#DRIVECLUB Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

#DRIVECLUB Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Let’s Go Clubbin’

I’ve always been a man of simple tastes. I expect certain things from every game I play; solid gameplay, capable visuals, and fluid interfaces, to name a few. For the most part, #DRIVECLUB excels in all these areas, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to get into the game. It’s not that I expected anything more than your standard racer and I think that’s part of the problem: it is just that, a standard racer.

At the center of the #DRIVECLUB experience, of course, are the clubs. It only takes two members to start a club in #DRIVECLUB , and make sure you do, because many rewards in the game use your club rank to unlock. Higher rank means better cars, and the best cars in the game can only be unlocked by a high club rank. Similarly, cars will also be unlocked by driver rank and, you guessed it, the higher the better.

So how can you gain driver rank you ask? Well, that’s easy. Race. Racing earns you progression points and everything you do while racing can either increase your total, or decrease it. No, those points you gain aren’t set in stone, they can be lost during the race. #DRIVECLUB rewards players for proper driving, so off-track driving, car collisions, cutting corners, and slamming into walls will all be met with a stiff penalty. On the other side of the coin, drifting, staying on track, drafting, and passing (without collision) will all be rewarded with extra progression points.

And this is how it goes, on and on unlocking new cars and doing new races to unlock yet more cars and races. To be expected for sure, but this basic delivery doesn’t lend much originality to the final product.

However, #DRIVECLUB does integrate the social aspect of gameplay in several ways throughout play, not just through clubs. You can, of course, simply join multiplayer games but this is more of the same racing for points you’ve already been drudging through, albeit against more skilled drivers. No, the best social aspects pop up when you least expect it in the form of in-race challenges. Randomly, you will be racing and a colored line will appear in the distance. This is a random challenge against an established time or feat of another real player that, if you beat it, will net you a nice progression point bonus. This particular social integration helped the standard racer gameplay tremendously, lending a little diversity to an otherwise expected and thus, boring experience. But, even though I’m not a die-hard racing fan, I can certainly appreciate much of the #DRIVECLUB experience.

#DRIVECLUB Screenshot

There were a few issues that concerned me during my time with #DRIVECLUB and though they were far from game-breaking, they were annoyances that I feel could have been easily avoided. The worst of which was easily the overly aggressive AI drivers. Well, I don’t think it’s that they were aggressive, I believe they were aggressively attempting to adhere to their pre-programmed racing parameters. It felt as though if a car was so much as nudged out of the way, the driver would unfailingly attempt to re-establish its rightful path. This made me feel as though my car and driver existed around a static world that, though it could be changed momentarily, would always right itself. It also felt the only way to overcome this was by the brute force of cars with higher speeds, not with the finesse of a car with high drift or handling ratings. This was easily my biggest gripe with #DRIVECLUB .

Another smaller issue nagged at my soul as I played. I mentioned before that you lose points in #DRIVECLUB for collisions and the like. Well, you also lose your hard-earned points EVEN IF YOU DON’T INITIATE THE CONTACT. So, let’s say you are rolling hard in first place. Suddenly, the second place car (in his/her maddened attempt to right all that’s wrong with the #DRIVECLUB universe) slams into your rear end. For the sake of argument, say that collision sent you through a ditch and into a wall. This series of events will seriously deduct from your progression points, even though you were just minding your business, humming along in first place. Not only will you lose points, you will also lose position because YOU will receive a collision penalty which causes your car to slow dramatically. This can mean the difference between moving on to that next tier of unlocks or having to repeat the same race series over, and it happens a lot more than you might think.

#DRIVECLUB Screenshot

Lastly, there is absolutely no mechanical customization. None at all. DRIVECLUB makes up for this with a plethora of different cars, but why? Why would make a simulation style social racing experience and NOT allow players to customize and experiment with car setups? Unfortunately, every car drives how it’s going to drive and there’s nothing you can do to change that. If you don’t like how a car handles, too bad, don’t use it. Basically, #DRIVECLUB has merged arcade style racing with simulation performance and it’s kinda weird.

But, if you can look past these issues to the core mechanics of #DRIVECLUB and the social experience it can deliver, it is a solid racer for the PS4.

Luckily, #DRIVECLUB is built on a foundation of astonishing visuals that are both dynamic and polished. Car models are excellently crafted right down to the printing on the tires. These models are immersed in an extravagantly detailed world of tracks that look as real as any I’ve ever seen. Adding in a dynamic lighting system that changes with the time of day during races and you get astounding scenic vistas and landscapes, colorful sunsets complete with blinding lens flares, and nighttime driving with only your headlights to lead the way.

#DRIVECLUB Screenshot

Additionally, cars sport real-time body damage as you scrape and smash your way through the track, unless you’re a much better driver than I am. Which, let’s be honest, you probably are. It’s odd that this detail was given this much attention, considering how much the game rewards you for flawless driving and passing. But it was much appreciated, at least by me. Nothing irks me more in racing games than slamming my car into a wall and driving away without a scratch. There is a caveat to the real-time damage though–it has no impact on gameplay. You could literally crash head-on into a wall at 150 MPH and only suffer exterior crashes and broken glass. Can’t win em’ all I suppose.

The visuals are supported by a competent soundscape of revving engines, squealing tires and the like, but lacks a memorable soundtrack – another hallmark of a great racing game that #DRIVECLUB omitted. There’s nothing like tearing through the streets to an awesome song, I see this as a missed opportunity.

So, at the end of the day, #DRIVECLUB is a technically proficient racer with a social side that can be fun. But overall it lacks some things that make racing games great, especially ones that insist on arcade style progression. Hardcore racing fans will be pleased by the bevy of cars available and may enjoy creating a club with their friends, but players like me won’t be converted due to the lack of customization and/or arcade style gameplay. Despite all its flaws, #DRIVECLUB still manages to deliver a solid racing experience on the PS4, it just wasn’t the one I was looking for.

Beautifully crafted cars and tracks are gorgeous. 3.5 Control
Standard driving controls that work well most of the time. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Squealing tires and revving engines are the highlight of a forgettable soundscape. 3.0 Play Value
Racing can be both fun and frustrating, replaying tour challenges is boring but necessary, and multiplayer isn’t really a head turner. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Join a Club – Get more by playing within a Club. Gain access to more races, special challenges and events by joining a Club. Join an existing Club or create your own to team up with 12 drivers and get more in-game currency and earn bonuses. Everything they do helps you, and everything you do helps them achieve more. Unite together and represent your Club with customized team colors and logos for your cars.
  • Take on Challenges – Constant and varied challenges keep the game feeling fresh and unique, offering pick-up-and-play gaming experience to suit every player’s lifestyle. Every section of every track offers a new opportunity to face-off with your Clubmates and rivals, so there’s always something to play for. Earn fame for your Club by beating recent times, high speed records or pulling off incredible drifts. Then create custom challenges to take on your friends and rival Clubs for fun, or up the ante by wagering on the outcome.
  • Immersive Driving Experience – Every detail of high-speed racing has been painstakingly recreated to give you an authentic and thrilling first person driving experience. Feel every inch of the road beneath your tires, the thunderous roar of the engine and the rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins as your knuckles whiten on the steering-wheel.

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