[Review] Driveclub

ESRB:E
ONLINE:Yes [Up to 16 Players Online]
INSTALL:29GB
RELEASE DATE:October 7th, 2014
PLATFORM:Playstation 4
PUBLISHER:Sony Computer Entertainment
DEVELOPER:Evolution Studios
ONLINE PASS:

Presentation


Evolution Studios are no slouch when it comes to crafting a good looking game. WRC, Motorstorm & now Driveclub show that Evolution know how to get a lot out of whatever hardware they’re using.

Rain beads up and slides along the body and glasswork of the car. Chrome glints in the sunlight. Sparks fly when the car bottoms out on a jump. All of these small details work together to create a stunning game.

The game certainly looks good - no question there.

The game certainly looks good – no question there.

The lighting and weather effects are also some of the best I have ever seen in a racing game. Some races, for instance, start at evening and pass into the night – and the transition is very subtle. One moment, it’s light enough to see everything, the next, you can barely see the track ahead of you.

Weather is handled the same way. A race can start out clear, and over the course of however many laps you have, the rain can start and pick up – sometimes culminating in a heavy rainstorm, complete with beautiful lightning strikes randomly happening in the distance.

Overall, the game is quite a looker and I’ve never had any real visual issues occur with the game. No weird framerate drops, or clipping issues. Nothing that I can really complain about, other than Evolution – and some other devs – still don’t seem to know how to make all of their UI elements scale properly when adjusting the safe zone. On certain screens, you’ll have a black border around the image if you’re trying to record or take a screenshot. Thankfully, in the case of Driveclub, the screens that this can happen on, aren’t important (Usually only load screens and result screens).

Now, for as good as the game looks, one issue does stand out. Driveclub doesn’t have much of an identity that sets it apart from other racing titles. If you take a look at the later Gran Turismo games, or the DiRT & GRID series, you can generally recognize them. Even if you turn their respective HUDs off, they have something specific to them that makes them easily recognized.

Driveclub doesn’t really have that going for it. Now, this isn’t to say the UI is bad or anything, it isn’t. It just means that, while it works well and serves its purpose, it isn’t exactly memorable or unique. There’s nothing about it that says “Yes, this is Driveclub. This is what sets us apart from the others.” – other than seeing the game’s logo in places.

I do like that they use community screenshots as the images for load screens and the menu buttons. That’s pretty nice.


Gameplay


It’s a racing game. This is, honestly, where the game doesn’t have much to write home about.

It’s not a bad game by any means, but the core racing doesn’t really do anything particularly unique or special. The driving physics are solid if a bit heavy and confused (It feels like Driveclub doesn’t really know what it wants to be – Arcade or Sim). The way rain effects your handling is nice, and can make for some challenging events when it happens – but it’s also the only realy hazard you deal with. There is snow on some tracks, but its effect is visual only, it doesn’t pile up and coat a road, it just makes the road wet, identically to rain.

There just isn’t that much unique to the game as a whole. The modes that are available are all very straight forward and aren’t anything you haven’t seen before. Standard lap races, sprint events, drift events and time trials make up the core gameplay.

These modes are fine and they’re fun, but there’s nothing really unique about them. If you’ve played any racing game before, you know exactly what to expect.

Race and sprint events pit you against a field of other drivers, and you must make it to the head of the pack before the end of the race to win. Lap races take place on circuits, sprints are a one shot, straight point-to-point race.

There really aren't many race types. Also shown: The exact UI scaling issue I mentioned earlier.

There really aren’t many race types. Also shown: The exact UI scaling issue I mentioned earlier.

Drift events take a small section of track and sets specific zones for drifting or driving fast, rewarding points accordingly. Drift in drift zones, drive as fast as possible in speed zones.

Time Trials are you against the clock. Your only goal here is to try and set the fastest time you can in your chosen car. You have infinite time and laps to do so, so have at it!

That’s all there really is to the core gameplay.

The career mode at least adds some extra stuff to do. There are a lot of events to race in, and they all have objectives you need to complete in order to progress to later events. These objectives can range from setting a certain lap time, to completing a clean lap.

The most unique thing in Driveclub is the social integration. This is actually a really nice feature, and it’s something I would like to see more racing games implement.

Every event and every track has a random selection of online “challenges” – called Face-Offs – that you can take part in as the race goes on. These are reaching a top speed through a section of track, getting a high drift score in a corner and taking a clean line through a corner. These little challenges can help keep a race feeling fresh from lap to lap as they give you something to work towards other than just winning the race.

Once you’ve set a score on a given Face-Off, you’re then given another, higher score to try and beat – either someone online or a friend’s score. It adds a nice, unintrusive second layer of asynchronous competition to an event. Some events even have specific Face-Off goals that you have to meet – but these are purely for the event itself, and don’t reappear once completed.

What I really like, is that the Face-Offs are random. They can be different, even when restarting the same event over (Unless it’s an actual objective for that event), and they can take place on pretty much any part of the track.

They help to keep things at least a little bit interesting among the limited race types.

Face-Offs help inject more variety into the very limited race modes.

Face-Offs help inject more variety into the very limited race modes.

On the multiplayer side, things aren’t much different. Most of Driveclub‘s multiplayer is asynchronous – meaning that things are mostly leaderboard based. There are various online challenges that occur all the time, and these are often events in which everyone is competing to set the highest score or fastest time by the end of the challenge time limit.

There is actual multiplayer as well – but it’s all the same as what you have available to you in the single player, barring 1 extra feature. While racing online, you can choose to have everyone competing against each other, or as teams. Racing as teams will split the field into two teams – red and blue. Teams get scored based on the positions their members take in the race. IE: If the red team, at the end of the race, had more members at higher positions than the blue team, then the red teams wins the event, even if some of their members were dead last.

Clubs are also available, and serve as a way to compete and play with friends.

Clubs are also available, and serve as a way to compete and play with friends.

Clubs are also a thing in the game – but they aren’t really as important as the devs would have you believe. You can actually play the entire game without ever joining a Club and you won’t really suffer for it, other than a few unlocks that are club based.

Speaking of unlocks, Driveclub takes a GT5 approach to things and keeps things locked until you reach a certain level in the game. As you race you’ll earn Fame from various things such as winning races, winning Face-Offs, completeing driver milestones and more. There’s a lot of these to undertake, so you’ll never be hurting for experience.

As you rank up, you’ll constantly be unlocking new stuff, like cars and new paint jobs. You can also unlock new paints and liveries by completing events – almost all of the DLC events have a livery related to them that unlocks after earning all stars in them.

Speaking of liveries – don’t expect much in the way of customization here. Driveclub takes a page out of the GRID book and only allows you to change the livery as a whole, and then adjust colors for it. There’s no car tuning, and you won’t be fitting sick bodykits to your car. When you choose a car, what you see is what you get.

That said, there are a ton of cars available – even without the DLC (At least 50 cars across 5 different classes in the base game and they’re all unique – no repeats.). There are also a fair amount of tracks (55 tracks across 5 locations + more added in DLC), however, I was a little disappointed that all of the tracks were fictional. Granted they are based on real locations, but none of them actually exist, which is a bummer.

I’d love to see a track like Yas Marina running in this engine.

Track and car variety is nice - I just wish there were more real tracks.

Track and car variety is nice – I just wish there were more real tracks.


Replay Value


Like I said before – it’s a racing game. Do you enjoy going from event to event, driving faster and faster cars? Do you enjoy simply trying to best your time on a given track? Or set a higher and higher drift score? If you do, then you’ll get a fair amount of playtime out of Driveclub.

If you’re of the trophy hunting variety this game is very straightforward, but it’s going to take some time to earn that shiny Platinum. Everything is fairly easy and most of the game simply requires winning races and leveling up in your club, and your player profile. However, a few trophies will be quite a grind – particularly “Credit Where It’s Due” which requires you to reach level 6 (Which used to be the max level until they patched in higher ones) for one of each of the main 4 accolades. 3 out of the 4 will likely be earned by the time you complete the main Tour, but the last will take some grinding on your part.

In short, if you like racing games, you’ll find plenty to do here to keep you busy, even with the limited race types.


Final Verdict


Overall, Driveclub isn’t a bad game. It’s not a bad game in the least. It just doesn’t really do anything that you haven’t seen before. There’s nothing that sets it apart from other racing games that offer much more in the way of actual racing gameplay. Even it’s most unique part – the Face-Off system, which I love – isn’t that fresh. It’s basically Autolog or RaceNet, but made more “active”.

A few more race types – an elimination mode, or checkpoint, or endurance events – a little more style/presence, a little more emphasis on the Club aspect and Driveclub could be far, far better.

As it stands, Driveclub is just “Okay”. Saying that about a game that came from the same studio that brought us the Motorstorm series honestly kind of hurts – especially knowing that this was the last game they made before the studio closed down, and the dev team was brought into Codemasters.

Knowing that they won’t be making a Driveclub 2 or adding more to the original game is disappointing – I would have loved to see what this could become.

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PROS CONS
  • A ton of variety in track and car selection. There's sure to be something here for everyone.

  • Beautiful weather effects. Quite possibly some of the best in any game.

  • Face-Offs are a really nice, fun addition to races. More competitive games should have features like this.
  • Lack of variety in race types. A few more race types would have been nice.

  • Multiplayer adds no unique twists to the racing. Nothing that makes it worth dedicating time to, at least.

  • No worthwhile difference in weather. Snow and rain have different visuals, but do nothing different to each other in gameplay.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.
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