DriveClub (PS4) Review – Forza Killer? LOL… Just No

I’ll start off right out of the gate by saying this; I know how inflammatory the title of this review seems to be. I’ll also say that this is a battle that Sony started on their own with a cheeky little ad released just days before DriveClub hit retail shelves. In the ad it shows a blue car upending and barrel rolling a green car into midair with the words “PS4’s Forza Killer” scrolled beneath it, a quote from another publication. A direct jab at Microsoft and Forza it begged a response and unfortunately the response it wanted isn’t the one it’s going to get. While my response is equally as cheeky as that ad it still remains true. In no way is DriveClub a Forza killer mostly due to the fact that it’s not the same kind of game. It’s not deep enough to take the top prize in simulation racing. That being said, this does NOT mean that DriveClub is a horrible game. It’s got some fantastic qualities and it has a social side that Forza can’t match. It is in fact a fairly good game, just not that huge release that Sony was pinning their hopes on.

A shot of the cheeky ad in question.

And the cheeky ad in motion….

Originally pegged as a launch title for the PS4, DriveClub was delayed an entire year to refine the experience. Sadly, even with all that extra time, what we’re left with under the hood is a very strict on the rails, or on the tracks more appropriately, racer. It’s pretty to look at but in regards to features it’s a simple game harkening back to not only last generation but quite possibly the generation before it. When I say pretty to look at I mean it too… DriveClub is stunning in action with gorgeous backdrops and amazingly rendered cars. Lighting effects are particularly noticeable as a VERY compressed time lapse can have you go from mid-day to midnight in under a lap! It’s quick but certainly cool to see in race.

If the team at Evolution Studios were attempting to create a simulation racer they missed their mark as there are too many arcade racer aspects in the game forcing it to lean the other way. A standard for a sim racer these days is customization at nearly every turn. DriveClub offers none of this with slap on paint designs and absolutely no modifications of any kind whether it be cosmetic or under the hood. When you’re part of a club (or the creator) the leader can muddle together a club logo based on a few preset layers where you pick one picture to go over another picture and that’s about it. There’s your customization folks! It all feels far too limited in scope to be considered simulation. Let’s not forget the insanely limited number of cars for a game made this generation, around 50, when other games are pumping out 100 to 200 vehicles. All in all this limitation pushes the feeling more towards arcade racer over sim.

Competing in the single player experience is lacklustre to say the least. You can either choose a track to do unending hot laps on or enter the tour which bundles together a few races and shoehorns in a class of car. Competing in these races, falling into time trial, drift challenges, sprints and circuit races, you’ll earn fame points which will help you unlock more vehicles. There’s no currency system in DriveClub, which due to the lack of customization noted above, really isn’t needed. Drive, grind, earn cars… pretty basic. You’ll earn these points by racing clean, and I mean REALLY CLEAN, as well as drifting, drafting, and track accuracy (the best line through a stretch). Standard racing game material but when you throw in cars that seem overly grippy and an AI that refuses to waver from its preset line it can be frustrating and difficult to accomplish.

You’re penalized at every turn for what the game deems to be cheating on the track. You’ll have fame points deducted or suffer speed penalties for things like collisions (whether caused by you or not… thanks AI!), going off track or if you cut a corner too much according to the game. I have no problem trying to stick to the track but if my tire bumps some gravel that hardly warrants penalization. Due to this the tracks feel a little narrow at times but I’ll chalk this up to a personal preference and not necessarily a game flaw. Still though, keeping with the narrow tracks themes, there were spots where my car would veer off track into an open field and rather than drive off into the grass and have the three second ‘off track’ timer pop up I’d actually hit an invisible barrier and bounce off it like I hit a wall. When was the last time a race game pulled that stunt? Your best chance at success is always to get the hole shot and take an early lead because the AI is downright insufferable at times. Once you’re in the lead and on open road the pure driving is a lot of fun, if not a bit unwieldy in some cars. Take in the scenery and keep it on the floor!

Touching back on the AI, that has to be one of my biggest gripes about the game. Perhaps I’m wrong in my assumption but it really feels as if the AI is programmed to take a ‘best line’ for every track and they never leave that course. If that means ramming you from behind or side swiping you while you’re on a great clean racing stretch then so be it. It is infuriating and not something I’ve noticed in a racing game in a long while. AI should be reactive and jockey for position not robotic (yeah I get the irony here).

The real focus of DriveClub is the social aspect. For every moment you’re on the track there is some sort of face-off challenge being issued from another racer whether it’s in single or multiplayer. If you’re the slightest bit competitive this is all the fuel you’ll need to keep racing. Whether it’s keeping to the best line on a particularly windy stretch of road or a simple ‘best average speed’ goal there’s something inherently fun about competing against another human’s achievements as opposed to an AI. Joining a club with up to five other racers can be a blast too as you work through endurance races and team races together. In fact it’s a necessity if you want to unlock all the cars in the game as some can only be unlocked at certain club levels. Factor in the challenges that you or your club can issue to other clubs and racers you’ll never be too far from a new goal to complete. The competition is ALWAYS there. It makes sense that the best feature in DriveClub is its club system right?

It really feels as if DriveClub shot itself in the foot by even suggesting that it was on the same level as other simulation racers out there. It’s more of a hybrid arcade/sim style game that just doesn’t have the chops to compete highly on one side or another. The social connectivity of racing with and against friends and other clubs is its most fully realized feature and also the most enjoyable one. If you can look past the dings in the paint job there’s a lot of fun to be had with DriveClub but be sure not to go in expecting the new standard in racing games. You’ll surely end up disappointed.

The Good


The Bad