As the video game industry moves forward, we have been seeing certain genres use various combinations of elements to keep their titles’ gameplay feeling fresh and evolved. But, as certain titles condense various aspects into their product, the fundamental draws that might have brought you to that specific genre can become lost if not all of the ideas complement each other.
Evolution Studios’ newest racer DriveClub is a perfect example of a title that remembers exactly what is important about a racing game — being on the track. Instead of compounding random elements which can keep players adjusting sliders or playing vehicle dress up in menus, DriveClub focuses on putting players behind the wheel and worrying only about besting the competition more than anything else. It does this by simplifying the layout of the menu system and by embedding side objectives that range from time-attacks to drift challenges directly into each race.
One of the best aspects of DriveClub is the way each car feels connected to the track. Using a balance between being “arcadey” and realistic controls, it allowed me to focus my time on hitting lines and improving my drifting skills. This works wonderfully through most of the game, except when it comes to interactions with AI controlled vehicles. Most of whom will become overly aggressive as they push, ram or drive you off the track when you get in their way.
Normally being a more aggressive driver myself, I wouldn’t have an issue with this except the game will punish you by limiting your speed/acceleration if you cut a corner or slam into another car, but not your opponents. Having had to restart numerous races because I was bumped off the track and then penalized for getting hit and being off course, became more of a common issue that I would have thought possible. On top of any speed penalties, you will also be docked Fame, or experience, with each collision. Thankfully, the amount of Fame you can accrue by doing a single race will always make up for any losses.
Most of this wouldn’t be an issue if you could easily keep position, but its AI will randomly gain the ability to pass you up like you are stuck in the wrong gear when you are going flat-out on a straight away — even when in the same car, which is a trait usually referred to as “rubberbanding.”
While this may sound like DriveClub may be more frustration than fun, that couldn’t be further from the truth. After countless hours driving around the game’s 50 cars across its 55 tracks, spread out over 5 locations and its 50 challenges, I still find myself coming back for more. This is mainly because of just how solid of a racing title it is, and the amount of content it offers, all of which is intertwined in allowing players to play in either online or offline and always be unlocking cars, custom paint jobs or emblems, as well competing with those on their friends list or club.
DriveClub Review - Staying on Track (PS4) - PlayStation LifeStyle
The heart of DriveClub is its community and its ability to put drivers against each other with the least amount of a barrier as possible and this is where it has succeeded on all accounts. Besides being one of the most stable head-to-head online racers I have tried and having full voice chat compatibility, the ability to join a club and take on challenges as a group adds a true sense of community I have yet to see in a racer. Challenges are a bit overly simple, in that you don’t really customize them, as much as simply picking those available to send out, but they work for what is required of them.
Visually, DriveClub looks superb, and most of that comes down to its ability to handle lighting better than almost any game I have seen before it. As you are able to set the speed in which the day passes, you can drive around the same track multiple times and have it look and feel drastically different than before. In one instance, I had hit the perfect time of day to have the sun just above the crest in front of me, causing me to be both blinded and mesmerized by the realistic nature of the world around me. With that though, there are moments when you will see some textures that look overly flat, creating an almost uneven visual sensation at times.
But, when you mix in the dynamic lighting with the sheer number of details that appear on the various tracks, the experience is impressive and completely immersive. Seeing confetti scattered through the air as you round the stands, or seeing bushes overgrown onto the track gives it a more lived in feeling than we normally see in other environments that feel sterile. On top of that, each of the 50 cars have a fully realistic and detailed cockpit view that works wonderfully with the environment and lighting effects.
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As the dynamic weather system is not implemented yet, it is difficult to not feel like part of the game is missing given there are options for it that don’t do much as of yet. But, with so much real content already available it really doesn’t take away from the experience unless you are actively looking to play with the weather.
Ultimately, DriveClub has been able to hold my attention for a lengthy period of time and will continue to do so as long as it is supported with new content and given that this PlayStation-exclusive is already lined up to come out with new cars, events and customization rewards, as well as free track updates, I should be good for some time to come. So racing fans who are not looking for a sim racer, but are wanting a robust driving game to compete with friends against, should give this one a spin.
DriveClub review copy was provided by the publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, read our Review Policy here.