It’s always a fairly big deal when one of the big three release an exclusive title, especially in the early stages of the console war. Evolution Studios, the guys behind the World Rally Championship and Motorstorm series, embraced their racing pedigree once again and released Driveclub after delaying it for a year. It was initially a launch title for PS4, but the developers had some visual goals they hadn’t quite reached and needed more time.
Keeping in line with many AAA releases this year, Driveclub’s debut was quite turbulent. The online portion was out of commission from the starting line and, considering Driveclub’s heavy focus on social interaction, nearly crippled the entire experience. Fans also felt screwed over (and continue to at the time of this writing) since the promised PlayStation Plus version was never released.
Well, we live in a world where post launch experiences can greatly differ from the initial release. With the online portion fixed and a humongous patch being thrown into the mix that’s an absolute game changer (no pun intended), we decided a second look at Driveclub was in order.
First and foremost, Driveclub is absolutely gorgeous. The cars are beautifully rendered to almost a point of perfection, the tracks are distractingly beautiful, and it’s not all just limited to screenshots. Many games can have absolutely stunning visuals when completely still, but often devolve into complete crap once you get moving. Driveclub impresses with still images and at high speeds and it’s safe to say it’s the most visually impressive racing title on the market right now.
When we take the recently patched in weather effects, the comparisons become completely unfair. Here’s a look at me drifting during a light snow:
Nevermind just how absolutely perfect my driving is in that clip, the weather update has skyrocketed this game into another world visually. The precipitation in the air, on the car, and on the track itself are nearly overwhelming in how well they’re displayed. You can’t see it in this particular clip, but when in first person you can see how the speed and subtle shifts in direction change how the water moves on your windshield. It’s all dynamically rendered and impressive.
Sadly, the same amount of effort put into the visuals and additional dynamic weather system is not readily apparent in other parts of the game. The overall presentation leaves much to be wanted. The menus are fairly bland and there’s not even the slightest bit of narrative offered to the racing experience. As far as we know, we wandered into a racing competition and were given the keys. As mentioned in earlier reviews of the game, the car selection is fairly limited but not overwhelmingly so. The randomness to how they’re unlocked is somewhat offputting, but you’ll have plenty to try out in various classes.
The sound design is also weak in some spots, while being quite strong in others. Engine sounds for your car, whether inside or out of the vehicle, are top notch. The sound of other cars is fairly miniscule though and the tire screech sound effect is nearly unbearable. It doesn’t seem to change no matter what the conditions are and it ends up sounding like nails on a chalkboard faily quickly.
Considering the overall package, I’m truly enjoying Driveclub in it’s current form. The online works beautifully, the social integration is quite fun (especially when a friend of mine posts himself beating my track time on Facebook, only for him to log on and see I’ve demolished him by nearly 10 seconds already), and I remain in awe of the visuals. I have many issues with the lack of presentation, but when it comes down to the actual racing, I haven’t had this much fun since the first GRID. Though it’s being compared to many experienced franchises like Gran Turismo and Forza, we can’t forget that Driveclub is a new IP. With that in mind, I’m optimistic for the future of this series.