Driver: San Francisco
By Chad Sapieha,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Open world racer with mild adult themes and a novel twist.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
This game glorifies high speed urban driving. The majority of the game takes place inside a coma patient's dream and is clearly fantasy (your avatar's spirit can shift from the body of one driver to another), but it makes street races and chases look fun and depicts little in the way of the significant consequences often involved in car crashes.
Positive Role Models
Your hero is a police officer chasing down a criminal maniac. However, he shows little regard for the pedestrians in his way while driving (even though he never actually strikes any of them), nor does he show remorse over the trouble he may cause for the hosts whose bodies he takes over when shifting from one car to another.
Ease of Play
Driving mechanics are standard, and the game's novel "shift" ability, which allows players to instantly move from one car to another, is easy to understand and use. Some activities are more challenging than others, but players typically have a wide array of missions to choose from, which should keep frustration from setting in.
Violence & Scariness
Players frequently cause car crashes that result in wrecked vehicles and explosions. An accident near the beginning of the story places the game's protagonist in a coma, with cuts and bruises apparent on his face. While the city's streets are packed with civilians, they always manage to leap out of the way of oncoming cars.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Infrequent references to sex and sexuality. Examples include: "fine looking woman," "strippers," and "she likes it rough."
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Light profanity peppers the game's dialogue. The worst words heard are "s--t" and "a--hole."
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Products & Purchases
Real-world cars and car manufacturer brands appear in the game, with players able to purchase specific models from their garage.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A couple of characters briefly reference illicit substances, using phrases such as "drug-trafficking."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Driver: San Francisco is an open world action racing game that puts players in the shoes of a police officer hunting down an escaped criminal maniac. While the majority of the game is presented as fantasy -- the action occurs inside a coma patient's dream -- car accidents happen frequently and rarely show the sort of consequences typically involved in high speed chases. Adult narrative content, including profanity and references to sexuality and drugs, is mild and infrequent. Parents should note that this game supports online play with open voice communication, a feature that Common Sense Media does not recommend for pre-teens.
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Driver: San Francisco
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What’s It About?
The latest entry in Ubisoft's long-running action racing series, DRIVER: SAN FRANCISCO's story heads in an original direction right off the bat by placing the majority of the game inside a coma patient's dream. The franchise's hero, undercover cop John Tanner, gets into a major accident while chasing an escaped criminal maniac and suddenly finds himself in a realistic dream in which he's still chasing after his suspect. But there's a twist: He can instantly \"shift\" to the bodies of other drivers on the road, taking control of their vehicles at will. This new ability comes in handy not just in story missions, but also in side challenges that allow players to do everything from moving between police cars involved in high speed chases to taking control of criminals' cars. The action extends beyond the single-player story to 11 online multiplayer modes that accommodate up to eight players each.
Is It Any Good?
It's hard to stand out in the crowded genre of open world driving games, but Driver: San Francisco does just that with its undeniably original "shift" ability, which promotes fast-paced play and creates some very unusual play scenarios, such as using multiple cars in a single chase. It also keeps players from wasting time finding new missions by allowing them to hover above the city to easily find cars with icons denoting a new activity. Gorgeous graphics -- particularly during in-game cinematic sequences -- are just the icing on top.
However, hardcore racing fans might find the action and driving physics to be a little too arcade-like, or unrealistic. Cars quickly recover from devastating crashes and can take turns at wildly high speeds. Plus, most of the city roads are a lot wider than they would be in reality, likely to help keep rookie players on the road rather than smashing into the buildings that line the streets. Still, anyone looking for some easily digestible racing action with a fun, novel twist probably won't be disappointed.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about online safety. What precautions do you take when playing games with strangers over the Internet? How can you tell if they mean you harm? Have you considered playing online with voice communication disabled?
Parents who have teens learning to drive may want to consider a study that suggests playing some racing games can lead to taking more driving risks in real life and share it with their children.
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
- Available online?: Not available online
- Publisher: UbiSoft
- Release date: September 6, 2011
- Genre: Racing
- ESRB rating: T for Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence
- Last updated: August 29, 2016
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