At the Tokyo Game Show, I was given a one-on-one guided tour of the PS4 launch title Drive Club, by Evolution Studios.
The first thing Sony’s guide wanted to show me was the asynchronized matching system. “Even when playing by yourself, you feel like you’re competing with other people, live,” he said. I took a profile photo of myself with the PS4 camera and in mere seconds, it showed my photo side by side with another person who had also very clearly taken his photo from the TGS floor. This man would be my opponent for the demonstration. The guide pointed to another Drive Club play area and said that my station was being matched up against players from the other one. My opponent had actually played the game some time earlier in the day, but I would race him right now — or at least, I’d race against his numbers.
I asked, “So they play at some time, and when I play, I can see like a ghost of their cars doing what they did?” The guide confirmed.
Next, he made sure to talk about how expensive all the cars are. “All of the cars are famous European and American cars,” he practically beamed.
Me: “How about like an ’87 Chevy Nova, do you have one of those?”
Guide: (Smiling) “Nooooo. Usually more expensive sports cars.”
Me: “So no like, Dodge Neon?”
Guide: “Haha, no. They can’t keep up!”
My attention was pointed toward colored lines on the road, and it was explained to me that if you can properly follow them, you’ll earn points. “You just beat the other guy!” said the booth attendant when I successfully followed a trail of blue marks. For these special places on the race track, one might not always see the shadow of the opponent cars, but will be notified of their scores for that area.
Around another turn, my guide pointed to the avatar of another player and said, “Okay now there’s a drift area. You have to do a drift better than this guy. …Aaand you just did, okay!” Sure enough, our point totals were shown and I claimed the victory.
During other times during the race, updates would pop up with other statistics, such as being told “Average Speed: XYZ km/h” at the end of a lap. When I couldn’t keep up with an opponent, the game gave me a virtual pat on the butt and said “Better luck next time” in mid race.
The guide set off my alarm bells when he used a phrase that has become sacrilege on the internet: “The idea is that the PlayStation 4 is always online. Even when you’re playing by yourself, you’re always competing with other players.” I clarified, “Can you turn that off it you want to?” and the man replied, “Yeah, it’s optional. You can enjoy traditional offline racing as well.”
He also wanted to tell me all about the Share button, which you’ve probably heard about already. “The PS4 is constantly recording your gameplay,” my guide told me, “When you have a great race or do something you want to share, it’s easy to upload right here with this Share button.”
The guide was also very big on emphasizing how expensive the real-life versions of the cars are. “You see that scratch?” he asked at the end of a race. “That’s gonna cost me like a million dollars.” Hearing this, I asked if that was just a joke or if there were indeed a money system in the game. He clarified that there isn’t; no damage needs to be manually replied, according to the Sony employee giving me my tour. What Drive Club does include, however, is the collection of “Fame Points,” earned after each race. These are used to buy new cars and tracks. Fame Points can be collected through a variety of online and offline race modes, whether you win or lose. Obviously, good performances and victories earn far more points, but a loss can still get you a little bit of progress.
I looked at my guide and said, “So in other words… It can’t be for nothing.” I’m not sure if he got the reference, but he nodded in agreement.
The last thing pointed out was the emphasis on “club play,” which of course entails joining a team and competing as a group. I was shown some stats from earlier in the day, when Sony had group on collection of players versus another for some friendly competition.
Drive Club will be released alongside the PS4 system in November for EU and NA, February for JP. PlayStation Plus subscribers will get access to a free version that features less content, but they’ll be able to upgrade to the full price version at a discounted cost if they wish to. In all, it seemed like a pretty attractive next-gen racer. If you’re a motorhead who has gotta get a new auto game with his/her new console, then Drive Club is probably worth a look. And if you’re a PS+ subscriber, heck, you can get a good look that won’t even cost you anything.