Driveclub, PS4 review

As seen on Twitter: “The first rule of Driveclub. You don’t talk about Driveclub”.

DRIVECLUB_packDriveclub, it’s a name that has been around for a while. Originally mooted as a PS4 launch title and an impressive looking flag bearer, then it was delayed, then that delay turned into a year. Even now, there is no sign of the parallel launch of the free PS+ version and now a month after a slippy start laced with updates the servers are getting traction.

So, now the game is playable where does it sit in the pack?

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Driveclub makes some big promises from its sleek and low key user interface, and the promise that there is a decent racing game here offering all skill levels a variety of satisfaction. Wrapped around that is the influence of the web 2.0 generation, Evolution had grands ideas of socially connected gaming well before Facebook took hold. Grand ideas that they had to shelve for a while, before the current generation of consoles came onto the horizon and then Driveclub was conceived. Making driving accessible was half the battle, making it socially competitive was the other half.

The concept was sound, hell even the beta was by all accounts impressive, even pre-launch demonstrations sold the game. Then there was the launch and after that the wheels fell off.

DRIVECLUB™_20141016214008Server load was too much, the software was unable to cope with the sheer amount of information that had to flow back and fore. The free version was pulled from the PSN marketplace and update after update was rolled out. On launch the game was a shadow of the title it was supposed to be. A month later things are mostly back on track, so its probably a fairer time to give the game some consideration.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Driveclub is how gorgeous it looks, the developers have taken the option of building tracks in some unusual locations for a racing game and they have lavished them with respect. The tracks, the background detail and the ambient or random effects are often quite breathtaking. From the heat of India to the dewey purple haze of heather lined valleys in Scotland the game sings visually.

DriveC_06Action wise the career style mode runs the player through a variety of events in differing locales with various car classes. A familiar set-up and in the way it is set up here it works well enough, each race or event allows the player to collect stars for performance and those stars rack up to open the next range of events. With the teething troubles Driveclub had this experience has been predominately an offline solo mode devoid of any social interaction and showing the AI drivers up for the bullies they are. If this mode had been peppered with Club challenges and Socially driven Face-offs it would have been a lot more interesting to deal with. However, grinding through the events unlocks new cars and decals, all of which help to bring a bit more longevity, tinkering with decals and club colours can easily waste a decent chunk of time.

DRIVECLUB™_20141016215230Face-offs are worth a mention, when they work properly Driveclub is at its best. After firing up a Time Trial event recently I was pleased to see Face-off challenges popping up with my friends details. Forcing me to try harder, corner better and focus on my line. Then the ghost kicked in, not only my ghost, but also the ghost of my friend. I then gave up most of an hour chasing a half a second on my lap time while chasing a couple of ghosts. As I say, when Driveclub works – it works well.

At the time of writing online racing is still patchy, the races I have managed to connect to have been populated by racers rocketing around and treating every course like a demolition derby. My last experience would have been a respectable second place until getting pushed off the road and coming in over ten seconds after the rest of the field.

DriveC_05Overall Driveclub has not achieved it’s goals, with the much talked about weather system still waiting to be implemented, no sign of the PS+ version and users still experiencing patchy connections. You can see what Driveclub wanted to be and even if you think that would be great when it does eventuate, I’m not sure the public will stand for the wait. The game wasn’t ready and the audience wanted so much more that it could hope to deliver.