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Driveclub Review

Drive

By Kamel Benyahia

Driveclub was originally announced as a Playstation 4 launch title, but the developers (Evolution Studios) did not feel the game was ready for primetime. It has been almost a complete year since the Playstation 4 has gotten a full-fledged racing game.  Need for Speed Rivals was the only go-to racing game on the Playstation 4 at launch, and since then PS4 racing fans have been stuck watching their Xbox One counterparts enjoy the excellent Forza Motorsport 5. After a year long delay, Driveclub has finally hit the market with less stability than a drunken moose on a frozen lake.

For a game that touted its online features and social experience as being the crux of the game, it was a complete failure. The single player campaign worked, but that is not what this game was made for.  The multiplayer stumbled out of the gate and took more than a week to really stabilize the servers. A majority of players were finally able to participate in online racing once Evolution disabled some of the social features interfering with the stability of the servers. More updates are going to come out by the time this review releases, but as of now the game is partially working online.  Mainly it’s only the multiplayer and club management that are available to people who own the game.

Aside from the rough launch Driveclub is an amazing racing game with a simple interface that gets you into a car racing immediately. The game looks amazing. Graphics are one area Evolution did not hold back.  This game is the very definition of eye-candy.  The detail of the cars down to their interiors is spot-on and gorgeous.  When starting a race you’re treated to a first person perspective of opening the car door and stepping into the vehicle. Evolution detailed every aspect of the car and it really shows, even down to all of the gauges working. Even though I generally drive from a third person perspective I still appreciated the attention to detail.  The exteriors are no exception.  These cars look amazing in all of the different environments and lighting conditions.  The way sunlight and canopy roads reflect off the curves of the cars makes the game look too real sometimes. You can’t customize any of the cars outside of paint jobs and livery packages. Another downside is, the weather package was held back in order to stabilize the servers.  The previews showed amazing weather events adding to the beauty of the game, but this will be patched in at a later date.

The car selection is interesting. It’s primarily European cars ranging from hot-hatches to exotic supercars.  You have a good representation of cars from each price range, but American staples like the Mustang and Corvette are missing.  Japanese legends like the Skyline and Supra are also missing. The game has roughly 50 cars to select from.  You will find English cars from Aston Martin and Bentley, German sedans and performance cars, and Italian supercars like Ferrari. Each car is beautifully rendered with complete interiors and great sound.

For those racing game fanatics that are concerned with the vehicle physics, don’t fret, this game balances arcade racers with simulation-style racers well. The cars all have more than enough grip to allow late braking and hard acceleration without too much fear of over-steer. This game penalizes drivers for cutting corners or bashing into other players, and tends to be heavy-handed in its punishment sometimes. Drivers will struggle if they ride the walls or drive dirty. One downside I have noticed is performing a P.I.T. maneuver on opponent’s cars is a little too easy. The first few corners of any race are more of a destruction derby race for first place with cars going into sharp corners five-wide and more cars coming up behind too fast. This behavior is normal for racing games, especially multiplayer. If you’re a talented racer then you should be able to weather the storm of terrible drivers during the first few corners as they take themselves out, then it’s smooth racing from there.

The single player A.I. is a bit different, but equally frustrating at times.  During the single player races it felt more like I was racing a freight train than a pack of cars. The A.I. cars refused to deviate from a strict racing line regardless of your position.  If you want to pass an A.I. car on the inside of a corner, the A.I. car will cut you off as if it never saw you.  In fact, it feels like you’re not even a part of the race.  This forces you to muscle your way into first place, and then keep the A.I. behind you.  Keeping them behind you is easier said than done considering the ridiculous rubber-banding whenever you take first place. It doesn’t matter how fast you drive, the A.I. always seems to stay within range. This does make the game a bit more challenging, but in some of the later races, it felt like you were constantly defending your position as A.I. opponents harassed you in every corner.

The social features and club aspect of this game are going to set this game apart from other racers.  The idea is that you and five other friends can start an online racing club and compete against other clubs for bragging rights.  This really feels more like a novelty than an actual feature to enhance a racing game. A lot of the multiplayer races have you racing for yourself, and then there are some team races where half the field is on your team. Having a racing team is fun, but just like in real life, some racers want to win regardless of who they are racing. If I was in second place behind a fellow club member I am going to want to win that race. There is no incentive for teamwork aside from gaining points for your club, which leads to new cars to unlock. I would not buy this game for the sole purpose of racing in a club, it was not executed well enough.

After reading this review you may be discouraged to buy this game. Despite its flaws, I still love it. I am a racing fanatic, so I’m willing to look past some of the flaws if the actual racing is fun.  That is where this game excels, once you’re finally connected online and able to race in multiplayer, it becomes a white-knuckle thrill ride. The single player is there for you to hone your skills and unlock more cars, but the multiplayer racing is worth the $60 price tag. I would encourage any die-hard racing fans to give this game a shot, but casual racing game fans can sit this one out.  The price will come down eventually, and there will be a stripped-down free version available for Playstation Plus members.

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