“What a disaster.”
That’s probably the collective thought crossing the minds of critics, Sony employees, and game enthusiasts everywhere when Driveclub first released on PlayStation 4 last year.
There was a time during its development where Driveclub was pegged as the definitive racing experience and Sony’s Forza killer, however unfair that was at the time. Needless to say, all of this hype and pressure continued to build which probably made the release day meltdown even more terrible. Connectivity issues, missed promises of a free edition, and server troubles plagued the game at launch and into the first month after release turning many fans off from the experience.
It’s now a few months later and the good news is, all of those all nighters and weekend work the team at Evolution Studios put in have paid off. Driveclub is now playable and working as the team and Sony was hoping last year when it released. While the highly sought after PlayStation Plus version of the game is not available yet, it was confirmed earlier this week that it is still coming at some point.
So how does the game hold up these days? Full thoughts await you below the jump…
The main hook of Driveclub is it’s online connectivity, encouraging players to form up in groups known as Clubs to compete with other “rival” clubs. At a basic level, clubs are essentially another progression system with it’s own set of unlockable rewards. If you’re more of a solo player, you’ll still see challenges occasionally appear dynamically during the event you’re participating in at the time. These can range from beating another racer’s drift score, staying within a racing line to score points, and an average speed challenge. I really like these events as it helps add a dynamic layer to what you’re already doing and if you beat the challenge, you’re rewarded with Driveclub fame points.
Speaking of points, the game does have an in-game points system which contributes to your personal rank and your clubs rank as well. As you gain points for completing challenges and events, your profile levels up unlocking new customization options and new cars. It’s pretty standard stuff in terms of racing progression, but the thing that bugs me about it is that you can also lose points during events.
Racing badly, as we’ll put it, negatively affects your score, so bumping into other racers, driving off the track, or crashing your car will take points away. If you’re a simulation pro, this won’t affect you all that much. If you’re like me, someone who comes from the arcade style racer scene, you’ll definitely be seeing this happen. As I wrote last October, Driveclub is not a fan of overly aggressive drivers. I like to go fast, I can’t help it. Part of the reason why this is frustrating is due to Driveclub not exactly knowing why type of racer it wants to be.
I believe Driveclub is a game that tries to appeal to everyone, for better or for worse. Evolution Studios is well known for their more arcadey racing franchise with Motorstorm and fans can see that with how Driveclub controls, favoring a looser arcade style rather than a simulation like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. The tracks and AI however behave like you’d see from a simulation racer so there’s a definite conflict of styles going on here. Not to mention that the only customizing you’ll be doing on your car is with the color or liveries placed on it. There’s no tuning whatsoever on these vehicles. If you’re expecting a Gran Turismo type experience, you’ll be somewhat disappointed.
Gameplay wise, Driveclub focuses on three types of activities with time trials, drifting competitions, and standard races. The single player career tour packages all these into specific events, some with car or class restrictions. As you earn starts for completing course challenges such as finishing in the top 3 or beating a certain lap time, you’ll unlock trophy events which need to be beaten before the next level of events unlock. Even though you’re constantly playing through only three types of activities, DriveClub manages to mix up these events really well and so far has managed to keep the experience fresh. Add in the huge amount of free and paid DLC and Evolution certainly aims to keep you racing for a long time to come.
Visually speaking, Driveclub is a stunner. As you can see from the images I’ve placed in this post (all taken by me in the game’s powerful photo mode), cars are absolutely beautifully rendered. The high detail quality of the car models burst off the screen, along with stunning and diverse environments ranging from the snowy hills of Norway to the scenic lakes of Japan. It’s a visual showpiece and each track features rich colors and a diverse palette to help keep your eyes interested in what’s going on. Believe me, it’s quite easy to get distracted by the landscape during tense races.
Arguably the strongest feature of the game though is it’s photo mode. I can’t tell you how many screenshots I’ve seen taken of the game by fans and shared around social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. This is a primary reason why I actually had interest in the game as the screenshots showed off a beautiful looking title. At the very least, this photo mode has a sort of viral marketing around it as more and more people share photos, the greater the awareness of the title becomes. If that was Sony’s plan all along with their Photo Modes and ability to share, then kudos to them as it’s proven to be a very popular feature indeed. Driveclub makes it incredibly easy to use and create some truly amazing shots.
Driveclub is an interesting racing game and one that may be having an identity crisis. Caught somewhere between a true simulation and an arcade style racing experience, DriveClub still manages to fill a vital need on Sony’s console but it may not completely satisfy either racing style fan completely. It’s recovered from it’s disastrous start and with a slew of free downloadable content from the developer along with paid content, there plenty of things to do and keep you busy for a long while. While it’s certainly not my favorite racing game out there, it still provided me with a fun and worthwhile experience. If you’re looking to satisfy that need for speed on the PlayStation 4, Driveclub just might be the game for you.