Driver: San Francisco

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Driver: San Francisco
Driver San Francisco Box Art.jpg
Cover art featuring protagonist John Tanner and his 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T (bottom)
Developer(s)Ubisoft Reflections[a]
  • Martin Edmondson[1]
  • Craig Lawson
  • Marie-Jo Leroux
  • Chris Hadley
  • Gary Ushaw
  • Jean-Sebastien Decant
  • Andrew Willans
  • Dale Scullion
  • Mike Haynes
  • Jack Couve
  • Ian Mayor
  • James Worrall
  • David Midgley
Composer(s)Marc Canham
ReleasePlayStation 3, Wii & Xbox 360
  • AU: 1 September 2011
  • EU: 2 September 2011[2]
  • NA: 6 September 2011[3]
Microsoft Windows
  • EU: 2 September 2011[5]
  • NA: 27 September 2011[4]
  • AU: 29 September 2011
Mac OS X
  • WW: 8 March 2012

Driver: San Francisco is an action-adventure racing video game and the fifth installment in the Driver series. Developed by Ubisoft Reflections and published by Ubisoft, it was released in September 2011 for the PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows, with an edition for Mac OS X in March 2012. The game sees players traversing a fictional version of San Francisco and the Bay area conducting missions through the use of licensed real-world cars, with the ability to shift into any car in the game's setting in most platform editions. The game's main story sees players controlling John Tanner, a police detective, who falls into a coma pursuing his nemesis Charles Jericho following a prison breakout after the events of Driver 3 (Driv3r), and finds himself piecing together his plan in a dream world while it is happening in real life.

The game received favourable reviews upon its release, with the exception of the Wii edition which received mixed reviews. A mini-comic series was released which provides plot details of the events between Driv3r and San Francisco, with the game receiving a collector's edition that includes additional multiplayer vehicles and single-player events.

On 9 December 2016 the game was unlisted from online stores and became unavailable for purchase; one online petition is on going at to request Ubisoft to make Driver: San Francisco available again.[6]


In San Francisco, players can shift to any car at any time. For the first time in the series, the game features licensed cars.

A new feature is Shift, which allows Tanner to teleport from one car to another without discontinuing the mission.[7] One of the inspirations for Shift comes from Google Earth.[7] The game was also described as a "return to the roots" of the series as the ability to get out of the car, which was introduced in Driver 2, was removed and replaced with the ability to Shift (teleport) into other cars, as the developers felt that too many games had this kind of feature already and "it wasn't desirable [for us] to just copy that exact mechanic."[7][8] With Shift, the player can also start missions. As well as the ability to use Shift, all cars are equipped with a 'boost' feature, requiring the player to push up on the left thumbstick to use it. Players can also push L1 on the PlayStation 3 or the left shoulder button on the Xbox 360 version of the game to perform a special 'ram' attack on cars. The film director mode, which was absent from Parallel Lines, also returns, and players can share their videos on the Driver Club website.[7] The game runs at 60 frames per second.[9]


Split screen and online multiplayer are also available for the first time in the series with 19 different game modes including trailblazer, tag, sprint GT, cops and robbers, among others. In Trail Blazer, the players have to follow the trail of an AI-controlled car to accumulate points. The player who accumulates more points will win the match. The Tag game mode is similar to regular tag, but in reverse. All the players are trying to "tag," or hit, one player. Once he is hit, the person who tagged him is now it.[8][10] The multiplayer will also have experience points.[11]


San Francisco is unique from other games in the series, in that the game features licensed real-life cars. The game includes 140 fully damageable licensed vehicles ranging from buggies, muscle cars, and sport cars including Chevrolet, Audi, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Ruf Automobile, Dodge, Ford, McLaren, Hummer, Shelby, Volkswagen, Pagani, Lincoln, DeLorean, Lamborghini, and Cadillac.[12]

Wii version[edit]

The Wii version of the game does not include the "Shift" mechanic but allows players to use guns while driving. The SMG, the pistol, the shotgun, the assault rifle and the RPG are all the weapons available in the game. All weapons can be upgraded in the following categories: clip size, reload speed, and damage. There is a maximum of four levels for each upgrade. Upgrade points can be earned by doing various tricks and earning awards around the city. A new feature for the Wii is the localized multi-player, where a second player may take control of the gun or, if they desire, can connect a DS, DSi or 3DS system through download play. The DS device can be used to make roadblocks, look for police and buy player 1 some more time through playing various mini games. There is also a four player split-screen multiplayer. The split screen mode includes four game variants. The variants are Capture the flag, in which the players must grab a flag and drive it to a specific location, Pass the Bomb, in which players must pass a bomb from car to car before a timer counts down, ending the game, Gold Rush, in which the players must grab a bag of money and hold on to it for points, and elimination, in which players must race each other. There is also a cops and robbers split screen mode.



The game's setting focuses on a fictionalized version of San Francisco, and surrounding regions of Marin County and Oakland, recreating the geography, generalized layout of the city, and notable landmarks including the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge. The recreation features around 208 miles (335 km) of roads,[8][10] though the amount of roads and territory in the setting is reduced in the Wii edition, as the main bridges of the city are blocked.[10] The events of the game take place six months after the events of Driv3r; a mini-comic series provides background on events during the six-month period.


Following successful surgery that saves the life of both himself and John Tanner, an undercover FBI agent, notorious crime kingpin Charles Jericho escapes his custody in a Turkish hospital and flees back to the United States. Tanner, alongside his partner Tobias Jones, manages to locate and arrest him six months later in San Francisco. On the day of his trial for multiple homicides and drug trafficking, Jericho stages a breakout from his prison convoy, overpowering his guards and eliminating the police escort. While monitoring the convoy's route, Tanner and Jones witness the breakout and pursue after him after he takes control of his prison van. When they lose sight of Jericho in an alley, they soon find themselves being pursued by him down it. Tanner does his best to outrun him, but is forced into a street of heavy traffic that results in a devastating crash, putting him in a coma.[7][10]

Moments later, Tanner awakens in his car with Jones, finding everything seeming to be back to normal, despite the fact that Jericho is still on the loose. As he pursues after him with Jones, Tanner finds himself hearing voices in his head regarding an accident. When the pair track down the missing prison van, abandoned by Jericho, Tanner finds himself suddenly disappearing from his car and reappearing in the driver's seat of an ambulance carrying a critically injured patient. To his shock, he learns he is actually inhabiting the body of the ambulance's driver, and soon questions about what happened when he eventually returns to his own body. Tanner soon discovers he has an ability that lets him "shift" into another person's body, appearing and sounding like them but retaining his own memories and skills. Deciding to use this to his advantage, Tanner begins helping people across the city while deducing Jericho's plan following his breakout.

Tanner begins to discover that Jericho is after materials to create a chemical weapon, intending to hold the city hostage with it. Deciding to infiltrate his organization and prevent his plan, Tanner inhabits the body of a small-time crook, but quickly finds out Jericho knows it is him, and is horrified to find him able to not only shift as well, but able to possess his body, forcing him to combat his actions. As things around him begin to grow more bizarre, Tanner eventually discovers that he has been in a dream world for the entire duration since the crash – the Jericho he has been facing was in reality a version created from his memories, with his actions influenced by Tanner's subconscious reacting to news flashes being broadcast from a television in his hospital room. As Tanner combats the dream Jericho in order to regain control and end his coma, the detective realises that Jericho's plan in the real world goes against his character, and suspects that he is plotting something else.

Upon finally awakening from his coma, Tanner informs Jones, who had been keeping watch on him, that Jericho is hoaxing a bomb threat in the city's downtown district to conceal a major crime. Jones reluctantly trusts his partner, and hands the key to his car, allowing him to go after Jericho. Tanner's deduction proves correct when an explosion that seems chemical is in reality a large-scale smokescreen. Jericho's actual plan was to conceal the breakout of another inmate from the prison he was held within, having agreed to the job in exchange for $30 million. Tanner soon finds and pursues Jericho, leading to a confrontation between the two at a dockside warehouse. Before Tanner can properly engage him in a game of chicken, intending to defeat him in a head-on collision, Jones arrives and rams Jericho from the side, incapacitating him. Although Tanner claims that he knew what he was doing, Jones reminds him whose car he was driving, before suggesting they go get a well-deserved beer.

Nintendo Wii[edit]

The plot of the Wii version of Driver: San Francisco is a different story and the story is a prequel to the original Driver. It features John Tanner as a rookie undercover cop. Tanner and his partner, Alvarez are chasing the gangster Solomon Caine when they get into a car crash. Alvarez is killed and Tanner goes undercover to find his killer. He is accompanied by Tobias Jones, who Tanner dislikes at first. Tanner gains the trust of a gang run by Caine and does various jobs for him. He also ends up setting two rival gangs, the Dog Fish and the Dragon Ladies, up against each other to create a market for military-grade arms. Later on, Tanner must pick up a member of Caine's gang, known as "the Geek" to help them steal back confiscated weapons. Tanner's identity is foiled when the Geek recognizes him as a cop who put him away before and alerts the others. Tanner is then held captive by Caine's crew.

Meanwhile, Jones and the other officers believe Tanner is dead until they get a tip about his location. Jones saves Tanner from nearly being killed. Tanner now knows who Alvarez's killer is and Caine's plans. They end up trapping one of his gang members and talking to a witness for information on a weapons drop. Once they get the intel, they set up a fake drop to arrest Caine. Tanner and Jones then take down a convoy of weapons trucks before they reach their buyers. When they return to the drop, Caine escapes again but Tanner tracks him down and arrests him again. When they take him to the police precinct, Caine's gang members save him. Tanner and Jones then use a police helicopter to chase him. Caine is finally captured when a helicopter he gets into crashes on Alcatraz Island.

In the end, Caine is convicted of murdering Alvarez and arms-dealing. He is sentenced to life in prison, but he manages to escape and departs to Chicago. Elsewhere, Jones suggests to Tanner a beer and the two race back to the police headquarters.


The game was in development for around five years.[13] A new game in the series was confirmed to be in production at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show when Sony announced a list of 102 that would be released on the PlayStation 3.[14] Ubisoft later confirmed a new game in the series after acquiring the series from Atari.[15] In June 2008, the BBC conducted reports on the computer game industry,[16] among those reports were in-game, and development footage of the next Driver game.[17] On 21 April 2009, Ubisoft registered the trademark Driver: The Recruit.[18] In January 2010, it was confirmed that a new Driver game was in development and due for release in Ubisoft's fiscal year ending in March 2011.[19]

On 23 April 2010, Ubisoft registered the domain as well as and, suggesting that San Francisco was the setting of the new game in the series.[20][21] On 27 May 2010, Ubisoft confirmed that the next installment in the Driver series would appear on E3 2010, along with other games.[22][23] On 7 June 2010, Ubisoft released a teaser website containing a live action trailer, resembling the first mission of the original Driver game, along with a countdown for Ubisoft's E3 2010 conference.[24][25]

Ubisoft also created the game's Facebook page, which, upon clicking in the "Like" button, opens a slightly different version of the trailer, showing a Californian driver license of John Tanner.[26][27] A billboard at the LA Convention Center for E3 revealed the title of the new game to be Driver: San Francisco.[28] Ubisoft officially announced the game on their E3 2010 conference.[29] On 12 November 2010 the game had been delayed and would be released in FY 2012, which was between 31 March 2011 and the same date in 2012.[30]

Reflections founder and series creator Martin Edmondson, returned to Reflections after he temporarily left the game industry in 2004. The game was developed by five Ubisoft studios with Reflections as the lead, and four other developers: Vancouver, Kiev, Shanghai and Montreal.[31] Ubisoft released a free DLC, with 12 new routes for all online modes on 12 September.[32]

On 15 July 2011 Ubisoft announced that all of their future games with online functionality would require "Uplay Passport" online pass. Driver: San Francisco would be the first in line to utilize this feature.[33] However, due to misprinted codes, which left players who bought new copies of the game unable to play online, the online pass was waived for the Xbox 360 version.[32]


The game's audio was mixed at Pinewood Studios, which is known for the James Bond film franchise.[34] The game includes 60 licensed songs, an original score from Marc Canham along with a new version of the Driver theme by Canham.[35] The OST is mixed and produced by Rich Aitken at Nimrod. On 30 August, the soundtrack was confirmed with 76 songs with genres like funk, hip hop, electronic, alternative rock and hard rock from artists such as Aretha Franklin, Dr. John, DJ Shadow, The Black Keys, The Cure, Beastie Boys, Queens of the Stone Age, The Heavy, Unkle, and Elbow. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions support custom soundtracks which allows the player to listen to their own music during gameplay.[36]


Comic mini-series[edit]

A comic book mini-series published by Wildstorm Productions based on the game was released. The storyline takes place after the events of Driv3r and before San Francisco, and focuses on Tanner's personal vengeance against Jericho: the mini-series was written by David Lapham and illustrated by Greg Scott. The first issue was released on August 2011 and a preview entitled The Pursuit of Nothingness was available on Comic-Con 2010.[37]

Collector's edition[edit]

A collector's edition was also available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows versions of the game for PAL territories only. The pack includes an 18×9×9 cm replica of a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Six Pack, a map of San Francisco detailing the in-game location of the 80 dares scattered across the city, three exclusive in-game cars for multiplayer mode including 1963 Aston Martin DB5, 1972 Lamborghini Miura, and 1966 Shelby Cobra 427, 4 single player challenges: Mass Chase – a wrongfully accused driver attempts to escape the whole police force of San Francisco and prove his innocence; Relay Race – change car between laps to win race; Russian Hill Racers – Race against 3 supercars in the famous district; Taxi – Race against other taxis in Downtown.[38]


Review scores
PCPS3WiiXbox 360
Game InformerN/A8/10[42]N/A8/10[42]
GameProN/A4/5 stars[43]N/A4/5 stars[43]
Giant BombN/A4/5 stars[47]N/A4/5 stars[47]
JoystiqN/AN/AN/A4.5/5 stars[50]
Nintendo PowerN/AN/A4.5/10[51]N/A
OXM (US)N/AN/AN/A7.5/10[52]
PC Gamer (UK)80%[53]N/AN/AN/A
The Daily TelegraphN/AN/AN/A4/5 stars[55]
The GuardianN/A4/5 stars[56]N/AN/A
Aggregate score

The game has received "generally favorable reviews" on all platforms except the Wii version, which received "mixed" reviews, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[57][58][59][60] In Japan, Famitsu gave the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions a score of three eights and one nine for a total of 33 out of 40.[61]

The Daily Telegraph gave the Xbox 360 version a score of four stars out of five, saying: "Delivered with wit and panache, Driver San Francisco works because it's daft, rather than in spite of it. And if it proves anything, it's that having conviction in your ideas --any ideas-- can bring a refreshing new twist to an ailing series and genre."[55] The Guardian gave the PS3 version a similar score of four stars out of five and said, "It's not perfect – the storyline is a bit perfunctory, its free-form style can be illusory when it forces you to perform certain missions and it gets a bit repetitious in the latter stages. But it's a joyous sandbox in which you can drive like a lunatic, in exotic machinery that you might never even clap your eyes on in real life, without hurting anyone."[56] However, The Digital Fix gave the same console version seven out of ten, saying that it "isn't always executed perfectly but it is a whole heap of fun and deserves some credit for being genuinely different."[62]


The game won the Best Driving Game of E3 2010 award from Ripten.[63] The game also received a nomination from Kotaku.[64] During E3 2011 it also received a Best Racing Game award from Machinima Inc. and nominations from G4 and Game Critics Awards.[65][66][67] Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, creator of Zero Punctuation, placed it as his second favorite game of 2011.[68]


Ubisoft announced in its fall 2011 quarterly financial report that sales of Driver: San Francisco had exceeded their targets.[69]


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  1. ^ Additional work was provided by Ubisoft Annecy, Ubisoft Vancouver, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Porto Alegre (Wii version), and Ubisoft Kiev (PC version)

External links[edit]