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Preview: PS4's DriveClub - Ten Years In The Making

How Evolution plans to take what makes a first person shooter great, and turn it into a racer.

How long can a game concept remain just that, without ever coming to fruition? Ten years, if you’re the ambitious Matt Southern, Evolution’s Studio Game Director – that game: DriveClub, the PlayStation 4’s first exclusive racing title and one that hopes to pin the console’s driving credentials from the start when it releases – hopefully – at launch later this year.

Evolution have been there on both of Sony’s last two consoles, providing two rather distinct takes on the MotorStorm franchise. The first showed the PlayStation 3’s ability to throw around a visually rich HD environment whilst paying special attention to the surface under those tyres; and RC showed that even a resolutely single-player game could capture the sort of ongoing, addictive, competitive momentum most multi-player titles only dream of.

And now, for PlayStation 4, the studio is back with DriveClub. Revealed at Sony’s February event in New York, Southern was there again, looking a little more tired than the last time he surfaced (Apocalypse) but still stoic in his delivery and message: DriveClub was the culmination of a decade of ideas and concepts, and it would transform the genre in a direction hinted at with the recent Test Drive titles: it would be all about car passion.

How? By ensuring that each and every vehicle received the utmost attention and care. By ensuring that players felt they’d earned (and thus, ultimately, possess and own) each car. And by taking the race off the standard online channels and making it centre around the concept of clubs and teams.

A lot of this, in the time it’s taken technology to reach the sort of levels Evolution were looking for as a platform, has happened elsewhere. Atari’s previously mentioned duo built in teams with some success, and the Burnout series of late has pushed freeflowing, freeform multi-player considerably harder than many thought it might. Steered by publisher EA, racing is already all about constant, evolving, real-time competition.

MotorStorm RC was the spark for how DriveClub would eventually come about. Evolution used the game to test their theories and capabilities regarding connectivity and social networking, building up knowledge and expertise with what the studio call “asynchronous challenge-based racing” across at least two platforms – PS3 and PS Vita. The experience gained from RC was invaluable, but little did we know we were all effectively test subjects for something bigger.

Over the last decade, DriveClub has been modeled into something grandiose. It’s now not just about the cars or the road, it’s about making everything connected, broken down into teams that can compete at any time. With the birth of the PS4, Evolution are now able to expand that idea away from just the console, with your statistics, club members and vehicles all accessible on tablets or phones, wherever the player is during the day.

This might not be for everyone, but it fits perfectly with Sony’s new ethos for the PS4, and that omnipresent ‘share’ idea.

Southern explains recently why he thinks DriveClub should turn the tide on why multi-player racers just haven’t really taken off on current-gen machines. “One of the big reasons we think why is because traditionally in a racing game there’s only one winner, whereas in a shooter – if you’re in a group and you suck – as I do – you can still have a really rewarding time,” he says.

“You can kind of share in the glories of better players on the same team as you; get perks, level up, get XP based on that involvement. We wanted to do the same thing with a racing game and make one that wasn’t about finishing first. Finishing first is obviously awesome, but racing with friends – not in the traditional sense of just online multiplayer, but in clubs – has always been the thing we’ve really wanted to do with it.”

Gearing up for DriveClub’s next-gen construction meant an expanded team in the Liverpool studio. Evolution now employ coders, designers and artists who have worked on the best racing games out there – WRC, F1, WipEout, Project Gotham Racing, the GRID series, previous MotorStorm games and – yes – Gran Turismo. That’s quite a line-up of talent, and hopefully it’s one that can bring Southern’s concepts to a tangible, enjoyable reality.

The video demonstrated in New York showed a myriad of screens, pop-ups and triggers all flying around. The game won’t be that busy, consider that an exaggeration intended to get across the idea that everything you do will be relayed around the world to your team members and other teams. Challenges will be set automatically, races will happen with or without you and the persistent world will evolve in a structured yet organic manner.

There’s even the option to have week-long tournaments, which will work in a similar way to how the time trials did in MotorStorm RC.

DriveClub has huge potential. If Evolution can bring their vision to players wholesale then surely they’ve got a hit on their hands. The visuals look great (and nobody can fault the modeling) and the engine sounds, something criminally wrong on most racers, sound meaty without being overblown. It’s impossible to get a grip on the handling from the short demo (Southern calls the physics engine “accessible and super fun but also extremely deep” which is promising) but hopefully that’ll be something we can try for ourselves soon enough.

Evolution call DriveClub “first-person-racing”. It sounds slightly pretentious, but I’m inclined to think they might just be right.

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  1. jimmy-google
    Since: Feb 2009

    This didn’t jump out at me as my sort of game but it is starting to interest me and with the pool of additional talent added to Evolution I just might give it a crack (depending on what else is out at launch).

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:26.
  2. Cort
    Since: Mar 2009

    As a self-imposed exile from planet Gran Turismo* I’ve got so much hope for this game, but I fear it will fall into the “either remarkably good or remarkably bad” category. Please deliver, Evolution. :o)

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:26.
  3. Cort
    Since: Mar 2009

    * yes yes, I know they are not exactly the same sort of racing game. But I’m hoping DC fills a gap left by GT in being a racing game I can immerse myself in and thoroughly enjoy (I found the latter a bloated dirge).

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:31.
    • bunimomike
      Since: Jul 2009

      Actually, fella, this is the precise sort of thing that I think Gran Turismo should adopt when it comes to everything to do with the game and not the technical simulator aspects which they have nailed already. If Drive Club sets up all the periphery fun, club camaraderie, etc., it strikes me as something that Gran Turismo could seriously benefit from.

      Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:39.
      • Cort
        Since: Mar 2009

        But I don’t think Kaz is capable of change….. :o(

        Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:55.
    • bowie
      Since: Jan 2012

      Every time I look at DriveClub I can’t help but think it is Gran Turismo physics and models wrapped up into a game by Evolution.

      Comment posted on 01/05/2013 at 06:52.
  4. cam the man
    Since: May 2009

    Looking forward to this, but there could be a big downside to club racing – one or two team mates to go for the win and the rest to take out the opposition. I really hope there’s measures in place to stop that kind of gameplay.

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:33.
    • teflon
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      Jambo to the front, with the rest of us as blockers. :P
      (Not that he needs the help, mind you)

      Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 15:46.
    • Kris Lipscombe
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Mar 2009

      Why would you stop that? That sounds AWESOME.

      Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 17:30.
  5. TalllPaul
    Since: Apr 2013

    Good preview. I am really looking forward to this and it will probably be the only launch title I get straight away. The idea of the clubs and the social aspect do it for me :D

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:34.
  6. Jumping Monks
    Since: Jan 2009

    I’ll undoubtedly be getting this, I’ve loved the MotorStorm games, and I’m sure they’ll make an excellent game here. If they really want to get “first person racing” they should get this running on the Rift, now that would be awesome, next-gen console gaming with the Rift, I can dream can’t I?

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:45.
    • yiddo
      Since: Jun 2010

      Well it may not be a dream. The makers of the Oculus Rift say that they want the Rift to be available on future systems (hinting at PS4 and Nextbox). At the moment it’s PC only but they definitely want to expand.

      Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 15:26.
      • teflon
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        All it requires is software support, thanks to it taking a plain HDMI/DVI input and using standardised USB protocols to relay the additional motion data from headset.

        In many ways driving games are actually the perfect fit for this, as you already have steering wheel input devices, which are true to what you have in games.

        Pretty much any other genre has a much larger disconnect in that regard, relying on traditional controllers or mouse and keyboard to get the job done.

        Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 16:02.
  7. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Not for me I’m afriad, couldn’t care less about simulations, I want huge jumps and ridiculous tracks.

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:58.
  8. double-o-dave
    Since: Nov 2008

    Hopefully it will be more fun and less of a simulator like GT otherwise I’m gonna suck and no one will want me on their team. I’ll just be destined to drive around alone like the Incredible Hulk, then knowing my luck someone will find a hack where they can paint a brown horizontal stripe on my front grill and I’ll be known as Shiterider!

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 13:58.
  9. Eldave0
    Since: Aug 2008

    Sounds awesome but it will be interesting to see if Evolution deliver the goods.
    The first Motorstorm was excellent, featuring a nice mix of vehicle types, multiple routes per course, dynamic surfaces (driving through churned up mud on a bike was hilarious), all wrapped up in a cool festival vibe.
    Since then, no Motorstorm game has really grabbed me in the same way. Sure, its great they added 4 player split screen but the games became progressively sillier with each release, which wasn’t the route I wanted them to go.

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 14:25.
  10. aerobes
    Since: Aug 2009

    Interesting focus but I’m not feeling it at the moment.

    Comment posted on 30/04/2013 at 14:36.

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