Driveclub: Is the first exclusive PS4 racer worth the wait?

RACING IS A game of two halves. Wait. We’ve got our sporting metaphors mixed up. Either way, Driveclub

Evolution Studios’ much-delayed racer
is definitely a game of two halves.

The single-player modes, of which the GRID-esque ‘Tour’ is a central pillar, are unlikely to get your motor redlining. Across various series of races, time trials and drift challenges, you’ll earn experience points (‘Fame’) for all your on-track endeavours, from overtaking to driving a clean sector. These points help you level up in much the same way as the Shift franchise, while completing various
on-track challenges awards you with gold stars that unlock the various levels. We’re sure it all sounds pretty familiar to you and that’s because it is.

Racing against the AI is a frustrating endeavour too thanks to their willingness to ignore your existence during race starts. You’ll find yourself in the lead soon enough but, even then, their elastic tendencies mean their bumper-nudging tactics are never far away. Still, at least the fact there aren't many tracks means you’ll get used to where your computerised rivals enjoy using you to slow down.

With all this panel-bashing, you’d think that Driveclub would have a pretty substantial damage model but, in the name of keeping the game “fun”, there’s no mechanical disadvantage to be had from cannoning into another car or inanimate object with the velocity of a runaway scud missile. Normally, in a game that tries to look as realistic as possible, such an omission would be in admissible, however, we have to agree with Evolution. No damage in Driveclub is actually refreshing.

Across the five real-world locations, the environments aren't as stunning as we hoped. In fact, they don't feel particularly next-gen in their execution even if the sheer size of each landscape is impressive. However, small details such as falling leaves and wind-caught litter helps to inject a little next-gen pizazz, along with a few ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’.

Graphically, the car models are similarly underwhelming, at least from the outside (though glowing brake discs are super cool). Stepping inside the cockpit of each vehicle is another visual story, though Driveclub has perhaps the best lighting effects since Killzone: Shadow Fall.

Watching the light refract off your windscreen is a mesmerising experience, while the level of detail is beautifully immersive. The transition from day to night is pure art, with driving in the darkness a seamless yet excellently claustrophobic experience.

Driveclub is also an outstandingly eargasmic aural experience too. Every exhaust note and kerb rumble brings the game to life, aided by some of the best arcade handling seen in a videogame in some time. In fact, Evolution’s dynamic work is so good it’s hard to tell if this falls on the arcade spectrum or not.

Each car has a superb sense of weight and momentum under cornering and braking, with different engine layouts resulting in realistically differentiated dynamics. It all sounds pretty simulation heavy, yet anyone can pick up Driveclub and have fun just, well, driving.

In reality, Evolution had to make the driving accessible yet rewarding as this is what will encourage you to dip your toes into the multiplayer, where Driveclub really comes alive as a concept. The social integration is skilfully woven into the overall gameplay justifying, to a degree, the delay that ensured
Driveclub missed launch day last year constantly creating competition.

Within your club (or as a lone wolf), you are forever in competition with every other player, with your times and scores constantly ranked and displayed in the menu screens. There is always a new challenge to try out, always a new way of being the best, either as an individual or as a team. And don’t think the competition is purely time-based; within each event there are numerous ‘Faceoffs’
that challenge you to best a drifting score or better another player’s average speed.

Therefore, winning in Driveclub isn't all about being first past the post, creating the first racing game where everyone in the team can feel like they’re truly pulling their weight in some department.

Some will no doubt argue this is just a next-gen development of Need For Speed’s Autolog concept. But it’s more pervasive, more addictive. Sure, there are elements that are far from perfect, but Driveclub is a title that deserves a least a little sip of the winner’s champagne.

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