. Tanner gives chase and–after an explosion-filled action scene of Michael Bay proportions–catches up with the criminal, only to be run down and left in a coma. It’s in Tanner’s coma-induced dreams that Driver takes place; the battle against his coma manifests itself as the hunt for Jericho and real-life news reports on the TV in his hospital room influence his actions. While the narrative is completely implausible and at times downright confusing, it allows Driver to free itself from the shackles of the real world and introduce the unique shift mechanic that underpins the entire game.