The Movie Car Stars of Driver: San Francisco
- Driver: San Francisco
Driver has always been bred on one simple philosophy: the car is the star. Created out of Founder Martin Edmondson’s love for ‘70s muscle cars and Hollywood car chases, Driver is something of a tribute to Martin’s passion.
Driver: San Francisco marks the first time the series has included fully licensed cars, allowing Martin to pay an even more direct homage to these famous movie cars. In the penultimate part of Driver Week, Martin discusses the long process of acquiring these licensed cars and we look at some of the most famous Hollywood cars that you will be driving in Driver: San Francisco this September.
It’s taken 12 years for Driver to secure its 120 licensed vehicles – and yet it was always the intention from the start of the series, which has previously relied on lookalike models closely resembling their real-life counterparts. “We tried to get licensed cars with Driver 1 believe it or not, but it used to be just impossible,” reveals Martin. “We could have no damage, and the fact you are on open streets with pedestrians and civilian cars five or ten years ago was a complete no-no.”
“Things have eased somewhat as manufacturers just realise that it’s essential for them to be in games like this. If they’re not in the game, and it’s a big game, they’re noticeably lacking. Also, what was afforded to us for this particular game was a backup team dedicated to it. For the entirety of the development of this game we’ve had a team here and a team in Ubisoft dedicated to the licensing of the cars.”
“If you want to do a game of this kind of scale in a real world with pedestrians and try and manage that with many manufacturers, it’s a massive undertaking. We’ve been able to do that because of the resources available to us by Ubisoft. When we did the first game, it was an unproven game – maybe we could have done it but there would have been so many things we’d have had to change to develop the game and its style, or the crashes that would have compromised the game. Driver: San Francisco hasn’t been compromised by it.”
Despite this achievement, around 20 vehicles will remain unlicensed in addition to the 120 licensed vehicles. “There are a few vehicles that are not licensed in certain situations. There are some rules for different manufacturers and we have to find common ground for the game. For example, cars exploding – most manufacturers will not allow you to burn their cars. So if you need a car to blow up, it has to be an unlicensed car. It’s not like we have the world full of unlicensed cars, it’s just that in certain situations we have an unlicensed car.”
“The other time we have an unlicensed car is if we have something where it’s totally irrelevant if it’s licensed or not, like a bus. Most people don’t care if it’s a licensed bus or a made up one so we don’t bother with the legal difficulties of having a real licensed one. For the rest of them, we have a fair spread of 31 manufacturers.” I’m sure die-hard fans of Bus Simulator 2008 would beg to differ.
Bone-shuddering crashes have always been an integral part of both Driver and movie car chases, and Driver prides itself on its extensive damage modeling which was cutting edge at the time. It’s now been taken a step further with the inclusion of licensed cars however, but this doesn’t seem to have caused any setbacks – it’s arguably the most advanced damage system yet, for licensed cars at least. Once you total your car you are automatically launched back into Shift, but they don’t explode, again due to manufacturer’s reluctance to blow up their cars.
Less technically advanced games rely on pre-rendered damage using simple texture modifications, whereas other games such as Burnout Paradise allow you to completely deform your car with advanced dynamic damage systems. I was therefore interested to learn how Driver: San Francisco’s damage will compare.
“The damage won’t be pre-rendered,” Martin affirms. “It’s based on the speed of impact and the direction of impact in the same way that Driver has worked before: panels can fall off, windscreens can shatter and wheels can fall off. In fact I think the damage system in Burnout is the epitome. They did a superb job of it but they were not licensed cars, so that made it easier from the point of view that they were allowed to do whatever they want. We have a lot more cars driving around so we are not able to do quite the same level of detail, but it’s still a localised polymorphing system that’s based on the impact.”
Upgrading and customising your car has become an increasingly potent part of driving games, but Driver was never interested in car customisation until Parallel Lines. In keeping with its back to basics approach, Driver: San Francisco doesn’t seem to be changing this formula. Instead, upgrades will include gameplay enhancements such as the Thrill Cam and the ability to show Movie Challenge tokens on the radar.
“You don’t upgrade them in terms of adding wings and that sort of thing that has been in there in some games. The reason we didn’t do that is, firstly, it’s not really what the game’s about. Secondly, when you have a lot of manufacturers in an open street environment like this, it’s another layer of complication and worry between ourselves and the manufacturers.”
“For example, when we first started talking about this stuff in the early concept stages, there were some manufacturers that refused to have any modding whatsoever unless it’s their own piece. For example, they would say ‘yes you can have a rear spoiler on but only if it’s made by us’ – well that’s not very exciting is it? Then you have another manufacturer who says ‘you can use this modding but we have a relationship with them so you can’t use this other one’ and some wouldn’t allow modding at all. You then end up with this imbalance when it comes to the final game.”
Being a Driver game, you might think the game would be dominated by American muscle cars, and while this is true to a degree to reflect the game’s ‘70s Hollywood vibe, Driver: San Francisco also has a diverse range of exotic European sports cars and hatchbacks as well as a handful of Japanese cars for the first time.
This came as a surprise since I didn’t think you would normally see San Francisco crawling with Abarths and Alfa Romeos, but Martin assures that Driver is still a reflection of reality. “The thing I’ve noticed when going to the US is there are far fewer US cars than there used to be. For example, Jaguar weren’t very prevalent before but there are a lot of Jaguars driving around now and a few Aston Martins. If we pushed it slightly further than is real it’s only just so that everybody gets the cars that they like in a fairly realistic environment. Clearly there isn’t going to be many Aston Martin DB5’s there, but they do have them.”
Scanning through Driver San Francisco’s car list reveals an extensive array of classic ‘70s cars coupled with contemporary cars from the last decade, but there seems to be a lack of cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Well, it turns out Martin has quite a disdain for cars from this era: “There are a few from those eras, but not as many because they don’t tend to be as interesting as the older stuff,” Martin explains.
“There was a weird lull in the ’80s when cars became a bit crap really and just not that interesting. Even if you take something like a Ford Mustang, the originals were great and everyone loves them but it went through some weird design decisions afterwards – some of them look like Ford Escorts. But now everyone says the modern Mustangs and Corvettes are great. It was a weird dip with a lot of manufacturers all looking pretty similar, so there aren’t too many of them in the game unless they are iconic.”
Of course, the real stars are the cars that took inspiration from their starring Hollywood roles, and Driver: San Francisco has gone above and beyond to deliver a whole host of memorable movie cars. “The easiest thing to say is that pretty much any car chase film you can think of, the car is in there. We chose the cars based on the iconic status of the car. This is the approach we took: if we take a film like Bullitt for example, then clearly we had to have that Mustang and the Dodge Charger in there.”
“We were able to get cars in like the Lamborghini Murciélago which is very nice, but it’s almost an accepted thing that these exotica are always going to be in a driving game with licensed cars. The stuff that really got me interested is having cars that just don’t tend appear in driving games like a 1974 Dodge Monaco, the kind of cars the cops drove in Dukes of Hazard or the Blues Brothers. Dodge Challengers and Chargers are well known American muscle cars, but it’s the Oldsmobile Cutlass and the Vista Cruiser with the wood down the side that you wouldn’t normally say ‘I’ve got to have that in the game0′. The fact they in the game lends authenticity of a real ’70s feel.”
And so without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the movie car superstars that have appeared in some of the most famous car chases that you will be able to re-enact in Driver: San Francisco:
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T – Vanishing Point
In the Driver universe, Tanner’s Dodge Challenger takes its inspiration from Driver’s lost Buick GSX lookalike. Its cinematic reference point, however, was of course the 1971 cult classic Vanishing Point, where Barry Newman embarks on a special delivery mission that leads to a relentless drive across four US states in a white Dodge Challenger. This is Driver: San Francisco’s own star car too driven by protagonists Tanner and Tobias Jones, and also graces the cover art. Just be sure to avoid any bulldozers blocking your path.
1968 Ford Mustang Fastback GT 390 – Bullitt
The inclusion of the Ford Mustang Fastback GT is a clear nod to the most famous car chase of all time that started it all: Bullitt. Also set in San Francisco, Steve McQueen’s driving antics put the Mustang through its paces, so it will be fun to re-enact this sequence when storming down hills in the game. That growling V8 engine still remains the best soundtrack to any car chase to date. Judging from the render, they don’t seem to have quite modelled it directly after the Bullitt variation since it still has its grille, however.
1969 Dodge Charger – The Dukes of Hazzard
The other chase car in Bullitt was of course the black 1968 Dodge Charger, but Reflections instead chose to model a 1969 Dodge Charger, famous for its role as the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard. It sounds pedantic to complain about such a seemingly minor detail, but even Martin Edmondson admitted he would also want Bullitt’s Charger in the game for completion, but stated it would be hard to justify spending more money on such a slight variation. That and the fact the General Lee is generally a more recognisable car.
1971 Pontiac LeMans – The French Connection
You certainly don’t see one of these in a driving game very often, but its inclusion in Driver: San Francisco is entirely justified. It was the center of one of the most famous cinematic chases as Gene Hackman charged through the congested streets of New York in pursuit of an elevated train in The French Connection, which was previously referenced to in Driver 2’s “Chase the Train” mission. It will therefore be interesting to see if there is a similar Movie Challenge in San Francisco with the LeMans.
1981 DeLorean DMC-12 – Back to the Future
Great Scott, it’s one of the most famous movie cars of all time! The DeLorean may not have been one of the most commercially successful cars, but its pivotal role as Doc Brown’s time machine project in Back to the Future gained it an unlikely rise in popularity and fame, which has led to numerous appearances in video games. The question is, will we be able to fly it if it appears in a Driver: San Francisco Movie Challenge and what will happen if we dare to speed past 88 mph?
1964 Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger
Without a doubt the most famous car to ever appear in a James Bond film, the gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 is legendary for its debut in the breakthrough Goldfinger film. Ejector seat presumably not included in Driver: San Francisco. Shame.
1977 Pontiac Trans-Am – Smokey and the Bandit
The Pontiac Trans-Am is famous for a multitude of starring roles in films and television, from Burt Reynold’s instantly recognisable modified 1974 Trans-Am in the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy and of course the 1982 Firebird, i.e. KITT, from Knight Rider. There will in fact be no less than three Trans-Ams present in Driver: San Francisco, comprising of the 1976 (from The Driver film), 1977 and 1980 variants. Overkill, perhaps?
1974 Ford Gran Torino – Starsky and Hutch
One of the most famous ‘70s TV buddy cop duos are just as well known for their signature red Ford Gran Torino, distinctive by its white stripe which earned its nickname “The Striped Tomato”. Driver: San Francisco’s pairing of partners Tanner and Jones seems to be a similar vein to that of Starsky and Hutch’s relationship in order to mimic that ‘70s vibe.
1974 Dodge Monaco – The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers stands as a pinnacle comedy film from the 1980s, memorable for its fusion of car chases and comedy. It starred the Bluesmobile, a 1974 Dodge Monaco equipped with a “440 Magnum” police package which was used to plough through a shopping mall and evade the entire Chicago police force. Too bad it disintegrated by the end of the film.
A Movie Challenge for the Dodge Monaco in Driver: San Francisco is a certainty, but whether or not it will involve crashing through shopping malls remains to be seen – this was possible in Driv3r, so we can only hope. The Dodge Monaco was also a frequent police car of the era, and was often used by the local Sheriff Department in The Dukes of Hazzard in pursuit of The General lee. As such, Dodge Monaco police cars can be seen in the rural Marin County areas of Driver: San Francisco.
1967 Shelby GT500 – Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
Mention the Gone in 60 Seconds remake to Martin Edmondson and you can see his face visibly grimace in repulse. And while the Shelby Eleanor is a striking machine, it’s not a patch on the beauty of its older sister. Plus I have too many bad memories of that CGI jump.
1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 – Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Forget the remake’s shabby Shelby impostor. This is the Eleanor I am hopelessly besotted with. The infamous yellow Mustang was the last on aspiring car thief Mandarin Pace’s list of 50 cars to steal, but a tip-off led to one of the most lengthy, destructive and downright sublime movie car chases in history, taking up half of the total running time of the film. Poor Eleanor is subjected to a torrent of abuse throughout, but unlike the Bluesmobile she can withstand such brutality without falling apart, and still lives on to this day. Bless her.
And I think that just about covers it. I could point out a few omissions – the lack of BMWs in the game means that there are no references to Ronin and Mad Max’s Ford Falcon Interceptor is nowhere to be seen either, although Martin cites the fact it didn’t fit the setting. Regardless, Driver: San Francisco is shaping up to be the ultimate tribute to movie car chases, as no game before it has merged these movie motoring monuments together.
This article was originally published on Drivinggamespro.com.
Words by Martin Bigg (Twitter: @drivinggamespro)
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