Developed by Evolution Studios, the same studio that worked on MotorStorm, comes DRIVECLUB, a racing game that promises a socially integrated experience between single and multiplayer modes. But was the one year delay enough to make this one of the best in the genre?
Let’s start by take this out of the way, the game is gorgeous. From the interior and exterior car models to the superb lighting effects that bring out all the fine details in each location, this is one shiny looking game. Unfortunately, for those like me that like to watch the replays after a race and admire the game visuals and the action, the game just doesn’t go that extra mile, so no replays for us. As of this writing, the promised weather effects, such as rain, are also absent, so we will have to see how that plays out in the future.
You will race in 5 different locations, Canada, Chile, India, Norway and Scotland, and combined they will offer you 55 tracks, although each country will only feature 5 main tracks, leaving the rest for their variants - reverse and different time of the day. The amount of cars available goes for a total of 50, matching the number of events in the tour mode of the game. Once you beat the tour, which will not take you long by the way, your options are Single Events mode, which feature Race, Time Trial and Drift events, or you can go straight to the multiplayer mode, and if it’s working, you will get into the real game, because DRIVECLUB is all about the social interaction and all about competitive multiplayer. There, you will be able to enter lobbies or create you own and invite others to play. There is also the Club, where you can create or join a 2 to 6 players club and take on challenges together. The clubs are also the only way to get 5 of the game’s cars that will only be available when you level up your club.
Under the premise that DRIVECLUB is an always online experience, the Tour mode will integrate multiplayer face off challenges in real time even if you are just working yourself up the single player mode of the game. During a race you will not only have the main challenges, such as finishing a race in the top 3 positions or getting a lap time under a specific time, you will also be presented with challenges like beating the drift points earned by other gamers in a corner or their average speed, that is, if you are able to connect to the servers. But if you do, this asynchronous multiplayer works really well and gives you extra challenges to look forward to. On the down side, if you are in a championship, you can’t restart the last race, so there is always a chance of blowing your championship in the last race, and if you want to get the first spot you will have to start the championship from the beginning. Furthermore, do yourselves a favor, be sure to watch your controller battery because if you run out of juice, and unlike any other game these days, the game will not stop, so you may just lose a championship just because of this.
As you will quickly learn, the other racers are very aggressive and act like ex-cops from a Need for Speed game, they will just not rest until they take you down, trading paint side-by-side and smashing into your car’s rear. They will also use rather unusual tactics to get your place in the race, like driving out of the road, but still managing not to lose speed while doing it, unlike you, that once off the road, your chances on ending up on the top 3 at the finish line become very slim. The game is also unforgiving with those who like to cut corners, drive off road, and use the others cars to brake hard on tight corners, you will end up a time penalty and lose points. Unfortunately the game doesn’t quite get what is fair and what’s not, because sometimes the others racers used my back as a brake and I was the one getting the penalty. On the other hand, sometimes I sent other cars flying and I got no penalty.
The sense of speed if mind blowing, you will always race on the edge, so be sure to be ready to use the brakes at any moment because it will all happen very fast, especially with the fastest cars in the game, they can literally take off from the asphalt and send you flying in some of the tracks. The choice for vehicle personalization is very narrow. For color, you don’t even get a choice, you will be limited to the factory color that the game chose for you, but you will be able select a very limited number of custom liveries, that is shared with all the cars in the game. Almost all of the roster of the game is comprised of European cars, and Japanese cars are nowhere to be seen at all. Despite that, our beloved Lamborghinis are also missing in action.
With an odd selection of cars and brands, very little car personalization, short championships, and the frequent server connection drops that affect the multiplayer component, the game feels more like work in progress than a full game release. Granted that fun, the concept, the speed, the sound and the looks are there, but overall, the game falls a bit short on his promise, even more considering that the it was delayed a full year from the original launch date, and 2 weeks after the launch is still trying to find solutions to the problems that prevent the game from achieving it’s true potential.