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DriveClub: Hands-On

DriveClub: Hands-On at E3 2013

Before creating DriveClub Evolution Studios made its name with the World Rally Championship series on PlayStation 2, then went on to confirm its talents with the MotorStorm series on PlayStation 3. It’s a little peculiar, then, that it’s making its PlayStation 4 debut with a more conventional road racer that doesn’t take its vehicles off-road. Yet while it’s tempting to pitch DriveClub as Sony’s answer to Forza Motorsport 5, or as a rival to third-party racers The Crew and Need for Speed: The Rivals, it’s actually trying to do something new. This is a social racing game in which you’re driving not just for yourself but for your team, or rather, your club.

Watch the Driveclub E3 2013 trailer



How does this work in practice? Well, DriveClub isn’t simply about winning races, but about completing the ‘face-off’ challenges that pop up while you’re driving around the track. You might get hit by a drift challenge, encouraging you to slide around the next few corners, or a speed challenge, requesting that you hit the highest average speed, and you’re always being compared to a racer on a rival team. According to the developers, it’s a way of ensuring that everyone can get something out of DriveClub; you don’t need to be the best driver or have the fastest car to keep contributing points to your team.

DriveClub

It’s a nice idea, and a few hands-on races around the E3 demo’s Scottish course threw up several ‘face-off’ challenges throughout each lap, giving us the chance to compete not just against players racing at the same time, but against players who had raced earlier in the day. It appears that DriveClub will offer simultaneous multiplayer and asynchronous multiplayer online. Meanwhile, the game has more arcade racer leanings than you might expect. The handling is closer to Need for Speed than Gran Turismo, and there’s no car upgrading to keep you busy off the track.

DriveClub

DriveClub - First Impressions

We’re not 100% convinced by DriveClub at the moment. While trailers promise stunning next-gen visuals, the build on display at E3 looks less impressive; not a huge leap on from current-gen driving games, and certainly not a match for Forza 5, The Crew or Need for Speed: The Rivals. The forest track we played is short on spectacle, which doesn’t help, but the textures and the lighting were distinctly underwhelming. And though the handling is certainly accessible, we’ve had Forza Horizon and GRID 2 prove that arcade racing style and a more authentic approach don’t have to be strangers: the two can combine very well. We’re not sure that DriveClub has the same kind of gritty feel.

DriveClub
 
Still, this is an early version of the code, and DriveClub will have one advantage when it appears at the PS4’s launch: a free PlayStation Plus edition will be released with all the standard game’s features, though with the majority of the game’s cars and tracks locked until you pony-up for add-on DLC. This gives PS Plus subscribers – meaning anyone who wants to play PS4 online – a chance to sample the action without splashing out, and also means that the game should have a good-sized community straight away. Bearing in mind the game’s social focus, that just has to be a result.

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