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Video Game / Driver: San Francisco

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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 and pushes him to be t-boned by an oncoming semi, 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 positive reviews 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 Microsoft Windows (via Steam and uPlay, though uPlay is tied in to the game regardless and this game is no longer available on Steam but users that bought the game can still play it on their account), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360,note  and the Wii.

However, the Wii version is substantially different from the previous versions, to the point the game is practically unrecognisable other than a few characters. Set before the first game, it centers around Tanner and Jones, with a few playable segments as the main antagonists, and is more of a traditional Driver game with some rail shooter elements mixed in.

This game provides examples of:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: No one in the game can properly pronounce "Marin", as in Marin County, California.
  • Adventures in Comaland: San Francisco takes place mostly within Tanner's coma dream.
  • 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 that one more hit will wreck it completely.
    • This trope is probably the reason the AMC Javelin is absent from the game, despite an unlicensed 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. There's actually a picture of a crow in the hospital room so that may say something.
  • 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".
  • Artistic License Cars: The Nissan Skyline (BCNR33) GT-R is depicted as left-hand drive like every single drivable vehicle in the game, despite the fact that prior to the V35-series, no Skyline was ever produced in left-hand drive form, and it is physically impossible to have a legitimate LHD R32, R33, or R34 Skyline GT-R. The engine's twin turbochargers are sitting directly in the path that a hypothetical LHD steering column would have to pass through to connect to the steering rack. Note  And to add more insult to the injury, the R33 (along with other All-Wheel Drive cars) is able to perform burnouts even though it's virtually impossible due to having better traction compared to FWD and RWD vehicles.
  • 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 IV) often causes your car to spin wildly out of control, even at moderate speeds.
    • Certain cars count as this due to their stats. Cars with high drift can count as this, as they are the ones most likely to spin you out in simple turns. The most drifty car would have to be the Corvette Z06 that can spin out if you put the accelerator down too hard.
  • Badass Driver
  • Batman Gambit: Jericho pulls one off on all of San Francisco by very visibly stealing the components to a cyanide gas bomb, then threatening to detonate the bomb downtown. He has no real intention of following through on this; he just wants the city evacuated so he can stage a prison break unimpeded.
  • 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. Though opponents in races have their durability buffed out.
    • BUSSIN Brutally Unfair Strategy Showcases Ingenuity Nicely.
  • Charged Attack: Ram, hold the button to store energy and release to lurch your car forward, dealing more damage to the enemy in front while briefly preventing your car from taking damage during the ram, but it slows you down upon missing with it and continues to drain the ability bar even after fully charging but not releasing.
  • Cool Car: Now all real cars (except ASYM Desanne, see Writing Around Trademarks below), a change from the previous games which use Expies or unbranded cars. Out of the 140 vehicles to choose from, a lot of them are darn cool, ranging from muscle cars to supercars, luxury cars and off-road cars, and a lot of them are a reference to one movie or another.
  • Cowboy Cop: Tanner, to the hilt. However, he's changed from his no-nonsense, brash but serious personality into a wise-cracking one.
  • Creepy Crows: Jericho's motif.
  • Cutting the Knot: Often times races can be won simply by shifting into one of the cars in 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).
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Just before the ambulance chasing level, a snap of Tanner's fingers brings his entire world to a grinding halt, with everything turning a dreary blue. It's actually supposed to represent Tanner flatlining, and chasing the ambulance (the only thing colored) throughout the sequence is supposed to help maintain his heart rate.
  • 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.
  • 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 and challenges.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Tanner and Jones stop for coffee and donuts while Tanner tells Jones about his shifting ability.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Throughout the game, the player is aware of Tanner's coma, but Tanner himself isn't.
    • Some of the people Tanner shifts into have ironic dialog, like hoping there's somebody watching over them as a disembodied Tanner hovers over their car. Or their passenger saying, "What's gotten into you? You've been driving like a man possessed."
  • Dramatic Thunder: A bolt of lightning and a clap of thunder is used to denote when another player Shifts into a car in most multiplayer modes and when Jericho takes control of cars in traffic at the midpoint and finale. This effect is also used when either of you toss cars at each other.
  • Dream Tells You to Wake Up: The first thing Tanner sees in his coma dream is a billboard with the words WAKE UP printed on it.
  • The Driver: Of course.
  • 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.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: The ability to throw cars at Jericho's RAM SRT-10 during the climax.
    • Otherwise, it is actually Inverted, as you lose the ability to boost or ram during the final chase.
  • Endless Daytime: The entire game, even in short segments in the beginning, the end, and the end credits taking place in the real world.
  • Enemy Within: There are two Jerichos. The real one is loose in the real world, plotting a terrorist attack that was later revealed as a harmless smokescreen to allow him to escape. The Jericho in Tanner's head is an embodiment of his obsession to catch him and his fear of death. (Hence the theme song, "Race With Death".)
    • Their voices and, if it's turned on, even their caption color is different. Real!Jericho has his subdued, calm and smug voice with red text, while coma!Jericho has a blood-curdling tone to his voice, maniacal laughter, evil dialogue, and his caption text is purple.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Used as a plot point. Jericho and his associates never wanted to do a terrorist attack that could kill innocents. His plan to bomb the city are merely harmless smokescreen to cover up his escape.
  • 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 (usually ASYM Desanne) was rigged with a bomb. Tanner jokingly alludes to this when teaching "driving lessons" to an unfortunate passenger.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: You can invert this by invoking this on rival drivers! To quote Krug: "It was like every driver in the city was an undercover cop!"
  • Evil Is Hammy: Played with. The Jericho in Tanner's head is loud, bombastic, and prone to evil laughter. The real Jericho is quieter, smoother, and more in control of himself.
  • 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 almost easily totaled at high speed, but the most fragile example would be the Alfa Romeo Guilia TZ2, the only car in the game that has a single bar in the "Strength" stat.
  • I Have Your Wife: During the mission where you help Toby get his son back from a kidnapper, his voice is constantly wavering and on the verge of tears, and justifiably so with Cyrus' threats to kill his son if he doesn't give him the money he wants.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Tanner is rather gleeful when he makes other people drive recklessly and scare the passengers, especially during the last chapter or the post-game.
    Tanner: Yeah, yeah, run and scream and stuff.
  • Heroic Willpower: It's what making Tanner wake up from the coma.
  • Hide Your Children: Downplayed. Despite the presence of a school bus, no kids appear in the game; the only time a child is mentioned is when helping Toby get his child back from a kidnapper.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Played with. During Jericho's escape, Leila shoots a moving police car with an RPG from a helicopter. The skills required for this shot immediately give Tanner and Jones a place to start their investigation.
  • 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?
    • Justified as the game is in Tanner's coma dream and Tanner's interest with cool cars is subconsciously affecting the world.
  • 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.
  • Justified Tutorial: Many of the city missions that are done to unlock Tanner missions have some sort of unique gimmick to them that unlocks Activities and Challenges of that gimmick, acting as a way to teach you how those missions work.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the previous game, the game has little to no shootings, far less gritty setting with little to no gangland ghetto, far more focus on driving and cars, a more wise-cracking, talkative protagonist, and generally more wacky, fantastic plot and characters, although justified. The Wii version, however, averts this.
  • 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 the two 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 Plus. Got all the cars and upgrades? Enjoy your infinite money which you can never use.
  • Mushroom Samba: One mission involves a spider collector whose boyfriend got bitten by a "Congolese Dream Widow", which means intense hallucinations that degrade into a coma with the only way to stave it off being an adrenaline shot. Thankfully, Joni happens to be driving a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 to easily perform winding drifts to keep Sam awake. His hallucinations include seeing a bright light (which Joni!Tanner is confused if it's Go into the Light or stay out of the light to stay alive), Joni!Tanner's head being a big balloon, big, angry screeching owls, thinking he's going to the park and sleeping atop a big bear, among other crazy things. The whole mission becomes Dramatic Irony when you think about it as the game states "Coma Averted!" when you reach the hospital and win the mission, too bad you couldn't avert a certain other coma...
  • New Game Plus: Story progress is reset, but once you pass the essential tutorial missions, the entirety of San Francisco is open without the early game Broken Bridges and you retain all of your abilities, upgrades, cars unlocked, WP, etc. It gives a unique advantage during missions that otherwise wouldn't have these abilities. The game also skips the portions teaching you about Activities, Dares, Garage Stores, and the discovery and upgrades of abilities or new areas of the city are also skipped.
  • Nobody Can Die: As a departure from GTA-style shenanigans of the past, no one can die regardless of how terrible cars can potentially get wrecked. Guns seem strangely unheard of in this game (minus their brief appearance in the prologue) despite various criminals and police likely benefiting if they had them. There are a few times during the story when death is implied or likely, but it's never shown, such as the car bomb that offs Krug or when Leila cuts the safety harness to the camera man in the news chopper to let him plummet in the intro. Even if you shift into a car whose driver and passenger are together in a death pact, you can't off them by wrecking the car.
  • 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.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Discussed. When Tanner manages to convince Jones that the shifting thing is real, Jones immediately starts speculating about what Tanner could do if he shifted into a good-looking female body. Tanner says firmly that in that case he'd keep both hands on the wheel.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Nobody questions the dubious morality of Tanner ramming innocent bystanders' cars into his opponents. While the game doesn't show any civilians dying even during horrific crashes, it seems they may still be able to feel pain. So even if you're not killing innocents, you're still wrecking their cars and probably giving them whiplash and broken bones (although if you completely wreck a car with a passenger in it, they rarely complain about pain). Technically justified, since nothing is real anyway, but Tanner doesn't know that at first.
  • 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 that 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 EKG).
  • 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!: One mission involves two cops who know that there is a storage of fake medication but have to wait for a warrant, which by then it would be too late to stop them. Tanner takes control of the driver to smash them all in order to stop the distribution. Later on, you help the two ex-cops finish the job in vigilante fashion.
  • 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. Him progressing through the dream, including the messages, allow him to wake up as well with sheer Heroic Willpower.
  • 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.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: In the real world, Jericho steals ammonia and platinum, two ingredients for making cyanide gas, and threatens to detonate a bomb in San Francisco for no real reason. Subverted when this lack of reason is what tips Tanner off to Jericho's real plot: evacuating the city to stage a massive prison break.
  • 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. By the time of their last race in a Pagani Zonda Cinque, they start making light of it after telling off the person offering their job to "tell Jericho to stick his money where the sun don't shine". Jun!Tanner is not happy at how casually they're telling off such dangerous people like Jericho's mooks.
    Jun!Tanner: You crazy people! When a man that dangerous offers you a job, you say "yes" and then you run like hell!
    Ayumu: Ten seconds ago, you thought it was hilarious.
    Jun!Tanner: Now I think you're a dumbass and I have to win this race to save your lives, again!
  • Under the Truck: Not with motorcycles but with cars, the semi-trailers ride so high that even the sedans can perform what the game calls a "truck tuck" without it resulting in an Instant Convertible. Two missions require you to use cars and drive beneath trucks in order to defuse a bomb stowed beneath them.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In the penultimate chase, Tanner realizes just what the entire city being in his head means, and shifting is replaced by the ability to telekinetically hurl cars at Jericho while he does the same to you.
    • Looking for a red SUV with stolen sheet platinum has Tanner shift into the co-pilot of a police helicopter. It plays out more like an interactive cut-scene, you don't have to scan any of the vehicles until you see a red Land Rover Range Rover Sport suspiciously parked on an off-road with crows circling around it and a floating "!" icon with a circular area beneath it.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Since the final chase takes place in reality, there's no shifting, boosting or ramming. Tanner even remarks "Reality has its drawbacks."
  • Unexplained Recovery: No explanation is given for how Tanner survived the Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending of DRIV3R. The prequel comic simply reveals that Tanner was taken to the hospital and clinically dead for a short time, but the doctors saved him.
  • Universal Driver's License: Tanner has no problem going from his manual Dodge Challenger R/T to an automatic car whose stick may be on the wheel itself, to an F1-style paddle-shifter or even to a school bus, armored van or the eighteen wheel semi-truck. The game even properly animates these situations in first person, complete with Tanner putting his hand on the wheel-stick when reversing an automatic or having a separate, slanted-wheel animation for larger vehicles. Being All Just a Dream, it makes sense Tanner wouldn't have a problem, although at one point in the finale, he borrows Jones' modern Camaro in reality due to his car having been wrecked from the beginning.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Tanner keeps seeing black billboards with strange messages. When Tanner points them out to Jones, he doesn't seem too fazed by it, at one point telling Tanner the billboards have "been up for years."
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Of the supernatural variety, even.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: There is this one and only fictional car that cannot be driven, the ASYM Desanne which appears as certain police cars in cutscenes or the normal version for a character, later blasted by an RPG-7 or planted with a car bomb. This is probably to avoid licensing issues because it's doubtful Ford, Dodge, or any other car manufacturer would approve of the depiction of their police cruisers (or other cars, for that matter) being blasted by an RPG or shown deliberately bombed.
    • The heavier commercial vehicles are also fictional, though they are based on real vehicles like the Caison Elementary C being based on a typical Blue Bird school bus or the Dykemann Haulier SF which is modeled after a Kenworth T-600 or similar model.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Cyrus, who kidnapped Toby's son and is willing to kill him for the money Toby has, among threats of having a box the size of David's body and "having him picked up in several black bags". Thankfully, nothing ever implies the murder happens even if you fail, only Cyrus getting irritated with you drawing too much suspicion or taking too long.
  • Your Mom: Tanner to someone during It's For Charity after already being fed up by her commentary and the fact the Jalpa they were driving is almost wrecked.
    Passenger: "Honey, this car is worth cash money!"