Driveclub (PS4)

By Derek Pettinelli

Published on Monday, November 24, 2014

After a rocky start, can Driveclub get back on track or is it too far gone?

From the makers of the MotorStorm series on the PS3, the first game was one of the first big PS3 games, known for its brutal off-road racing and incredible graphics. What followed were two excellent sequels, Pacific Rift and Apocalypse. The latter of which was a high quality game but was negatively affected when PSN was hacked, causing online play to cease to function for months, effectively killing the buzz behind the game. Now Evolution Studios is back with Driveclub, a more realistic take on the racing genre that was originally supposed to launch with the PS4, but was delayed a year for fine tuning. However, online issues have plagued the launch of this game too, although unlike MotorStorm: Apocalypse, the issues are only with this game. It’s been a PR blunder for Sony and developer Evolution Studios, with a promised free PS+ demo version of the game failing to materialize and lots of upset people as the social online aspects of Driveclub didn’t work as expected upon launch. An overwhelming number of users forced the game’s social aspects to a halt, proving it to be impossible to play the game online with friends, some even decrying the game as broken. With the servers unable to handle the large load of users, the company has been working diligently to fix this. Now, more than a month since the game’s release, how does it hold up as Sony’s killer-app racer?

*Note: This review is based upon version 1.07 of the game, which is the most current update available as of the publishing of this review.*

I had originally played this game with the 1.06 update, so there had been a few updates to the game since the month it was released. The new 1.07 update added some new features like a photo mode, three new tracks, some new cars, as well as updates to corner cutting, corner penalties, and collision penalties. So with all the updates available to this game now, with promising free new DLC coming in the near future, is Driveclub worth a purchase now, or are the launch issues still problematic? Read on to find out.

As the first PS4-exclusive racing game, Driveclub had to come out strong and with all the reports of connection issues at launch, reviews were all over the place. I can safely say that now, the game runs a lot better. With so many games coming out faulty at launch, it’s a disturbing notion of a mentality that games can be released sooner than later and just updated along the way. Driveclub being delayed for a year and then coming out with issues is frustrating, although it was reported that overwhelming server issues contributed to the problems of the game. As someone who bought Battlefield 4 upon release, Driveclub is hardly the worst launch I’ve seen this console generation, but as BF4 was a year ago, seeing games like Driveclub, AC: Unity and Halo: MCC release with severe issues upon launch, I hope this isn’t a trend that continues for the entirety of the generation.

Driveclub is an interesting racing game, as the previous games from Evolution Studios were over –the-top arcade racing in the form of the MotorStorm franchise. So while their previous games were definitely arcade, Driveclub is grounded in reality more than the MotorStorm games were. While not quite a pure simulation game a la Gran Turismo, Driveclub is definitely more of a sim game than arcade racer. You’ve got real cars this time around and real locations, all of which look beautiful. The game was originally very strict when it came to rewarding points as any kind of collision or off-road moment would result in a points deduction. While this was a motivating factor to drive smart, it also became frustrating at times, so I’m glad this was addressed in recent patches to the game. While I loved the MotorStorm series, it was notorious for “rubber-banding AI” which meant that no matter how far ahead you got, the computer-controlled opponents would catch up to you, making for often unfair and frustrating racing experiences where you’re playing well until the AI catches up to you for no real reason. Thankfully this has been addressed in Driveclub as the rubber-banding AI has been largely fixed. AI as a whole is pretty good, although there are times you are taken out of the experience when you witness all the AI cars take a turn the exact same way in perfect formation. In order to add to the experience, Driveclub does support USB steering wheels, but sadly some of the more popular ones like the Logitech G25/G27, in addition to PS3 wheels are not supported. An issue that is hopefully fixed in the future as the PS3 was able to play with nearly any wheel you threw at it, including PC ones.

Actually racing the cars in Driveclub is where the meat and potatoes of the game is and with such a rich history of racing games, this one is no slouch. Controlling the cars feels absolutely excellent, a far cry from the arcade-style of MotorStorm, this more realistic take on racing is very welcomed. Evolution Studios captured an interesting and immersive blend of racing games. While I was under the impression that this game would be more arcade as that’s the genre I prefer, this more simulation-style game is not too realistic where it’s not fun. I’d rank the game with a 70:30 ratio of simulation to arcade, so while it leans towards one, it doesn’t lean so far as to where it would turn off fans of arcade racers. The actual handling of the cars does have a learning curve and there are no turtle shells to launch at opponents, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be hooked. Physics and handling in this game are excellent, not too difficult, but not too lenient where it’s boring.

One of the more interesting social aspects that are available even when playing online is the ability to compete with other racers for the best time or drift during a race. While racing, you will come up to certain moments on the track where a triggered event will start, this event will display another user’s best time or fastest speed and you’ll have to compete with their score in an impromptu competition to win Fame (Driveclub’s currency). It’s all seamlessly integrated and offered a nice variety compared to the usual racing against ghosts. Some examples would be competing around a bend for the highest amount of points from drifting or top speed. However, during my play, there were times when the scores of other people were clearly glitched as a top speed of 21,000mph isn’t possible.

I’ve had relatively good luck in terms of playing games online. There have been some connection issues here and there, along with some disconnects, but for the most part things have gone off without a hitch and has provided me with a majority of solid races online. It is understandable however for people to be frustrated upon playing the game upon release and having issues that prevent a large portion of the game from being properly utilized.

Driveclub is an absolutely amazing looking game, distractingly beautiful at times. Prior to the photo mode being patched in, I crashed my car numerous times trying to take a screenshot of a sunset or mountains in the distance. There are some awe inspiring sights to behold in this game. Some of the captures before the game’s release were absolutely captivating, evoking the same type of awe Gran Turismo 5 did years ago. Driveclub is definitely a looker and everything is certainly crisp and detailed at 1080p. While the game runs at 30fps, instead of the preferred 60fps for racing games, Driveclub offers an amazing sense of speed. Highly detailed environments fly by at a dizzying speed and some of the more specialty cars are truly a sight to behold. Prior to a race, there is a little clip where it has your driver enter your car from a first person view and it’s near photo-realistic at times, I never tire of it. There are so many little details in this game that really make the environments come alive. Detailed, 3D models of the crowd are a huge upgrade from previous racing games. On some snow levels, there are bonfires on the side of the road. One of the more shocking things was that there’s even litter as plastic bags blow across the road in an American Beauty-esque fashion. Confetti and even fireworks in the distance at the ends of a race are incredible looking and will make good use of your Share button on the controller. The audio has been given the same love and hopefully you have a nice sound system to hear the roar of the engine. There are even differences in the sound depending on which view you use to play. A cockpit view has a more muffled sound to it, while a third person view employs louder sounds as one would expect from the outside.

All in all, despite a rough launch, Driveclub is really coming together. Evolution Studios may have slipped up at the start, but for new racers to come into the game with all the updates pre-applied, there is an excellent experience waiting for you here. The game is constantly improving and new features are being added constantly. In the pipeline, there are more free cars and tracks coming, which is always nice in this era of nickel-and-diming. The realistic take on racing is a welcome mix to PS4’s lineup and Driveclub is easily the best racer on the system, considering the lack of competition. It’s a shame that because of the game’s rocky start that it will no doubt be missed by many despite its current state being vastly improved. If I had reviewed this game at launch, I’d be giving it a much lower score, but currently, it’s much improved and all the updates and DLC have been free to boot. This game is distractingly beautiful, meticulously crafted and handles like a dream, it’s a treat for racing fans both hardcore and casual and is well worth your time.


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