Driver: San Francisco

Common Sense Media says

Open world racer with mild adult themes and a novel twist.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

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.     


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. 


Infrequent references to sex and sexuality. Examples include: "fine looking woman," "strippers," and "she likes it rough."


Light profanity peppers the game’s dialogue. The worst words heard are "s--t" and "a--hole."


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."

Privacy & safety

Creates privacy concerns: The game supports online play with open voice communication so players may hear coarse language and be asked questions that are inappropriate.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.  

Families can talk 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.

Game details

Platforms:Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Available online?Not available online
Release date:September 6, 2011
ESRB rating:T for Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence (PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360)

This review of Driver: San Francisco was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old October 21, 2011

Great game, hardly any bad content.

I've had this game for about a day and i'll tell u what i think: The game is great; it goes through San Francisco in every turn in every place. The cursing is kept to a minimum: d*mn, sh*t, a*s, a*shole, cr*p and godd*mmit. Luckily this game will never drop the F-bomb. The graphics are amazing. First I thought the game was going to be something like Free Running; an old game with bad graphics. They set the resolution to 800 x 600 but you can change that. Here is some stuff about violence: You would be expected to go into people and blood everywhere. But no. You can't run over people; they simply move away from your car. You play as someone named Tanner: After in a bad car crash trying to catch an escaping prisoner, his car gets beat up and there is a scene when he is in a hospital. After that you have the ability to 'shift' cars (move to different cars) and control the person's body. Over all, this game is great and anyone above 9 years of age can handle it. However, it may be hard for young kids to understand the story and handle the chaos driving cars. So why have I rated this educational? Well, the game let's you drive cars, so young kids can learn that in the future, while looking at life in San Francisco.
What other families should know
Educational value
Kid, 9 years old October 2, 2011

Great game, CONSTANT cussing

Driver San Fran is a Great game. You play the role of a guy named Tanner. He slipped into a coma because he was in a car accident , and while he is in his coma, he has the ability to shift into people's minds(control there body). The only thing parents need to be concerned about is the CUSSING. There is nonstop swearing from the beginning. Words such as h--l, d--n, a--, b---h, b----d, a--hole, jack--s, crap,god---mit, s--t and p---k are said constant from the beginning and seem like they never stop saying it. There is some references about threatening to kill somebody, and "drug trafficking". Minus the cussing, this is the best game I've ever played!
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byTTPKacey June 23, 2012

Aside from the language, it's a creative racing game in a rinse-repeat world.

For the past few years racing games have been, for the most part, rinse and repeat garbage. NFS Shift 2 had almost no variation from the first Shift, and I frankly found it boring. NFS Undercover was.. meh. NFS Hot Pursuit 2010 was quite good but it was short, with me finishing the Police campaign just two days after purchasing the game. Split/Second was poorly executed and just felt clunky but was fun enough to be a short-time attention grabber. I've missed the old days of when racing games were creative and fun, like the good old NFS Underground 2 and Most Wanted games. One thing that kept me playing was the constant pursuit of customization. Since Need for Speed Carbon I feel like the customization in nearly every racing game has just been watered down. I remember spending hours making custom Lamborghinis and Astons in Most Wanted, not resting until the decals were perfect and the rims were just the right color. In Hot Pursuit 2010, there was absolutely no customization beyond the color of the car. Any alternate cars you had to spend real money on. Now to focus on Driver, it reminds me of the days of Most Wanted. Sure, there's no real visual customization, but the thing that takes me back is the fact that it's *creative*. Where have you seen the shift ability before? Anywhere? nope.avi. You haven't. I've never played a Driver game before (mainly because they were all rated M and I was too young to play them at the time and I haven't had time to pick up Parallel Lines.... Steam sale next week anyone?) this one, so I can't really compare to the old games. BUT, comparing to the past couple years of games, this is a very solid title worth picking up. I'm looking forward to the Most Wanted remake, and maybe it can hold a candle to this.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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