A albeit small number of you, may have been wondering where our review of Driveclub has got to. The game has been released for a fair number of days now, yet it’s received little coverage on our site. This is because the game is simply, unfinished and technically a good portion of the experience Evolution intended to be available on its launch, just isn’t there.
So far my experience with Driveclub, although positive and generally smooth has been one that simply isn’t complete. Prior to Driveclub’s release there weren’t enough players online to fully experience the games online and social features, and since the games launch these features have ranged from barely functioning to entirely offline. The games online play is up and down every 5 minutes, with aspects like clubs and faceoffs being deactivated most of the time. With this in mind, while we have decided to reserve our judgement on the game and we strongly recommend you don’t adopt this title early. The online and social features were always advertised as being integral to the core experience, yet for the moment these features simply aren’t available, or are suffering from serious technical hickups.
While I recommend you hold off on purchasing Driveclub at the moment – something I think Evolution and Sony would be happy for you to do too, considering the games absence from sale on the Playstation store – I also recommend you approach existing reviews of the title with caution, as at very minimum; the majority of these will not have been based of Driveclub’s final, fully functional state.
That’s not to forgive this blunder of a launch though. We firmly believe that games should launch as fully functional and finished products, so it’s disappointing to see Driveclub flounder on its launch week, but we don’t it would be duly informative to review the game in this state. Presuming these issues are repaired within the coming days Driveclub will most likely become a drastically different experience over a relatively short space of time, and we want to pass our judgement on that experience, the one that most consumers will be buying into long-term.
While our review for the game has been delayed, our impressions of the racing model, tracks and content that’s playable thus far have been relatively positive. The game is distinctly an arcade racer, offering a handling model somewhat similar to the Racedriver: GRID series of arcade games from Code Masters.
In turn the game lacks the technical depth of games like Gran Turismo, however that isn’t to say the game is shallow. Crafting the perfect racing line is an inherently deep experience, and traveling a vehicle from A to B regardless of the actual physical similation behind its movement is always going to be a task that requires precision and finesse to achieve greater efficiency and reduced times. So the experience is in effect as deep as you want it to be, you can spend hours trying to gain control and understand the finer points of a vehicles handling characteristics, optimising your lines for better times, or you can just bomb round the tracks with ignorance to these underlying mechanics.
The vehicle handling mechanics themselves, while being afformentioned as ‘arcadey’ are still in touch with reality, to a certain extent. This isn’t Ridge Racer, drifting isn’t a viable manner of getting around the track but it’s forgiving enough to prevent the tail of your car sending you spinning, most of the time. Keeping your car stable is relatively easy, and breaking and acceleration are much faster than they would be in a racing sim, those are perhaps the largest differences.
The games tracks are vividly detailed and entertaining with their twists and turns, but for the most part the locations aren’t very interesting. In particular landmarks are very minimal, so there’s no stark difference going from one track to the next, provided they are in roughly the same location. This wouldn’t be a flaw if it weren’t for the fact that the games tracks and locations are predominantly fictional; if you’re going to invent a location, making it creative is always a bonus.
AI drivers are challenging, and persistent. In fact some of the best we’ve experienced within a racing game of this type. Every race the AI drivers prove to be both challenging and engaging, much more so than on titles like Forza and Gran Turismo, where passing the entire pack early on can become a breeze, even on higher difficulties. For me, this has been Driveclub’s merit so far, the racing experience is top notch and watching the AI bump, scrape and weave through eachother makes the racing experience come to life.
The only real content currently available to play smoothly is the games career mode, allowing you to unlock a variety of cars as you progress through the games events. For me, it’s disappointing that this isn’t encapsulated into some kind of narrative, and it feels somewhat lifeless progressing from event to event, merely to earn stars and new cars without some sort of end-goal being established. Games like GRID always had you effectively working up to becoming the best, or most famous Racedriver in the world, and I think a little narrative goes a long way to making the singleplayer content a much more compelling experience. However despite this, the variety of singleplayer events remain fun, and earning reputation to unlock cars will prove incentive enough for many to stick with it.
So there you have it. We’re delaying our review till the game stablises itself, but so far our experience with the game has been relatively positive. I think Driveclub will find difficulty finding an audience with its sort of middle ground approach to arcade rather than simulation based gameplay, but what is on offer at present is a satisfying racing experience.