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Video Game: Driver: San Francisco
Detective John Tanner is having a bad day.

Released in 2011, Driver: San Francisco is the fifth entry in the Driver series. The game takes place in, surprise surprise, the city of San Francisco, in the present day (technically), starring series protagonist John Tanner in the pursuit of escaped criminal Charles Jericho.

Following the events of Driv3r, Jericho is being taken into custody in an armored truck. Although Tanner's partner, Tobias Jones, insists Jericho's in safe hands, Tanner himself isn't so sure and tails the van just in case. Sure enough, Jericho breaks free of his handcuffs and hijacks the truck. During his escape, Jericho slams Tanner's car with the truck, causing Tanner to enter a coma. From here on out, the game takes place in Tanner's coma dreams, influenced by the news broadcast in his hospital room, in which he continues the chase for Jericho through San Francisco.

He does this via "shifting", the game's main gimmick, which allows him to Body Surf into any driver of any car in the city, taking control of their bodies. From here on, John uses his newfound powers to help the people of the city, gather clues, work undercover in Jericho's organization, smash random cars into his enemies, and hopefully realize the truth of his situation and eventually escape.

The game received major critical acclaim for its unique gameplay as well as its campy, Starsky & Hutch-style tone as well as some Mind Screw thrown in with the coma dream element. It is available on Steam, PS3, and Xbox 360.


Provides Examples Of:

  • The Alleged Car: AMC Pacer, although it works perfectly.
    • The Volkswagen Bus isn't exactly known for its reliability either, but again, it works perfectly in-game.
    • In one mission, you drive a Lamborghini Jalpa that is so thoroughly trashed one more hit will turn it into a firey ball of shrapnel.
    • This trope is probably the reason the AMC Javelin is absent from the game, despite an unliscensed version of it (The Cerrano) being present in previous games.
    • Probably the reason the Jaguar XJS, and all other Leyland-produced Jags are absent as well.
  • The All Solving Hammer: The ability to shift into random vehicles in traffic and drive headfirst into your opponents is very effective, and used creatively it can be used to beat most of the missions, and as a result may become Your Answer to Everything.
    • If you play like this simple get from point A to point B quickly missions will probably be That One Level.
  • Animal Motifs: Creepy Crows show up around car bombs about to go off or when something in Tanner's head doesn't quite match reality.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Even after he accepts that Tanner can shift, Jones has an alarming tendency to dismiss Tanner's additional revelations later in the plot as "crazy talk" note .
  • Arc Words: "Your eyes on the city".
  • Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: No one in the game can properly pronounce "Marin".
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The game's extreme emphasis on drifting means you can pull off some sweet moves, but trying to drive normally (like, say, how you would in Grand Theft Auto 4) often causes your car to spin wildly out of control, even at moderate speeds.
    • Certain cars due to their stats, count as this. Cars with high drift can count as this, as they are the ones most likely to spin you out in simple turns.
  • Badass Beard
  • Badass Driver
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The entire game.
  • Body Surf: Tanner's "Shift" ability allows him to possess virtually anyone driving a vehicle.
  • Boring, but Practical: A lot of the more common cars that spawn in traffic a lot, the Ford Crown Victoria, Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, Ford F150, Chevrolet C10, and even the Lincoln Town Car to an extent. However not all the boring cars are practical, see Master of None.
  • Car Chase: The series' bread and butter.
  • Car Fu: Half the time will be spent driving semis into oncoming traffic to stop a street race.
    • In the game's climax, Big Bad Jericho will throw cars at Tanner. Since it's All Just a Dream, Tanner can, too.
    • Team Race being a hard one to win? Just smash the opponents into retirement. To be fair, opponents in these races are (almost) Made of Indestructium and sometimes even a Haulier might not stop one.
    • BUSSIN Brutally Unfair Strategy Showcases Ingenuity Nicely. A title that would make the title writer of KND proud.
  • Cool Car: Tanner's Dodge Challenger. This also applies to some of the 139 other vehicles
  • Cowboy Cop: Tanner, to the hilt.
  • Creepy Crows: Jericho's motif.
  • Cutting the Knot: Often times races can be won simply by shifting into one of the cars oncoming traffic and driving it headfirst into your opponent's cars, doing it just a few times will put you in the lead, but you can just keep doing it until you take out all your opponents and win by default.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Tanner and Jones can get their snark on. Makes sense since they're buddy cops (plus since this is all happening in Tanner's head, Jones being a wiseass and needlessly skeptical might simply be Tanner's opinion of him manifested).
  • Determinator: Given a Decon-Recon Switch. At times, Tanner's focus on catching Jericho is portrayed as bordering on an unhealthy obsession. However, late in the game, this obsession lets him wake himself up from his coma.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: One of the cars available is an armored prison wagon, complete with sirens. Outside of the prologue, it doesn't spawn at all, making the only way to get it through the garage. However, if you do, shift out of it, and start a police chase nearby, it will join in the chase just like any other police car.
  • Dirty Cop: Some of the partners of the cops Tanner shifts into. He makes it quite clear that he has an incredibly low opinion of them.
  • Disc One Nuke: If you can be bothered to save up the requisite 150,000 cash required to purchase the Ford GT you have the ability to buy from the very beginning, you'll find it easily beats out every other car you can get until a couple chapters in. Its usefulness is mitigated somewhat by the fact that you can't use it for story missions though.
  • Dramatic Irony: Throughout San Francisco, the player is aware of Tanner's coma, but Tanner himself isn't.
  • The Driver: Of course.
  • Dueling Games: With Grand Theft Auto starting in 2001, but less so in this game.
  • Dying Dream: San Francisco takes place mostly within Tanner's coma dream.
  • Easter Egg: Driving the 1983 DeLorean DMC-12 at 88 mph unlocks the garage training level from the first Driver game as a special mission. (This particular car was the time machine in Back to the Future, and the special mission is appropriately named "Blast from the Past".
  • Eleventh Hour Superpower: The ability to throw cars at Jericho's RAM SRT-10 during the climax.
  • Enemy Within: There are two Jerichos. The genuine one is loose in the real world, plotting a false flag attack on downtown as a distraction for his jailbreak. The Jericho in Tanner's head is an embodiment of his fear of death. (Hence the theme song, "Race With Death")
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Surprisingly averted for a game themed off of movie car chases. The only time a vehicle explodes is if it's a tanker filled with something volatile or if the car was rigged with a bomb. Tanner does make a joke alluding to this when teaching "driving lessons" to an (un)fortunate passenger.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: You can invert this by invoking this on rival drivers!
  • Expy: The Chevrolet Volt for the Toyota Prius.
  • Foreshadowing: If the player takes over a certain taxi, Tanner will have a rather odd conversation with a doctor. Turns out, the doctor is talking about the surgery he is performing on Tanner, while he is in his coma.
  • Fragile Speedster: Any of the sports cars in the game are easily (nearly) totaled at high speed, but the most fragile example can be the Alfa Romeo Guilia TZ2.
  • Growing the Beard: This entry in the Driver series loses the Grand Theft Auto clone status, established by a couple of preceding installments. It focuses solely on the driving aspect, like the first entry in the series, while the elaborate story and Shift mechanic make it stand out among other driving games.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Tanner is rather gleeful when he makes other people drive recklessly and scare the passengers.
    Tanner: Yeah, yeah, run and scream and stuff.
  • Improbably Cool Car: You can find some incredibly rare cars just casually cruising the streets of SF, including 1960s Italian racing cars with production runs barely out of single digits.
    • Then there are the cars that are in the single digits. Pagani Zonda Cinque anyone?
    • Then again, most of the game takes place in his coma dream and there aren't any rare cars during the first very last chase in the game.
    • Even with that considered, it's still unlikely for a San Francisco cop to use a rare and quite valuable Dodge Challenger as a daily driver and patrol car.
    • Well, in some cities (usually small ones), to save money, detectives and undercover cops can get their pick of the cars that have been left unclaimed at the impound lot for several years, and they do get to take them home, but that brings up the question of why someone would just leave it there to rot, unless they fled the country and had to leave it behind, which isn't unheard of, still it would make more sense for the department to auction it off and buy a handful of less expensive used cars.
  • Joke Character: Cars with low stats all around like the AMC Pacer, VW Beetle (especially the old one) and the Camper, as well as the Chevrolet Volt among some others.
    • Lethal Joke Character: While more joke than lethal, the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser does count, since it's basically a station wagon variant of the Oldsmobile 442.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: The Title Drop from the getaway side mission "Mission From God"
  • Infinity Plus One Car: Both the McLaren F1 and Pagani Zonda Cinque are two of the fastest cars in the game and able to take corners with ease. They're also the most expensive, costing 750,000 and 1,000,000 WP, respectively.
  • Man, I Feel Like a Woman : Alluded to when Tanner is explaining shifting to Jones.
    Jones: So, let me get this straight: when you zap into a fine-looking lady-
    Tanner (quickly): I keep my hands on the wheel.
  • Master of None: Some of the most common cars in traffic manage to be Boring, But Also Impractical, at least for a fast-paced driving game. The Dodge Neon, Dodge Caravan, Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, and Cadillac DTS all spring to mind. They're not interesting and they're not particularly good at anything, they're just sort of there. If you really push them to the limit you might manage to beat some of the early challenges, but for the most part, you'll only use them as mobile walls to stop the bad guys. Unfortunately, they're some of the most common cars in traffic, especially early on in the game.
  • Mighty Glacier: Anything that's a Van Dourn, Dykemann, Camion and Caisson would count. Pick ups like Ford F-150/350's also count but to a lesser extent.
  • Mind Control: Tanner's "shifting" powers basically amount to this.
  • Money for Nothing: Depending on how you manage your in-game currency, you may end up with it flowing in at certain intervals, although that you have already bought everything there is to buy.
    • Which becomes very evident on New Game+. Got all the cars and upgrades? Enjoy you infinite money which you can never use.
  • New Game+: Which allows you to still fully explore San Francisco with your highest level shift and boost/ram abilities. Also carrying over your vehicles, garages, willpower, upgrades. etc.
  • New York City Cops: Tanner is an NYPD detective.
  • Noodle Incident: Several...
    Tanner: Have you ever had an out-of-body experience?
    Jones: You been eating moldy waffles again? I told you about cleaning out your fridge.
    Tanner: Hey! We agreed never to mention what happened on 'weird Tuesday'. You promised.

    Tanner: Let's go grab a cup of coffee, there's something I need to talk to you about.
    Jones: You're not pregnant again are you?
    Tanner: Trust me, with this [shifting] thing I got going on, it makes just as much sense.
  • Retro Universe: Despite being set in the present day, the game feels very '70s. Some challenges even limit the cars on the road to classics and throw on a light sepia filter with film grain to simulate a TV show from the era.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In-universe example, the reason the events in the game's coma dream match what happens in reality after The Reveal, is because the television in the hospital room was on the news station, subconsciously feeding Tanner information of what was happening in real life (which can be very subtly heard if you shift and fly up to the maximum height, along with the heartbeat and heartbeat monitor).
  • Reality Ensues: Since the final chase takes place in reality, there's no shifting, boosting or ramming.
    • During the opening, Tanner gets broadsided by a semi truck. Rather than brush it off, Tanner gets hurt enough to go into a coma.
  • Rubberband AI: As said by Yahtzee, opponent cars slow down dramatically once you're far enough behind them.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Two cops, one of them you control, smash over 10,000 dollars worth of fake medication despite not having a warrant to do so, thus becoming vigilantes once they lose their badges.
  • Second Hour Superpower: The first chase takes place in reality, so you can't shift, boost or ram.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: There is this one car that cannot be driven, the ASYM Desanne which appears as certain police cars in cutscenes or the normal version for many of the cars that usually have car bombs.
  • Sequence Breaking: The mission "The Big Break" has you driving through a long, winding route with lots of sharp turns, breaking signs advertising a rap concert along the way (It Makes Sense in Context), all in a Cadillac XLR-V, a car that isn't known for its great cornering. However, at the very first turn, instead of turning left like you're supposed to, you can keep going straight for 3 or 4 blocks and THEN turn left, and just follow that street, as it leads directly to the finish line, completely bypassing all the tricky corners the big Caddy struggles with and completing the mission. This does however make the dialogue at the end of the mission make absolutely no sense, since the entire point of the mission was to smash all the signs advertising the concert, so an assassin wouldn't be able to find and murder the performer.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Given that Tanner's in a coma, this is inevitable; nothing he does in the dream will affect reality. Except not really. As he subconsciously receives information from the TV news broadcast in his room, Tanner pieces together that a full-blown terrorist attack via cyanide bomb isn't Jericho's style, but making people think there's a bomb is. As a result, when Tanner wakes up, he's the only one who has any idea of Jericho's true intentions, and is the one to keep him from escaping.
  • Shout-Out: The tutorial in the first game is lifted directly from a similar scene in The Driver, where the main character proves his skills to some gangsters in a parking garage. It was then ported as a special challenge in this game and is unlocked by driving 88 mph in a DeLorean..
  • Shown Their Work: Early on in the game, Jericho attempts to get his hands on platinum and ammonia. While Tanner is baffled as to why, Jones calls up a chemist they rescued earlier and learns that the two can be used to make hydrogen cyanide gas. The platinum is even correctly identified as a catalyst.
  • Story Overwrite: at the end, you wake up from your coma, lose your "powers" and get Jericho. After the credits, you return to your coma and can complete the rest of the challenges.
  • Suicide Attack: You can shift into other cars and do this to take out other vehicles; it's very effective.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: One of the passengers you can encounter.
  • Those Two Guys: In the first level, you meet Jun and Ayumu, two down-on-their luck racers trying to make money for Ayumu's college fund. Because it's for a good cause Tanner decides to help them out. However, Ayumu gets the wise idea of continuing to race even after they make all the money, forcing Tanner to help them in most of the following chapters.
    • Of course, it takes a more serious turn as Jun and Ayumu are forced to race as Jericho now owns every race in the city at that point. From the dialogue of "ending up like that big guy, Krug", it implies that the cars have bombs planted on them, effectively forcing them to race or die.
  • Unexplained Recovery: No explanation is given for how Tanner survived the Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending of Driv3r.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: Of the supernatural variety, even.
  • Your Mom: Tanner to someone during It's For Charity.
    Passenger: "This car is worth cash money!"

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alternative title(s): Driver San Francisco
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