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Driver: San Francisco - More than just a novel mechanic?

The opening two hours test-driven to destruction...

It's novel, we'll give it that. We're playing as a known criminal in the middle of a cop chase through San Francisco rush-hour traffic. Our rad handbraking skills have thrown a couple of cops off our scent, but there's one persistent rozzer who simply won't budge no matter what we try.

After two minutes of drifts and donuts and near-misses the Eureka moment hits: we've been playing it all wrong.

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Driver: San Francisco's races and chases differ from other games by being massively stacked against you. To combat this unfairness you have the power of 'Shift': the ability to remove your consciousness, insert it into someone else's body and take control of their car in the process.

So in the case of our getaway, that means we can leave our vehicle behind and jump into an oncoming bus that we gratefully plough headlong into the cop car. With the nasty business done we leap back to our ride and cruise to the finish point with a smile.

The Driver franchise crashed hard the moment it let you leave your car, but Shift is a great way of delivering the diversity of open world gaming without needing to code bespoke on-foot sections. It's refreshing to take part in a race during which you can leap into other cars and smash up your rivals, although if you leave your vehicle for too long your AI stand-in will fall too far behind to catch up.

Side-missions like these races are necessary to further the story. In a contrived setup, our comatose star Tanner must earn 'Willpower Points' by completing stunt missions and other odd jobs to unlock the next story segment.

Points can be blown on cars and upgrades such as extra toughness and hidden token radars, as well as garages to fast-travel across the city. Crucially, the cars all handle superbly. Reflections makes no secret of the fact that 60s and 70s chase movies are the main inspiration for Driver.

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While we mourn the loss of the original's rolling hubcaps and exploding picket fences the main story feels like a faithful update of the first game. We worry the kooky side-quests might grow tiresome in the long run, but for now we're encouraged by what we've sampled

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