We at Gamestyle have decided to review DRIVECLUB late and are fully aware of the problems that have plagued the launch and have addressed them separately. If you wish to hear our thoughts on the launch then you can do so HERE
So onto the review itself. Where we have to also touch on the issues still plaguing the game.
First though, what does DRIVECLUB do right? The driving itself and the sense of competition with the AI is really well handled, as we found the AI to be just aggressive enough. It is clear that there is no following of a set racing line that you often see in so many other racers and the AI reacts to you and other drivers on the course.
There have been moments where we have been rear ended or caught by other racers that seem unfair, but that is racing, it happens and we deal with it. Now this wouldn’t be an issue in itself if it wasn’t for the points system the game uses. Which is you’ve played PGR you’ll be fully aware of, as it is basically a version of the Kudos system as used by Bizarre Creations.
The idea is you are rewarded for driving with style, overtaking, drafting, drifting, racing clean, etc. Yet are punished for causing collisions, hitting scenery and cutting corners. On the whole this works really well, but when you get hit by another racer where you literally can do nothing to avoid it, you are still punished. You take the racing line into a corner, but get hit from behind and still get punished.
Now whilst we accept that collisions happen and the aggressive AI is a plus, making the game a lot more challenging and fun, the idea of being punished by losing points because you have been hit is something that grates quite badly. Fine if you hit another driver, then punish away, but it does need to be a little bit lenient and accept that contact happens in racing.
Anyway, back to something positive. The handling model is balanced really well, sitting between sim and arcade. You cannot approach the game like a SEGA arcade racer, or a Burnout, but it is still accessible to everyone, unlike a Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo and likely the upcoming Project Cars. Which are fine games, but have a very specific target audience. DRIVECLUB is something anyone can pick up and play regardless of experience.
Away from the track for a moment and to the shell around the game. Instead of going for the open world environment that has become ever more popular over the years, DRIVECLUB goes for the traditional menu system, where you pick your events and the race is loaded. Neither system is better than the other and at Gamestyle we are fans of both the open world hub and the menu system. As a rule everything is clearly set up and when everything is working, you are clearly shown leaderboards and challenges to tempt you back in again and again.
That being said, the presentation almost feels like an afterthought, with transitions between menus to races feeling pretty bland. It lacks a bit of pizzazz, it lacks life. It doesn’t need the over the top dude bro presentation of DiRT 2, but it needs something, as style that fits. Again look at something like PGR4 which has a wonderful visual style, it works as a package, where as it doesn’t in DRIVECLUB.
Which is a shame because it is also taking away from some lovely graphics on the whole. When racing through the wonderfully realised environments, using the in-car camera, you cannot help but be fully immersed and focused on what is happening in front of you. With a pair of 7.1 headphones that experience is ramps up even more and we can only imagine how good it will feel when Project Morpheus hits.
But once again you need to take the rough with the smooth, as it is clear that there is still some polishing to do and it is waiting for the update which includes weather effects and photo modes. It’s not a bad looking game by any stretch of the imagination, hell, it looks damned good. But it is a bit disappointing, knowing visually it is only at maybe 80% of what it is capable of.
The dynamic challenges, when they work are a fantastic addition and really add a new level to racing, having to decide if you can spare some of your focus to drift round a certain corner, or risk going faster through certain sections to maintain an average speed. It isn’t just a case of here are some easy challenges for the sake of it, many of them are difficult in the right way. But unlike much of the experience with DRIVECLUB, whether this is working or not comes down to pure luck.
It is the same story again for the online multiplayer, because when it is working, it is really smooth and seemingly has some excellent netcode behind it. However, whether it is working for you comes down to luck and it is here you can also see why the 6 person clubs was thought out.
When racing with random players across the globe, it can be an exercise in frustration, but that is hardly the fault of Evolution, it plagues every single racing game with online aspects. What doesn’t help though is that private lobbies, or setting up races between clubs just isn’t working properly either, which means again, unless you are lucky, you will not get the optimal experience.
The 6 person club aspect also seems to be missing a layer to it. Whilst from the sense of leveling up and getting rewards makes sense in the current set up, it lacks maybe a larger shell above it, so you can have massive communities with numerous 6 person clubs within. Making it easy to set up a rivalry race, or compare times, scores, etc on the fly.
That is the thing about DRIVECLUB in the end, it is a competent racer, a very good racer in fact, if everything was working properly, even better if all the promised DLC comes as expected. But as it is, you feel let down, you feel like you are playing an early access game. Which would be all well and good if that is what it was, but this is being marketed and sold as a fully working title and that leaves a bit of a bitter taste in the end.
If everything was working, DRIVECLUB would easily get an 8/10 as a game that doesn’t raise the bar, but is more than competent and very enjoyable, but in it’s current state, where the experience you get is based on something you draw out of a hat, then it is a bit of a let down and that is after giving it nearly a month before trying to write this review.