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DriveClub – E3 Preview

Gran Turismo 6 was announced back in May, and to everyone’s surprise it was only officially confirmed for the PlayStation 3, despite the PS4 having been announced back in February. Though the game may eventually see release on the PS4, that might not be for a while, as in Polyphony Digital’s Valve-like sense of “a while.”

So what’s a racing fan to do? Evolution Studios, of Motorstorm fame, is hoping you’ll pick up DriveClub and get your racing fix with them (and you’ll probably end up getting the game with your online anyway). We went hands-on with the game at E3, and have our impressions available for you.

In case you weren’t aware, DriveClub is not a simulator. While it does boast high-fidelity graphics, the gameplay focuses on playing in squads, or at least in the case of the demo we were shown at E3, against others as you run laps on a course. The physics are definitely geared towards the more realistic side of things, but do feel a bit more forgiving than those of Gran Turismo.

Other than physics, another way in which DriveClub makes its mark is in the social aspects of the game. When I first sat down to play the game at Sony Europe’s booth, I was asked to smile for the camera. Yep, the PlayStation Camera was here for this game, but only to make a custom avatar for my profile. After that, there was no more use of the camera. Now, throughout certain sections of the course I was on, dynamic goals would appear on the screen. Sometimes I would be tasked with maintaining a high average speed, or cornering correctly, or even drifting around a turn. Whatever the case, after the section was over I would be compared to another person on my friends list/squad, and be instantly handed over a “win” or a “loss” depending on my performance. On top of this, I was obviously also trying to achieve a fast lap time. At the end of the race, I was shown an overview of each of these contests, including a percentage of the challenges that I won versus those that I lost. It’s all a pretty seamless integration, a light touch of social interaction that can add just that little something extra to driving around a track.

Graphically, the game ran smoothly. I cannot say that it was the best-looking racing game I’ve seen, but considering that the game was in a very early stage I’d say there will be a ton more polish added by the next time I see it. The car that I drove, the Hennessey Venom GT, had its entire interior replicated in exquisite detail, and the track looked worn from years of use as you would expect. I’d venture to say that things off the track such as trees and other objects looked better than Gran Turismo 5, which, given the generational gap in hardware, would be expected.

One rather awe-inspiring feature, as lame as it may sound as first to some, is responsive environments. If you happen to come careening into a turn and get swept up into a barrier such as some metal railing, when you hit said object, it will actually deform, much like what happens to real-life barriers when a multi-ton vehicle rams into them at high speed. This is in stark contrast to games like Gran Turismo which have completely indestructible environments that you simply bounce off of when striking. Again, although this sounds like a small addition, it makes a big difference when you try to immerse yourself in a game.

DriveClub is set to be a launch title with the PlayStation 4 this coming holiday season. It will be available in two editions – the full, regular game, and as a “PS+ Edition” for PlayStation Plus subscribers at no additional cost (though its content will be reduced).