When I first fired up DriveClub, my wife was sitting on the couch next to me. Half way through my first race, she said out of the blue “this doesn’t look as nice as your other driving game.” I initially dismissed her comments, thinking “what the hell does she know about games?”. But since playing DriveClub a bit more, I realise what she means. Whist DriveClub is in some ways graphically impressive, it’s too sterile, it doesn’t have the soul of that other driving game. For those that really want to know, that other driving game is of course Forza Horizon 2.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My very first impressions of the game were great. The game looked nice, the cars seemed to handle well, and the racing was intense. I was quickly drawn into the race and feeling the exhilaration of speed, even though I was only in a Mini Cooper. But then I made a mistake and got out onto the grass. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem in every other racing game I’ve played in the last few years, but the developers of DriveClub didn’t seem to have played any recent racing games. As soon as DriveClub deems you to have gone off the track – in the tracks that allow you to wander – a three second timer appears, warning you that in three seconds you will automatically be re-set on the track. There is nothing that will drag you out of the experience of racing faster than a big fuck you timer when you make a recoverable mistake. Racing is about pushing yourself to the limit, to a place where mistakes are made. You have to learn to manage your mistakes, not have them try to manage you.
Two other things ruin the whole racing experience. Cut a corner or hard crash into an oponent and you’ll have an immediate speed penalty imposed. This is a stupid way of dealing with cheaty corner cutters. The way the GRID series has dealt with this is probably the best solution. They use real world rules. Cut a corner, or hit someone and you get a warning. Do it again and you get a time penalty added to your race total. Older racing games have always had to put a tire wall on the apex of those corners most likely to be cut. But to slow you down as a way to penalise you just ruins the whole point of racing.
And then there’s the inconsistency. Cut some corners and you’re fine. You can even get the three second timer beginning but not get a slow the fuck down penalty. Just trim other corners and it’s like a drag racers parachute has just deployed behind your car. Some tracks let you wander off them, for up to three seconds, others have invisible walls.
The number of cars and tracks is limited, but this isn’t ultimately an issue. Forza 5 is a blast and has very limited number of tracks. The big thing is the lack of customisation options. Not tuning or upgrading, and no ability to make your own custom paint jobs.
So what was initially a really promising game has been servery hampered by idiotic choices by the developer, and ultimately feels like a game that was rushed to fill a void. Instead, it’s a game that only serves to highlight the lack of decent racing games on the new console.
Online functionality was for some reason not working for what was going to be my final pre-review session with DriveClub, so the online racing has not been factored into the review or the final score, though with the games obvious flaws I doubt it would have helped much.
DriveClub has much promise and I hope the developers get a chance to re-visit the game and develop a genre defining racing game with DriveClub 2 in the not too distant future.
Reviewed on: PS4
Rating: G Suitable for general audiences.
Reviewed by: Jonathan