Driveclub Review (PlayStation 4)
Evolution Studios is attempting to change the racing game landscape by really pushing social features and offering different rewards for playing with others online in its new racer, Driveclub. That all sounds well and good, except the game has suffered connectivity issues, leaving lots of players with a standard offline racing game that has us wanting more, and not in the good way.
Evolution Studios is famed for its MotorStorm series, which mainly focused on off-road gameplay. Driveclub sticks all of the action on tracks around the world, all of which set the stage for many of the circuits, challenges and tournaments. The game is split up into three different modes: Tour, Single Event and Multiplayer. Depending on your skill level, you can burn through all of the Tour content within a week, so it’s really the multiplayer that will keep players drifting around corners and speeding through straightaways. It is a shame then that Evolution Studios has been plagued with server issues right out of the gate, making it so that a majority of players can’t get online and are therefore unable to form clubs, join clubs, compete in multiplayer events and, as a result, are unable to unlock certain vehicles that are tied in with club levels.
You see, joining a club (max of six players), will allow you to rack up points for said club. Everything you do contributes to your club’s fame, which is basically its experience points. There is a max of 22 Club levels, all of which will give you access to new cars. Club members don’t necessarily have to play together to rack up fame, so it’s cool to see asynchronous play that contributes to your club’s overall progress… at least, when the game’s online modes are working.
The Tour mode is a basic single-player mode that gives you tiered clusters of events that get unlocked as soon as you prove your skills and clear enough objectives in races. Each race has a different flavor and will present you with specialized events such as hatchback races, European car-only races, drifting challenges and whole tournaments with multiple rounds. Depending on how well you do in these events, you’ll accrue experience points for yourself which will raise your level and unlock new cars and customization options for these vehicles in your Garage.
Unfortunately, the customization options amount to nothing more than different paint jobs. It would have been cool to be able to customize cars further by changing out engines, spoilers, exhaust pipes and other features, as the race to unlock such upgrades would add to the single-player replay value, but as it is, they’re just different looks for your vehicles.
As lackluster and disappointing as the single-player offerings in Driveclub are, at least the actually racing gameplay itself is very fun, even if it’s not perfect. You’ll always be racing from a first-person perspective, giving you the view from inside your car, with your head able to move around to gaze upon the center console, the side mirrors and even to peer up at the rearview mirror to see what fool is trying to rear-end you around corners. Each car has its own unique feel too, which you’ll be able to experience through the sounds and the vibration of the DualShock 4.
While Driveclub is certainly a very pretty game, showing off lighting effects that give you glares through windshields, highlight streaks on glass, poke sunbeams through foliage in the mountains and blind people with headlights at night, the sound design must also receive equal praise. The roar of the engines, the unmistakable noises of gears shifting and even the screeching of tires as you drift around corners is delicious, allowing you to feel as if you’re really in the driver’s seat at these events. The soundtrack is turned off by default, in order for you to really hear the sound effects and to showcase the efforts that went into making them sound realistic. And honestly, it’s good that the soundtrack is turned off because it’s not too impressive.
The Single Event mode lets you set up your own race with three different flavors: a normal Race, a Time Trial or a Drift challenge to test out how good you are at making those tires squeal around corners. Again, there’s nothing too impressive here and you’ll likely get tired of the offerings after playing a few rounds over and over. Driveclub’s single-player modes are best played in small bursts, as any extended time in front of your PlayStation 4 trying to beat out the AI to finish races in the top three will just infuriate you, especially if you’re unable to get online and unlock some of the better vehicles with your Club level.
The crux of the Driveclub experience is in its multiplayer offerings, which foster a great community with your fellow racers online, but only when it works. The single-player content is passable but unexciting, so it’s disappointing to see the connectivity issues keeping the game from reaching its full potential. There is some planned downloadable content that’s supposed to be coming down the chute, but time will tell if that boosts the lackluster single-player offerings in what could otherwise be an engaging game to play with friends online.
This review was based on a purchased digital copy of Driveclub for PlayStation 4.