Driveclub has finally come to the PlayStation 4 after a lengthy delay. Does this brand new racing IP have what it takes to stack up against the Forzas and Gran Turismos of the world? Let’s find out!
With the addition on two brand new systems from Sony and Microsoft last year, many people were expecting a massive jump in quality and new experiences. One of those new experiences was a game called Driveclub. Driveclub was expected to launch with the PlayStation 4 and be one of the flagship games for a rather weak launch period; that didn’t happen. Driveclub’s release date slipped to almost a year later. The problems didn’t end there though. As soon as Driveclub did launch, it was plagued with many server issues that prevented many (including myself) from playing with others online. That’s the reason our review is so late for this game. I wasn’t about to review a game that wouldn’t allow me to do a lot of what the game is touting as features.
With the negative stuff out of the way, let’s get into the game. Evolution is a very skilled studio in my opinion and one that had 3 very underrated MotorStorm games on the PlayStation 3. I was one of the people that thought that they should do something different with their next game because I felt like MotorStorm had run its course. Driveclub looked promising and I thought this could be the start of something different for the racing genre which I felt had become stale and in need of a new franchise. What we got from Driveclub was something that shows promise, but ultimately has a long way to go to realize the vision that the team set out to create.
Through its gorgeous visuals and the very detailed environments in Driveclub, you’ll find a very inviting and simplistic racing game with closed courses in gorgeous locales. It’s not Forza, it’s not Burnout, but it is something somewhat in between. It blurs the lines between simulation and arcade while still leaning more towards the arcade side of things. It’s not an open-world either, but with all of the options for that out there, that’s not anything this game needed to be. Driveclub is a more traditional racing game that definitely borrows from the original Need for Speeds and adds its own unique elements to create something fresh. The only real issue with Driveclub is that it seems to be just a tad bit light on cars, content, and modes.
There are 50 cars in DC and most of them are European in origin which can be expected with Evolution based in Europe. I would have preferred to see far more American and Japanese made cars without the emphasis being based solely in Europe because they have alienated an entire audience there. I would normally see such a light car list as a flaw, but with DC it’s more about the experience than having 500 cars to try. The attention to detail in making them feel different while you’re driving is something I haven’t felt before in a racing game. Each car has the power and traction that you would feel in the real-life counterpart. A lot of details went into these cars. From the interior glare of the dashboard, to the sculpted details of the exterior body of the car, each car looks fantastic.
When we get down to the important part (how the cars handle), we get into a little bit more of a simplistic approach. Each car generally handles the same. Obviously, the more powerful cars will have a bit of a step-out on the back end at times if you’re pumping the gas and swerving, but it never feels as though it’s not an easy correction. The handling is honest;y perfect for this type of game and exactly in-line with the arcade-simulation hybrid that they’ve created. The only issue I have is that drift challenges and drifting in general are a pain because it’s very difficult to maintain momentum in a turn to continue a drift. I know I’m not the only one who has had this issue judging from gameplay commentaries and other things, so it is something that needs to be addressed maybe with a tutorial or some kind of tweak. In any event, it’s not a game-breaking problem, but one that does make things a tad bit more difficult than they have to be on tough corners.
There are no performance upgrades in DC which would have been a perfect addition to this game. They have added in visual customization though, if you can honestly call it that. You’re not going to find a free-form livery editor like in Forza, all you’re getting here is basic pre-set patterns to play with and a bunch of icons and numbers to tack on. This goes with the simple nature of DC, but it would have been nice to have a little bit more freedom to do something unique and something that would give your car an identity. You can utilize a factory colour if you’re into something more traditional, but your car will be the one sticking out among all the pre-set designs donning every other rival vehicle. A nice touch in the customization was driver customization, albeit very basic. You’re able to pick from a few different heads, outfits, and of course, the gender. I would have liked many more options to customize my car and myself, but it was nice to have the option at all.
You’re probably expecting every track in Driveclub to be European, right? Wrong. DC actually boasts an incredibly vast amount of different tracks and locations that make you want to keep coming back. Places like Canada, India, Chile, Norway, and more offer a bevy of different sceneries and seasons. While the scenery is beautiful and among the best I’ve ever seen in a game, it’s more of a, “you can look but you can’t touch” thing. The closed-courses keep you inside bouncing you off any rock formation, gate, snow pile, or any other obstruction your car may hit. The detail is amazing with plastic bags, leaves, and pamphlets flying across the track while you’re driving. Watch that sun, it’s just as annoying as it is in reality.
The AI in the game is pretty relentless. I’m not just saying that either; they’ll spin you out, ram you, and in some cases run you off the road. While this doesn’t have as much to do with the AI as much as it has to do with the rather narrow roads, it’s still something that can be frustrating at times. There is also a penalty for hitting rival cars, but it’s fairly inconsistent in execution. There were times when I barely tapped a car and my speed was restricted for a few seconds whereas other times, I smashed through everyone and nothing happened. I don’t feel the speed penalty is necessary with the aggressive AI and the narrow roads restricting the space you have to maneuver. It almost feels like the game is punishing you for trying to do anything outside the box.
The modes and options available in DC seem extremely limited to me. I know this is a racing game and more of an arcade one at heart, but I really felt like after exhausting the single-player mode and jumping into some multiplayer races that there just wasn’t much left to do. The social challenges are great and they give everyone something to strive for and make sure that there’s always XP to go around, I just feel like there could be so much more to the social dynamic than just that. The whole game is built around a progression system. Each player’s individual XP goes towards the club XP and with each level unlock new cars and liveries. Clubs also allow you to complete club only challenges where the best effort from a driver in the club is the one that wins. Overall, the idea is there, but the scope is a bit lacking.
Driveclub is a completely new game from the ground up and it succeeds at most of what it attempts to do. This is a fast, beautiful racing game the connects players together to attempt to conquer every piece of a track. The challenges that each user can create will keep players coming back for a long time even after the relatively short solo events have been completed. The aggressive AI and questionable collision penalty system are low points, but nothing that should be a deal-breaker. Driveclub doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it definitely deserves a chance.