When the PlayStation 4 released last year in November, DriveClub was one of the most anticipated launch titles for the upcoming console. Although the title’s release was put into park for the better part of a year, DriveClub has finally made it to the finish line. This new IP has brought claims of a ten year concept, bringing a way to connect car enthusiasts with racing game fans in one, big experience.
DriveClub is a racing title designed exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and developed by Evolution Studios, who are known for looking after the Motorstorm franchise. As implied by the name, DriveClub has a large community focus where you can create a club populated with six members and race with other clubs online. The game also has the typical single player and multiplayer modes you would find in any other racing game.
Within single player, there are a number of racing events to compete in which culminate to a final championship in the relevant category. There are five championship categories to work your way to, which are the Rookie, Amateur, Semi-Pro, Pro and Legend championships. Each racing event could be a normal circuit race, sprint race, time trial or a drift challenge. If this sounds a lot like other racing games that you may have played, it’s because it is. The race types are very stock standard to all racing game fans and unfortunately there isn’t a mode that really catches your eye.
When you’re racing in DriveClub you accumulate fame points and accolades depending on the tactics and manoeuvres you pull off, which go towards your overall racing level. Your racing level allows you to unlock certain cars and events, furthering your progression into the game. The points and accolades you earn also contribute to your club’s racing level, which also unlock extra cars to race in. Within each race is a list of objectives which award gold stars. It’s not compulsory to complete every objective and obtain all the gold stars, however in order to compete in higher championships you need to meet a minimum requirement of stars earned, depending on the championship.
In Multiplayer, entering races can be done through the Event Browser. It’s a culmination of generated tracks with certain entry requirements made to look like it’s a real-life racing event. Each event has a countdown until it starts, so if you find an event you like, be sure to register before it times out. Once the timer finishes and you’ve registered, you’re then added into a standardised lobby with other players who are ready to race.
There are entry requirements with each racing event, with some only allowing European cars or are restricted to one specific type of car. Don’t have the car you need for the event? Not a problem. A loan car is supplied to you, but no points or accolades will be earned from the event. This can be slightly frustrating if you only own three cars (none of which are good) and the rest of the people online want to race in Lamborghini’s.
The graphics in DriveClub are stunning, with the environment and race tracks all modelled to the finest detail. Every race track is inspired by real locations around the world, and they are unique to the game. The detail in design also extends to the cars, with the interior of every car modelled exactly to its real-life counterpart. The game makes use of these features by showing your driver getting into their car in first person view before each race, emphasising the realism aspect behind DriveClub. This really gets your immersion sensors going and makes you feel like there is some life in the game. If you are the type to have a racing game chair, you will live this added little feature.
Racing against AI in single player can be very challenging in DriveClub. It is common among racing games to be fighting your way to pole position within the first few seconds, then be miles ahead of the competition for the rest of the race. In DriveClub however, it’s a constant fight to maintaining your position the whole way. There were many occurrences where I would be in first place and think I was untouchable, only to be overtaken by a competitor later on.
This also leads into the driving mechanics of the game. The finest actions you make when taking a corner to braking at the right time will make the most significant difference during a race, and can ultimately affect your overall outcome. Evolution Studios have said that this is due to each car’s power, weight, torque and engine placement stats all being modelled separately into the game. After playing the game for a while, you start to pick up on the differences of each vehicle driven and the way it handles. Racing games are all about the attention to detail and the immersion factor so when DriveClub nails these things the way they have, it produces a wonderful result.
While DriveClub impresses in its attention to detail, the game in general is very lacklustre. With most racing games, there is a focal centrepiece that makes it different to the rest. Forza Motorsport 5 had Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May of Top Gear narrating the title, effectively adding some personality to the game. The Gran Turismo franchise continually builds upon a vast library of cars to select from with full customisation options, and Forza Horizon 2 goes one further by adding a story which ultimately allows players to take a relaxed approach to the game.
The titles mentioned above all go beyond the standard features of a racing title to add some life to the game, but DriveClub is just a stock standard racing game. Playing single player in particular felt like a job rather than a game, and in turn it was not motivating or engaging. Playing it safe and getting the basics right is a good starting point but it shouldn’t have been the entire premise.
DriveClub shines the way with realism in racing games, with its life-like AI offering quite the challenge, finessed driving mechanics and superb graphics detailing. All this however came at the cost to overall enjoyment. DriveClub did eventually make it to the finish line, but it’s crossing the line in third gear when it could have been going so much faster.