There is something about racing games that I both like and dislike in equal measure. When you get true simulation games such as Gran Turismo 6 and Forza Motorsport I find myself getting distracted by the beautifully crafted scenery just long enough to plow into the boot of the car in front of me, thus destroying all of the hard work I had put into the previous 56 laps. The flip side of this is that I get to experience what it would be like to drive cars that I could never ever afford with a wife and two kids; like a Ford Mondeo.
Sometimes however I just prefer to slam a car round a track taking no regard for me or my cars wellbeing, drifting round a corner so I side swipe the wall at the edge of the circuit before hitting the gas to power along the rest of the track. Again this is because I would never ever be able to drive a car with that much disregard anywhere like that in real life. The problem with this is that the “arcade” racer normally comes with powerups that belong in the arcade world only which destroys the sense of realism.
Driveclub tries to strike the balance by straddling both versions of a racing game, rewarding you by demonstrating the style and “clean” driving (more on this later) whilst taking control of fifty of the most well-known cars in a balls to the wall drag race. Unfortunately at times it feels, well, it feels like neither and occasionally a little standard.
First up let’s discuss the centre of the game and that is the clubs themselves. Acting like a mini guild, you and five additional friends can join together to unlock rewards. Many of the higher spec’ed cars you want to unlock use either your own personal driver level or your overall club level and in a demonstration of gaming 101; the higher the rank reaps the better rewards.
So how do you gain rank I hear none of you ask, mainly because you would have to be completely made or stupid to not be able to work out that driving is rewarded in the driving game drive club. Racing clean (no colliding with opponents and keeping to the driveline) and with style (drifting) reaps you points whilst driving like something out of Worlds wildest police chases (slamming into walls and other cars whilst going off-road) will see your points be depleted.
This is where one of my personal bug bears comes in with Driveclub. You don’t have to be the driver that initiates the collision to be punished. Car behind shunts you – bye bye points. Car overtakes you and nudges you off road – sayonara style points. This is even more prevalent online where some people think that Sony have released a definitive edition of Demolition Derby with the way that they careened into my poor little Audi for the first two laps to get themselves ahead of me before driving clean to rack up the style points. This netted them more points than I gained by driving clean and drifting for the entire three laps.
And effectively this is the entire gist of the single player mode. You goal is to collect stars from each race or event, the script seems to be one for finishing in the top 3, one for beating a benchmark – such as average speed – and one for beating a challenge of some description. The challenges appear during a race without warning, and normally involve following a blue or orange line to beat the record of another online player and this, at the current time, is a major problem with Driveclub.
I would imagine that this social feature would add another dimension to the game as you battle to beat another driver, another club, to become the elite club within the Driveclub environment. However, and I won’t dwell on the ins and outs of this as many other sites have done so already, the lack of a robust and reliable online network harms this aspect and removes the hook which would make Driveclub stand out from the crowd.
Since playing the game, I have failed to connect five times and I have connected before racing but whilst driving have disconnected before finishing the race – this results in the points you earn only being allocated to your driver and NOT the club as you need to be online constantly to access the Driveclub. I have connected fully twice and the experience is something completely different. You get the sense of battling other drivers and you are never quite sure whether any of the eleven other racers are AI or other racers. Unfortunately I just haven’t experienced enough of it consistently to see how it really makes me feel.
The progression at the moment feels very limited with the unlockables being simply new models of cars and paint jobs – standard non customisable (sorry Adamski) paint jobs. You can create your own club logo although this is also very sparse, in that you can pick four elements from a large selection to create a logo which can then be placed on your car. There is no pixel by pixel creation and there is no customisation of your cars either – factory standards all the way here.
Where Driveclub does stand out is that is a gorgeous looking game. The focus on how the car looks both outside and most definitely inside is simply nailed on. Thinking of buying an Audi Quattro, well pick that car and you know exactly what it looks like inside. When this is coupled with the first person “Driver view” it makes the race so exciting and I’m not afraid to admit that occasionally I suffered Racing Sim Distraction resulting in a fair few crashes for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The actual tracks still look nice when zooming out of the car with debris and other elements adding to the feel of the race, which could easily be used as a demonstration of what the PlayStation 4 is capable of doing.
Driveclub is easily accessible and great fun for a quick drop in race. PlayStation Plus members should give this a go when it does arrive as part of the Instant Game Collection. However without the constant online presence currently it feels lacking and whether or not the club aspect will be a social gaming dealbreaker or little more than a leaderboard gimmick is yet to be ascertained. It is for that reason that Midlife Gamer is taken the unprecedented step of delaying the scoring of Driveclub until both the online server issues are resolved and the Plus Edition is released. At that point we will republish the review with a score.
MLG Rating: To Be Confirmed Format: PlayStation 4 Release Date: 07/10/2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of DriveClub by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 1 week on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.