DriveClub review: you can find me in the club

Evolution attempted a racing game that stands apart from the shadow of Gran Turismo by focusing on immersion and socialization. Are these enough to get player into the driver’s seat of a new driving IP? Our review.

7

People tend to associate the terms "PlayStation" and "racing" with the Gran Turismo series. Sony’s iconic driving series has been tearing up the virtual roads for for a decade, but this holiday season, a new racing game has taken the wheel. This competitor is no slouch, and stands apart from Gran Turismo by emphasizing different aspects of the racing experience.

Evolution spent 10 years creating a driving experience all its own, by focusing on two key aspects of car culture: immersion and socialization. Are these enough to get player into the driver’s seat of a new driving IP, or should racing fans just hold out until a new Gran Turismo game is released? 

Man, Meet Machine

One of the first things you’ll do in DriveClub is take part in a race to not only better acquaint yourself with the game, but to also take in all of the sights and sounds of your vehicle. Evolve even doesn’t have any music playing during any races by default, so the player can appreciate the roar of the engine of each vehicle. Players could certainly turn on music if they would like through the game’s settings. Every moment you’ll experience in DriveClub feels like a deep and involved love letter to the automotive industry as the title allows drivers to check out all of the nooks and crannies of their vehicle down to a nearly obsessive degree.

Even though DriveClub shows this much attention to detail in regards to their vehicles, it doesn’t overwhelm the everyday player. It allows you to take in as much of your vehicles as you’d like, although if you take the time to appreciate your vehicle, both inside and out, you’ll be treated a an extremely-detailed experience. Each vehicle was painstakingly recreated within the game world, and I appreciated all of the obvious hard work and dedication it took to do this.

DriveClub only has a total of 50 cars that you can acquire, which pales in comparison to its competition as most driving games tend to offer sometimes three or four times that number. Then again, I have a feeling none of those vehicles are as completely authentic as they are in DriveClub. Because of this, there’s an unfortunate trade off. Would you rather have over 200 reasonably accurate vehicles or 50 nearly identical ones in a video game? I personally would prefer the variety.

Playing DriveClub for countless hours has made me a big fan of how the vehicles handle when compared to other driving games. Evolution is careful not to call DriveClub a driving simulator, but the studio did use a combination of real-world physics and technical data provided directly by each vehicle’s manufacturer to assure the performance of each one is as accurate as the real thing. As a result, vehicles in DriveClub handle really well as they offer an experience that feels right in the comfortable middle between an arcade-style driving game and a full-on simulation.

Aesthetically Moving

I’m just going to outright say this: DriveClub is gorgeous. If you have yet to buy yourself an HDTV for gaming or don’t have 20/20 vision, then you need to correct that immediately as you’re doing a complete disservice to yourself and to DriveClub if you can’t take it all in.

It all starts with the vehicles you’ll be driving, which are absolutely breathtaking to witness both inside and outside. Even though I tend to play driving games from a third-person perspective, I couldn’t help but be completely engrossed by the visual experience DriveClub offers within its cockpit view. It just makes the driving experience feel even more authentic, as if I was actually in control of these vehicles.

Starting a race at dusk and witnessing the gradual change to night is absolutely breathtaking.

But it doesn’t stop there. Evolution went through the painstaking process of making the world around these vehicles as beautiful as they are. As I drove across various tracks within five different locations around the world, I couldn’t help but want to spend more time taking in the sights than attempting to complete my race. Between real-world weather and environmental data that apparently owes a credit to NASA, Evolution crafted a world worth exploring. Starting a race at dusk and witnessing the gradual change to night is absolutely breathtaking. I’m sure most who play DriveClub will only focus on the title as a driving game, but I appreciated the eye candy.

Community is Everything

I mentioned earlier in my review that Evolution focused on two particular aspects they feel to be important to car culture: immersion and socialization. The immersion comes in the environments and attention to detail, but the social hooks are so front-and-center they serve as the title.

DriveClub is more than just the name of this particular driving game as it also serves as its philosophy. Players are highly encouraged to join drive clubs during their time with the game, but the way it’s carried out is strange. When taking part in a club, a total of only six players will be a part of a particular club. It felt less like "DriveClub" and more like "Drive with close circle." This means that if you’re part of a community--let’s say for example you’d like to play with other Shacknews readers--you’ll at most be able to invite five other players, and a real sense of community won’t be there.

Once you’ve created your small circle of DriveClub members, you’ll be able to compete with other clubs through the game’s leaderboards to see who are the absolute best drivers. The better you drive, the more DriveClub will reward you with points. But if you drive off road or hit a barrier, the game will deduct points from your total, which results in requiring racers to be much more cautious drivers as these deductions could put a halt on your amazing run. I’ve experienced an amazing score total go down to close to nothing just because I became sloppy later on in my race.

If your particular club wants to take their DriveClub experience more seriously, you’ll want to start earning accolades. Earning accolades is done through completing Face-offs and Challenges, which pop up from time to time during particular portions of your race and offers a nice variety of challenges. These challenges could vary from simply following a specific route or drifting better than another racer.

The more accolades you and your club earn, the higher the amount of Fame points you’ll earn during races, which will allow your club to unlock the ability to take part in more events as well as acquiring new items. Differentiating your club from others is done through a combination of custom team colors and logos, which can either hurt or help you in races depending on what kind of reputation your crew has in the world of DriveClub.

Conclusion

Even understanding the length it took to create this many, 50 vehicles just doesn’t offer the same variety as competing racing titles do. Considering most people find a handful of particular vehicles they want to continually race with, this may not affect most players, but a wider variety would allow a larger share of players to find just their ideal ride.

The club system is kind of a disappointment as well as racing as part of a 6-man crew seems extremely small for a game as ambitious as DriveClub. I was hoping Evolution would allow clubs to become a part of some bigger community if they choose to. If you only have a small crew that you want to play with, then by all means, go on and go tear up the competition. But if you’re part of a larger community, then you’re going to be competing with one another more often than you would be working together.

Evolution’s philosophy of immersion and community as key aspects of car culture has realized with moderate success in DriveClub. The game completely immerses the player in each of the 50 vehicles that’s available, the game’s tracks and the environment to a point where I was in awe the majority of the time by its aesthetics more than the driving experience itself. The community aspects, on the other hand, work well enough for their limited scope, but fail to fulfill the promise. This is probably is one of my favorite racing experiences yet, but it could certainly use some retooling for the second lap.


This review is based on a retail PlayStation 4 copy provided by the publisher. DriveClub will be available on October 7 for $59.99. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor
Review for
DriveClub
7
Pros
  • Tons of detail in vehicles and environment
  • Accolades add another layer to the competitive driving
  • Vehicle handling offers a mix of arcade and simulation
Cons
  • Vehicle selection pales in comparison to other racing titles
  • Clubs are too tiny to make good on community promise
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 7, 2014 6:03 AM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, DriveClub review: you can find me in the club

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 6:22 AM

      nice review, i like the little summary in the top right too

      i wonder how bad the game was this time last year :/

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 6:30 AM

      I am utterly baffled as to why they'd talk up the social/community aspect of this game so much and then limit it to 6 people.

      • reply
        October 7, 2014 6:47 AM

        I thought the same exact thing. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong on my end. But after several attempts, I learned the unfortunate truth that you can only have a maximum of six people in a single club.

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 8:16 AM

      Nice review. I'll download and try the "free" PS+ version, but I have a feeling I'll do what I can to get FH2 instead of the full-on DC release.

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 9:56 AM

      Is this a good game if you only care about eye candy and going fast? I'm not a sim guy.

      • reply
        October 7, 2014 2:09 PM

        I want to know this too

      • reply
        October 7, 2014 8:30 PM

        I'm not really into sim racers but I've been enjoying this game so far. It feels kind of like the dirt series to me. The racing is decent and the time trials are fun and let you enjoy the pretty environment. I'm still at the beginning stages of the game though and haven't tried out any online stuff yet!

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 11:09 AM

      Damn you 50 cent.

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 11:32 AM

      Good review, I initially thought the date [7] Oct was the review score 7. Then on the right side it has a review of 7 anyway, ha.

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 4:04 PM

      This sentence is really awkward: Evolve even doesn’t have any music playing during any races by default, so the player can appreciate the roar of the engine of each vehicle.

      Isn't the developer Evolution?

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 9:24 PM

      I hate pointing out corrections, but I saw it and I can't ignore it.

      Last paragraph:

      The game completely immerses the player in each of the 50 vehicles that’s available, the game’s tracks and the environment to a point where I was in awe the majority of the time by its aesthetics more than the driving experience itself.

      'that's' should be 'that're' or 'that are', and I don't understand what the sentence transitions in to after the coma.

      This is probably is one of my favorite racing experiences yet, but it could certainly use some retooling for the second lap.

      Second 'is' is a typo, I assume.

      • reply
        October 7, 2014 9:28 PM

        Oh, maybe that first sentence I mentioned is trying to read something like:

        The game completely immerses the player in the tracks, the environment, and each of the 50 vehicles that’re available, to a point where I was in awe the majority of the time by its aesthetics more than the driving experience itself.

    • reply
      October 7, 2014 9:40 PM

      Is the driveclub network down for everyone else too?