Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Game Diary: Driver SF - don't let the ridiculous premise put you off

The Autumn release period is now well under way. In Europe it started with the amazing Xenoblade Chronicles, which I'm now almost 40 hours in.  I have taken a peak at a FAQ to see roughly how far into the game I've got and there's still a ton of content to go. I'm definitely taking my sweet time with it though, for example on Saturday afternoon I spent over an hour just walking around one of the huge towns picking up quests to complete later (to be fair the towns are vast in this game, and you have to explore them at different times to day because the NPC's all keep to their own schedule).  I'll be plugging away at this game gradually for quite some time to come, so I wouldn't expect a review until November at the earliest I would guess.

This past Friday saw the release of Driver: San Francisco.  Now, I must be one of the few people who actually quite enjoyed Driv3r on the last generation of consoles and didn't encounter too many bugs, so my enthusiasm for the franchise hasn't really waned and this game has been on my wanted list since I saw the E3 trailer from a few years back.  When the demo appeared on Xbox Live Marketplace last month I was quick to download it and take the game for a spin.  It was then that I started to get a bit cynical about the game, as Reflections have come up with a ridiculous coma storyline in order to explain away the new body shifting mechanic that plays a huge part in the new game.  I found the idea really naff and almost passed the game up as a result.  However, after a particularly bad day commuting which saw me get home from work at 10:30pm, I decided I was going to buy the game after all to cheer myself up (any excuse for a new game).  I'm very glad I did.

Once you get a little way in the storyline the shifting and coma ridden Tanner stop being an issue (at least for me) and then become the perfect excuse to take on all sorts of wacky side missions and just have fun.  Reflections have very wisely done away with the on foot sections of previous games that never worked very well (I think they fell into the trap of trying to compete with Grand Theft Auto, when they'd have been better off just doing their own thing).  The focus here is very much on driving, and the handling feels great - weighty but still on the arcade side. An old 70's muscle car feels completely different to drive than an Audi RS or a VW Beetle Buggy (my personal favourite), and throwing them around an exaggerated approximation of San Francisco is fantastic fun.

The multiplayer is if anything, even better, with many different modes to enjoy.  Some of them involve using the shift mechanic to stay in contention (Takedown events see cops chasing one player who's been designated as a criminal, and the rozzers can instantly beam themselves into any vehicle, whereas the perp is locked out of shifting and must use all of their skill to frantically escape).  My personal favourite discipline is traditional racing, where up to 8 players take part either in a series of 5 frantic sprint races, or one longer classic race.  There are a ton of tracks and many different vehicle types - although you don't get any choice in which you race, the game chooses at random.  There is also a qualifying round before each main event and there are several different types - smashing objects, jumping, drifting, overtaking and achieving the highest top speed.  I've got pretty good at these race events and consistently place in the top 3.

The one downside about the multiplayer that I can see is the level cap.  It only goes up to 38 and I managed to get to level 16 in just one day, so it won't be very long before I've maxed out.  I don't think there's a Call of Duty style Prestige mode present in this game, unfortunately. Hopefully future DLC will increase this cap at the same time as adding new content.

I also finally got around to picking up a copy of Demon's Souls for the PS3. I had hesitated for so long because I was aware how challenging the game was and it didn't sound like the sort of thing I would be able to get any enjoyment out of.  After hearing how great it is on many different podcasts though, I decided to give it a chance.  Though it certainly is challenging, it isn't unfair and the weighty combat feels really satisfying. I've only managed to get past the very first stage so far, but it would seem that your choice of character class makes quite a difference in how tough you will find the game and magic users get an easier time of it than melee fighters, so I may start again as a Royalist and see how it goes.

I did also buy Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I haven't really played enough of it yet to comment.  I think I will be putting it on hold until I'm done with some of the other games I've started recently.  That's everything for this week - I'll have another post soon which will probably include my thoughts on Star Fox 64 3D.

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