Driveclub - PS4 Review
While 2015 looks like a bumper year for big first party titles from Sony, Christmas 2014 looks pretty lean with only two key titles due during the Christmas sales period from Sony - LittleBigPlanet 3 which is due in November and this game, Driveclub. Many PS4 owners will recall that the game was actually a launch title with the PS4 in November 2013, but only weeks before release it was delayed. Now, almost 12 months later, the game is finally here with much anticipation.
|DriveClub really is this gorgeous.|
Certainly one of the most exciting aspects of this release is the developer, Evolution Studios. Long time Playstation fans will be familiar with their wonderful WRC franchise on PS2 and their technically stunning, and very entertaining, Motorstorm games on PS3. For Sony's newest console the developers have moved to road based racing and introduced a new franchise Driveclub.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, and as with most racing games, there is no story to be followed. Funnily enough, despite the fact you can customise the look of your driver (male or female) in the car, you only ever see him for a few moments before and after races. It hardly seemed worth the effort really. As a result there is no back story to your driver, no emotional attachment and, well, no real purpose for him being there. Tracks are located in five countries - India, England, Norway, Canada and Chile, each of which has a distinctive look and style.
In terms of game modes there are three options under Drive on the Main Menu - Tour, Single Event and Multiplayer. Tour is where you will spend the bulk of your single player experience (at least, until you complete it) as you enter a series of races, drift, time trials or Cup/Series/Trophy tournaments, each which has set goals and challenges such as finishing in the top couple of cars, beating a certain time, or getting a certain number of drift points. By progressing through the Tour you will earn Fame points which go towards your Driver Level, and unlocking new vehicles. Speaking of which the game includes 38 vehicles including Audi RS5, BMW M135i, Ferrari California, Austin Martin V12 Zagato, Lotus Exige S, Ferrari FF, and Audi A1 Quattro with more to be added through DLC. It's a good mix of cars with a range of handling and power.
|Driveclub includes tracks in five countries.|
The Single Event allows you to enter a Race, Time Trial, or Drift event with the ability to set a challenge for friends to beat your result, or appear on the Global Leaderboards. Then there's Multiplayer which we haven't played anywhere near as much as we would have liked given the server issues (more on that soon), but provides support for 6 vs 6 club racing and allows you to select the types of races you want to enter be they based on country, types of car or type of event. When we did get into races we were impressed by the lack of lag, although it did seem a lot easier to spin cars around then in the main Tour mode which became a little annoying (although, perhaps, it was just more aggressive driving from humans rather then AI).
Other options at the Main menu include My Club where you can manage your team including inviting other gamers, the logo and events. My Profile allows you to configure your own settings, appearance and so on, and the Garage allows you to look at the cars which are customisable with paint colours and liveries across multiple layers.
|Racing at night is difficult, but fun.|
Unfortunately this game has fallen short from our expectations in a number of areas. First of all, when you launch a big game like this, you expect it to work - it has taken Sony almost a week to resolve the majority of online issues and that would be fine if it was just a multiplayer mode not working but with online connectivity so entrenched in the game it's inexcusable. Sony and Evolution Studios needed to restrict the number of copies on sale initially to ensure the servers could cope, or do a hell of a lot more testing to ensure capacity. Hell, why not release a Beta of the game? As a result the Playstation Plus edition is delayed and the Smartphone App is nowhere to be seen.
When it comes to the actual gameplay this is a pretty slick experience with some gorgeous track design and cars that feel different when racing. Drifting was a little hard to control and more often then not you'll end up in the barriers. We didn't mind the fact that you will lose Fame points for crashing into the track barriers, nor for colliding into other cars, but it's pretty annoying when an opponent crashes into you (which will happen quite often), but you still lose Fame points as a result - most frustrating when a car slams into you from behind.
Also disappointing are the features which aren't in the initial release, but will be added later through patches. The Photo Mode should be a fantastic addition for car lovers with the game providing some stunning visuals to capture. Even bigger though, and potentially even a gameplay changer is the Dynamic Weather which will allow for changable weather during races. We've seen the game in the rain and it looks spectacular. Sadly no timeframe has been provided for either of these additions that should have been in the initial release.
|It's possible to change the paintjobs and liveries on your cars.|
We're not done yet as there are a few more annoyances. As far as we can tell there is no way to customise cars with new parts - either performance changing or cosmetic - nor is there any option to tune the cars or change gear ratios. Those looking for a detailed car damage system will be disappointed too, there is some visible damage to cars, but parts don't break away from cars. Finally steering wheel support is limited to Thrustmaster at the moment, with the developers confirming Logitech or Fanatec support may be added if those companies support the PS4 (so no, you older wheels won't work!). Want a race replay? Forget it. Finally, the ability for a friend to take control of your PS4 and race for you is expected to be added at a later date, possibly with Firmware 2.0, but that isn't confirmed.
When Driveclub was first announced a Playstation Plus version was also confirmed which would give PS4 owners an in-depth look at the game - and Game Director Paul Rustchynsky has confirmed that "The PlayStation Plus Edition hasnít changed. Itís hardly a demo because you get access to all of the gameís features online and offline. The difference is that you only have 10 cars and you can only race in one country (which gives you access to 5 tracks with 11 distinct variants)." Not bad for free but as we area all aware due to the launch issues with the servers Sony have postponed the Playstation Plus version of the game to an unspecified date.
|Cars in Driveclub really are stunningly recreated.|
Sony and Evolution Studios have also promised that Driveclub will receive plenty of post-release support. A free car will be released every month until June 2015 - thats 9 free cars which will be accompanies by 11 free tracks post-launch. Or course those that pay for the full game or Season Pass will receive additional cars, events and liveries as well.
Ever since it was first shown Driveclub has been a visual showcase for the PS4, and given the developers history with visual fidelity we expected the game to impress. Indeed, what we have here is a game running at a full 1920 x 1080p resolution at 30fps but also a game that while always visually impressive has improved markedly from what we expected as a launch title. While some may be disappointed by the frame rate, it's rock solid from start to finish even when the track is full with cars. This frame rate also allowed the developers to boost the detail in the game with some stunningly detailed cars, lands as far as the eye can see and very impressive lighting models - be it for reflections, artificial lighting, or changes in time of day.
|Probably the best looking racing tracks ever.|
Do we have some disappointments? Well yes, there are a few. Occasionally we noticed some aliasing issues with occasional jaggies even at the high resolution output. There were occasional glitches - we've seen rubbish pass throguh cars for instance - and some of the landscapes don't seem as realistic as one would expect with the track in India suffering the worst here. Of course we're also disappointed in the lack of dynamic weather at launch. We have no date as yet, and the videos we've seen are stunning, but it probably should have been available at launch.
Music in Driveclub is pretty generic and forgettable, and perhaps even the developers realised this as it's turned off by default when you start the game. Turn it on, and it won't be long before you're likely to be returning to engine noises only. Fortunately the engine in this game are among the best we've ever heard in a racing game. If you change your viewpoint (from interior, to near or far following, or on the bonnet for instance) the engine actually sounds different for each location.
|Dynamic Weather will be added with a post-release patch.|
For a game delayed by 12 months, and given all the launch issues, we can only imagine what state the game was in before the pin was pulled. As it is, Driveclub is a great looking, quite fun, racing game that lacks the extras bells and whistles, or indeed the hardcore simulation modes, that we expected. Still, promised DLC and improvements such as dynamic weather and a photo mode will almost certainly improve the product in time but for now, it's probably actually a game more for casual racing fans then hardcore sim fanatics.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||One of the best looking racing games ever, but it's not quite as groundbreaking as we expected. Some room for improvement.||87%|
|SOUND||The music is forgettable, but the cars sound fantastic, and different, according to viewpoint.||82%|
|GAMEPLAY||Car handling is great although drifts are a bit twitchy. Annoyingly you can't go "off track" for more then 3 seconds. Argh!||76%|
|VALUE||The career mode is decent, but over far to quick, solo races and multiplayer are present, but it will come down to your desire to create, or participate in clubs with friends online.||75%|
|OVERALL||Driveclub is a fantastic looking racing game that lacks the bells and whistles we expect for such a big release - and from the developer of Motorstorm. The launch issues are inexcusable and have damaged branding of this franchise, the developer and Sony PlayStation. Solid, but not essential.||78%|