Sparks will fly in Driver San Francisco on PlayStation 3 – as well as wing mirrors, bumpers, front wings and, often, entire cars. Backwards. For detective John Tanner, his PS3 debut puts him on a full throttle collision course with a criminal mastermind in the ultimate car chase playground: San Francisco.
Drawing on classic Steve McQueen movie Bullitt – set in the same city and featuring one of cinema's most enduring chase sequences – as well as a host of 1970s cop dramas for inspiration, Driver San Francisco feels so authentic you can almost smell the gasoline and burnt rubber.
Alleyways are filled with carelessly dumped cardboard boxes, discarded newspapers flutter in your wake, huge sideways drifts are showcased with grainy camera shots and all the while the sun casts its haze over the City by the Bay. All this would be nothing without the real stars, however, and with well over 100 legendary cars, the cast doesn't disappoint.
Tanner's own bright yellow, 1970 Dodge Challenger shares the road with Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Corvettes and several European supercars, including Maseratis and McLarens. There are nods to another motoring icon, too, with James Bond's famous 1963 Aston Martin DB5 available as part of the Driver San Francisco Collector Edition, while the game's sound effects were recorded at the home of 007, Pinewood Studios in England.
Each of these elements helps Driver San Francisco shift through the gears until the rev counter is in the red. Slip behind the wheel and floor it on PS3.
The thrill of the chase
Smashed into a coma by bitter enemy Charles Jericho at the beginning of Driver San Francisco, undercover cop John Tanner is confined to a hospital bed. Incredibly, Tanner's near-death experience has left him with the unconscious ability to jump – or "shift" – into the body of any driver in the city at will, letting him hunt down Jericho by any means and wheels necessary – on both sides of the law.
Hit the X button and you'll zoom out of your car to an overhead view of the city, its hundreds of cars crawling far below like multicoloured ants, where you can select the next vehicle to take control of. Likewise, story missions and special dares are pinpointed on the map below, giving you complete flexibility in how you play the game.
A giddy checkpoint race across town in bouncing beach buggies might appeal, or you could shift into a police squad car in hot pursuit of illegal street racers. In some missions, you'll need to use the Rapid Shift ability to instantly switch between vehicles to attack multiple targets, such as tankers rigged with explosives or supercars charging at a prison van.
As you rack up the miles across San Francisco's intricate network of roads, ramming villains and screeching round bends at impossibly high speeds, you'll piece together the jigsaw of Jericho's terrifying plan, leaving tyre smoke and the wreckage of defeated criminals behind you.
Breaking the speed limit
Steep hills, busy intersections and swooping highways: Driver San Francisco has all the ingredients needed for breakneck multiplayer racing, without the danger of your licence being revoked.
Ram, swerve and tear through 19 multiplayer modes, including split screen events and frantic online options via PlayStation Network. Work with or against up to seven friends to take criminal gangs or each other down in a range of race types given a strategic twist by the ability to shift into new vehicles at the touch of a button.
In Capture the Flag mode, one team of racers must guard a flag by avoiding the frenzied assaults of a rival group. The problem is, you'll never know where the next battering will come from thanks to your enemies shifting from car to car. Tag mode ditches the flag and stages a destructive game of "it", where one driver must avoid crunching attacks longer than the others to win.
Takedown mode sees cops and robbers spiced up with the ability to shift into any car and transform it into a police cruiser, while Trailblazer mode offers a precision-based challenge in which you must jockey for position behind a pace car through busy streets.
Whichever event you dive into, you'll find the multiplayer modes of Driver San Francisco as varied, immersive and thrilling as those of John Tanner's single player campaign. Simply make your choice and watch gleaming bodywork crumple on PS3.