I may be considered an odd fellow with this opinion, but I really really like the Gymkhana stuff in DiRT 3, it was probably my favourite part of that game personally. Yes I was in the minority there, but I would have loved a game that was just pure Gymkhana mechanics. So Absolute Drift…COME ON DOWN!
The first thing I noticed about Absolute Drift, is that it is a game that screams Indie. It has a unique visual style which is very minimalist and it focuses on a core mechanic rather than trying to throw everything into the mix to appeal to everyone.
Using a top down view, you basically drift your car around a number of large playgrounds, to complete challenges, before taking on smaller tutorial areas, challenges, events and the like. The layout was initially a bit strange, but boy it is great just throwing your car around an open area and doing pretty much what you want. Then at your own leisure, choosing to do a score attack, or another challenge.
What strikes me though is how difficult the car is to control, there is no hand holding here, no easing you into things. You will gain control for the first time, try to drift and end up spinning out. You’ll repeat this a number of times, before you even try your first proper objective.
You will then fail said objective, before somehow just about getting it, but without being in full control. Then you’ll try something else and fail miserably again, then another, it’s time to fail again and again and once more for luck.
Yet after a while you start to feel one with the car, you learn to control a drift under a digger, pull off a fairly controlled donut and do proper controlled spins in a designated area. You do all this, feel proud of yourself, do a score attack on a track and see how far down the leaderboards you are.
This isn’t game that is designed to be frustrating and to its credit it never feels like that. The handling, whilst unforgiving, is designed in such a way, that when you get used to it, you can pull off some marvelous drifts. You can get so much control that you can drift a car round a marker within inches and feel in complete control.
But you have to earn that right. It is the same as learning to skate, learning to ride a horse, learning to drive, etc. You think you know the basics, you have seen others do it, but when you try you realise there is a long road ahead to get to even a competent level. But just like those things mentioned, when it clicks, it really clicks and you feel wonderful having been able to learn this for yourself.
There isn’t an obscene amount of content within Absolute Drift quite yet, but what there is will be enough to keep you busy for a good while. Leaderboards mean you will be taking a lot more runs at each of the challenges and score attacks, as you try and increase your score and to be perfectly honest, there is something really relaxing about just drifting around the large areas between levels.
By stripping the game down to the absolute necessary mechanics, Funselektor Labs have created what I consider to be the best drifting game on the market yet. It removes the arcade feel of DiRT 3’s Gymkhana modes and gives you something that feels a lot more realistic despite the overall aesthetic.
I was intrigued by the game when I first heard about it, but after a number of hours of playing it has far exceeded my expectations. It may be easy to throw it into your pile of shame after the first hour or so, due to the steep learning curve, but those who stick with it will be handsomely rewarded.