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E3 2011's Most Anticipated: Driver: San Francisco

CVG E3 2011 Awards: Vote for the games that most excite you!

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"The crazy cops jumping over the hills were inspired by The Blues Brothers. Later iterations took the same core inspiration for the car action but added additional ideas from the films of Michael Mann - like The Insider and Collateral - for the way we use music in the games, and particularly editing cutscenes to music.

"Driver: San Francisco is interesting as it retains all of the same inspiration, but I would add one or two more contemporary movies with quality car chases like those in Ronin and the Bourne films."

The Shifting tutorial is one such movie-style street chase. It has you hopping between Tanner's car and that of some fleeing felons, scaring their pants off by forcing them over some steep ramps and even making them go bumper-to-bumper with other police cars to put them in a real fix.

With the Shifting tutorial over, and the crooks in custody, the city's your playground. Tanner's missions and other activities are marked on a map at the top of the screen - an absolutely indispensable tool for getting to know your way around. The missions we choose are a mixture of the hilarious and high-risk.

From ruining a driving lesson to sending traffic into chaos for a nearby news crew, there's as much variety in the tasks as the wheels on offer. Though it might sound like frivolous fun, beating missions feeds into Tanner's tale. Each completed task builds our hero's Will-Power points, leading (presumably) to his eventual recovery in the real-world. And, we're guessing, some Shift-less driving.

A few more Shifts into the main game and several surprises are revealed. By building up Will-Power, new abilities to help Tanner get by and cause mayhem are unlocked. The Ram ability comes first, allowing us to charge up our vehicle and send it lunging forward, becomes nail-biting and terrifying.

Picking out the right engine for the job is crucial and brings a new level of strategy to the game of cat-and-mouse. In this case, the bigger the better, and we manage to Shift into a truck a few streets ahead of the action which we then use to lie in wait for the target.

Once drafting behind it, we're home free, blocking out the competition and sealing a victory by racking up the slip-streaming points. It's much more polished and robust than our last encounter with it and the density and AI of the traffic is striking.

Cars slam-on the brakes with split-second precision and pile-ups are a regular, glorious sight (if a pain in the behind). Learner Driver It's in multiplayer that we realise how important your selection of camera is, too. From the three staple choices of third-person, smashing anything that blocks our way.

Boost does exactly what you'd expect, providing a short, sharp burst of speed that comes in handy for catching up to particularly fast getaway drivers.

These abilities and upgrades are just the tip of the iceberg, apparently. As the first chapter comes to a close (we're told it's around a tenth of the whole game), we're left itching for more mischief and midtown madness. Lucky for us, then, that we can revisit the multiplayer mode we caught a glimpse of last year.

Trail Blazer has you battling other players to draft behind an AI-controlled vehicle on the run through a fixed portion of the city. You can all Shift, of course, which means this is no ordinary survival of the fastest. Blazing a trail through traffic-jammed streets is exhilarating enough as it is but with all four players Shifting between vehicles, it becomes nail-biting and terrifying.

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