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Hands On: DriveClub

Sony's PS4 racer takes to the track.

Evolution’s car culture racer might well turn out to be the PS4’s killer app at launch, but here in June it’s very much a work in progress. In fact, the build, clearly marked with a “35% complete disclaimer”, wasn’t much to go off at all – one track, a smattering of cars, clearly unfinished visuals. If this was going to be the catch-all day one release it most definitely needs more time in the oven.

Thankfully time is something Evolution Studios have on their side. The game, at least according to the developers I was speaking to, is under constant refinement. Things that didn’t look quite right in the current build would either be sorted by the end of the week or had already been ironed out in the previous few days, or so I’m told. A game seeing continual tweaking, a game perpetually building on its already solid foundations.

So whilst DriveClub today didn’t have the opportunity to capture the same degree of ownership and affiliation with the vehicles it has so accurately modeled, the arcade-like hurtle down a dusty Scottish track at least provided some indication of how it would play. Thrust into one of two clubs (set up specifically for the E3 press demo) players could then pick from a duo of high powered cars (think McLaren, Hennessey) and – after a cheeky snapshot of your visage – start their engines.

The build was set up to demonstrate the game’s asynchronous nature, and it also highlighted the way Evolution have ensured that every player – no matter what their skill level – can contribute towards the success (or, indeed, the failure) of their club. Lap times are important, as you’d expect, but so are the equally balanced Fame points, built up Kudos style from a sum of mid-race excerpts. Think average speed between two points, drift score around a corner, or your skill at a tight chicane.

All the while, your nearest opponent appears at the foot of the screen (with a photograph, remember) and your points from each section are weighed up against theirs. Coloured strips highlight who’s won (and who is winning overall); ghosts appear on the track all around you; competition is never more than a glance away. Imagine MotorStorm RC in expensive supercars and you’ll be somewhere near – it’s evident that the developers used RC as a blueprint, and the effect is staggering.

No matter what you do, or how you do it, it counts. If you’re not a great racer, perhaps you’re good at drifting; if you’re not great on corners, perhaps you’ve got no fear and will happily smash the average speed record for a given segment. This works so well because it continually remaps to your skill-set, picking relevant opponents at every junction. And at the end, you see not only where you are amongst everyone else, but also how your club has done as a result. Addictive? Yes.

Visually DriveClub isn’t quite there yet. The 30 frames per second framerate teases months of future development (although nobody wanted to really speak on record about the fabled number 60) and although the fictitious UK course offered plenty of high speed straights and tricky corners combined with an impressive draw distance, the game doesn’t necessarily scream next-gen. The textures are solid, the lighting is great when it’s called upon and the cars look fine, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away by the graphics on offer. There’s time for that, of course.

The handling is great, though – it’s solid at low speeds and terrifying at high, the twitchy nature of the physics meaning you’re kept on your toes throughout the race. The track offered provided plenty of challenge, not least because of the multiple challenges that occurred during the couple of minutes it lasted, but it also showcased a reliable, consistent set of mechanics and rules that Evolution should be pretty chuffed with. Yes, it’s an arcade racer, but it’s a good one.

Barely a third complete, DriveClub isn’t nearly ready for any kind of meaningful judgement. I really enjoyed playing the game, something I did repeatedly, and the developers hovering around the eight station setup were both confident and humble: Evolution have a great track record and I’ve no doubt their PS4 debut will be stunning a little way down the line. As it stands just now, it handles well with some rock solid club-based integration that’s already ticking all the right boxes – but it’s not spectacular, but there’s plenty of time for spectacle.

  1. blackredyellow
    Since: Mar 2009

    I guess that’s what you’d expect, all in all, being an incomplete project. Still, with a solid base plus more additions it could be a nice launch title.

    Keep up the coverage gents :)

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 06:01.
    • Alex C
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      No doubt it’ll be a great launch title. :)

      Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 07:30.
  2. KeRaSh
    Since: Nov 2009

    Sounds great! Hopefully they have enough time on their hands to finish everything until launch. Maybe this will be DLC driven because they can’t finish everything in time anyways?

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 08:46.
    • cam the man
      Since: May 2009

      TSA reported back in May that” DriveClub Set To Be One Of Sony’s Biggest DLC Games” http://www.thesixthaxis.com/2013/05/07/driveclub-set-to-be-one-of-sonys-biggest-dlc-games/

      Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 13:02.
      • KeRaSh
        Since: Nov 2009

        That’s what I was implying. Maybe they went the DLC way with it because they knew they could only finish X amount of content and after the game has been released work on the rest of the content and release that when it’s done. This would mean that they’re not holding back any content to sell at extra costs, but maybe they really don’t have all of it ready.

        Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 16:16.
      • cam the man
        Since: May 2009

        On PS Lifestyle Col Rodgers, Game Director on DriveClub said “We’re going to put in a service model behind the game. So, when you buy DriveClub at the launch of PlayStation 4, you will be buying your way into community which is going to grow. We’re going to be feeding you live, new content every week. A service model game is going to give you a fresh experience all the time. And we’ll be monitoring what goes down well and changing that up as we need to. DriveClub is going to be a huge experience”.

        Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 22:57.
  3. Dar-Kaus
    Since: Apr 2009

    I’ve never really been into drive games, but this is one I would like to take for a spin.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 09:06.
  4. Kevatron400
    Drake, baby.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Games like this live or die by the number of players playing. Having it as a giveaway on Plus from day one is going to be the deal-sealer here I think – smart move.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 09:28.
    • djhsecondnature
      Since: Forever

      Very astute point. No better way to ensure day one numbers are high.

      Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 10:52.
    • KeRaSh
      Since: Nov 2009

      Semi called it a while ago. Very smart move indeed!

      Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 16:17.
  5. XisTG
    Since: May 2010

    What did you think of the Dual Shock 4?

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 09:31.
    • RudeAwakening
      Since: Jan 2011

      Yeah was wondering about this than Drive Club. How it felt in the hands? What the weight was like?

      Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 11:22.
  6. freezebug2
    Since: Dec 2008

    It’s all a bit Rolf at the moment “Can yer tell what it is yet”.
    Looks good, sounds promising, think I’ll reserve judgement for a more complete picture….first appearances and all that malarkey.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 10:04.
  7. DJ Judas
    Since: Aug 2008

    Sounds good, I’ve got high hopes for Driveclub, I desperately want it to be a fun racer.

    Slightly doubtful about how much they can clear up with less than 6 months to release though.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 10:12.
  8. double-o-dave
    Since: Nov 2008

    Looking forward to this but (probably unanswerable) what do you think the realistic likely hood is that it will be ‘polished’ in time for the PS+ release as it would be nice for one of the first released games to look stunning & not bog standard… without sounding harsh. :)

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 10:24.
  9. JBoo
    Since: Oct 2011

    This comment is hidden.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 10:42.
  10. Broonba
    Since: Mar 2009

    Great to hear that the handling is pretty solid even at this early stage, as shit handling can really kill a game off. As the old adage goes….”Graphics ain’t everything you know”

    OK I added that last wee bit :P

    Comment posted on 12/06/2013 at 13:20.

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