Along with most racing fans who own a PlayStation 4, I've been waiting on DriveClub for over a year. It's been a long wait, but one I was willing to put up with in order to have what we were promised would be a much better game.
Luckily, I've had a smaller wait that most to get a taste of the game, since I'd already tried out the online mode extensively thanks to a Beta and played on a few other occasions at one trade show or another. Now here we are, at launch and at last I can play along with others (or so I thought*), which is were the true heart of Evolution's social racing experience lies, but is it all that we were promised?
Before I go into the multiplayer aspect of the game, I'd like to focus on the the single player campaign, which sees you take part in various events, with the aim of winning a tour and working your way up from Rookie to the top of your trade. Events are spread out amongst various locations and offer different ways of earning your points, be that through finishing in the top three of a race, gaining the best drift or by beating a set time. Each event varies, so you'll have different objectives to meet in each in order to gain the points you need to unlock the Tour. In all there are five tour trophies to win, ranging from Rookie to Legend.
DriveClub is a beautiful game, in fact it's probably fair to say that it's the most graphically impressive PS4 game so far. The cars are faultless and there has been so much detail placed into the background that you can't fail to be impressed and that's before the race even begins. As soon as your car is in motion that's where the true magic really happens. The tracks feel perfectly balanced, with some being wide open and others being tight and harder to navigate. Some tracks will take you up mountains, while in others you'll be racing through beautiful landscapes, such as those found in Scotland and Norway. Often as you race the sun will catch your eyes, making it hard to see where you are going, while at other times the sun fades away, making cornering a gamble. As day turns to night, your headlamps come on and environments feel different to before and much more hazardous. Something that I was really impressed with about nighttime driving was when the cats eyes light up the road, they where so bright and realistic that I just wanted to brake and take it all in. It goes without saying that graphics are DriveClub's biggest asset and make this game almost worth a purchase on their own.
As for the driving itself, I can have no complaints. I've noticed other people complain about the penalties given for crashing into other cars or for cutting corners, so I'd like to mention these. You see, should you perform any illegal moves your score will be docked, which will cripple your chances of levelling up for that particular race. Each time you level up you are rewarded with new cars or other bonuses such as new skins or designs, so it's quite a bonus to get as many points as possible. Anyway, the point is, should you drive without a care for the other cars on the road or the rules for that matter, then you'll be punished by gaining a lower score and should you cause a rather large collision,your car will be made to slow down for a matter of seconds as way of a penalty. Being a fairly rookie driver when it comes to racing games, I suffered from these penalties on a few occasions, however I'm of the opinion that if you wouldn't be allowed to do these things in a real life race without penalty, then why should you be allowed to do them in DriveClub - plus it might turn me into a better virtual drive, which I'm all for.
With this aside, everything else about DriveClub's action is pretty much perfect. The A.I is tough and none forgiving, while the handling of the cars feels excellent. As I say, I'm not a star racing driver, but from the moment I picked the game up I was able to take corners fairly easily, drift around bends and steer in a straight line, which for me at least, is all that I need. I've had reports from other staff who have also offered the same opinion, that even for non-racing fans, DriveClub is a game which is easy to pick up and play.
As I previously mentioned, at the heart of DriveClub is its Social Multiplayer. This is an aspect of the game which Evolution would like to emphasis more than most. The idea is that multiplayer is made up of club's of six players. You either create your own (yes there is a ShopTo club) or you join another. When you take part in races online or offline your club with gain points, with the aim of being the top group of players always in your sight. Evolution hopes that each player will bring their own strengths to the club, so while someone may be good at winning races, someone else may bring points by being the top drifter or the fastest player around the track.
The competitive nature of DriveClub really is it's biggest selling point as far as the developer is concerned. Every track allows for face-off challenges, giving you to chance to beat a friends average speed, drift score, best time and more, being successful at which rewards you with XP. You can also take part in asynchronous multiplayer challenge events and be rewarded with XP based on your position when the time take part in the challenge expires. If you are a more careful driver than I am, then you'll gain XP for your skills too, which is a bonus for those in the lower car insurance bracket.
The challenges mentioned above compliment the standard multiplayer racing, which I recommend you take part in once you've unlocked some of the cars rewarded in the single player mode.
As mentioned earlier, one of the main features of DriveClub is the ability to create or join a club. As you gain rewards in this club they'll be shared among your team, and since five of Driveclub’s cars (including the mental BAC Mono) can only be unlocked by levelling up your club, it's a feature well worth making use of. One other bonus to being in a club is that you can use its colours on your cars when taking part in a race, be that in multiplayer or single player. If you are the one to create the club then you can design your own emblem and the skin for the cars. The more you play the game, the more design options you will unlock.
DriveClub is a stunning looking game. It has a few issues in that the single player campaign could be longer, but when you consider the changing challenges online and the upcoming updates which will add a photo mode and dynamic weather, it's apparent that things will only get even better. Evolution has also promised around a year's worth of updates so we can expect new cars, new tracks and plenty of improvements to refine the experience. It may not be perfect at the moment, but then DriveClub's engine is only just getting warmed up.
Words by Joe Anderson.
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/Xbox LIVE: wotta
(Version Tested: PS4)
+ Looks stunning
+ Handling is great
+ Social aspect works well
- Single Player campaign could be longer
*Editor's Note - While I tested the multiplayer extensively in a previous beta and was able to get online a few times during the week, even managing to create and level up our club four times, I'd like to point out for those who don't know that the game has been having difficulties with the online servers at this time. This means that I couldn't test the online mode as thoroughly as I normally would with the public servers live. However I'm still confident that this review reflects the quality of the of the game and its online experience when running normally. Should any of the above change when the servers are online, I'll update this review.
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