It’s been a long time coming but Driveclub is finally here. The game that was set for launch with the PS4 took a year to address development issues, the initial reasoning was that the UI needed work to make it seamless, but judging from how different the game looks now compared to last year’s industry show preview builds, its clear all aspects have been worked on to give it that extra coat of polish. Having downloaded the PS+ upgrade version this morning and giving it a quick play the following are my initial impressions only after about an hour or so. I’ll be back with further impressions over the weekend and at a later date a full review.
One of the nice features of the PS4 is that you can play the game with a partial download and Driveclub only needs 2.7gb before you can start racing. The first track is a track circuit in India, which its pretty clear to see has been designed like a beginner track specifically to get new players accustomed to the handling model. There’s not a lot of braking here and you can just about get around the track using just the accelerator to push down and let go to adjust the speed. The first car, the Mercedes AMG is a grippy hatch that never feels like losing traction provided you are somewhat prepared for the corners. Its an easy car to drive and easy to get around the track and make the player feel great about the handling model.
Speaking of the handling model, its definitely leaning towards arcade style. For example, I would say Project Gotham Racing Series has more sim like handling than this, but this is definitely not as arcadey as say Need For Speed Hot Pursuit or Burnout. Right now, having used just the one car, the handling is really forgiving. I can take the wrong line in a turn adjust by varying the acceleration and not lose that much speed/time. But there’s no way I would be able to do that in Gran Turismo where I need to be nailing all the correct lines to get a faster time. I am sure this is going to lead to a lot of fun times around corners, changing driving lines, outfoxing other drivers. Some people may not like the too arcadey model, but for now, I can see how it does make the racing more exciting.
The three tracks I tried were all in India, a track circuit, a point to point circuit called Nilgiri Hills and a road circuit Bandipur. All three tracks look great, the foliage and the amount of trackside obstacles are probably the nicest things here. There are so many variations of trees. There are some great elevation changes and there’s clever use of corners here so you do have to start using the brakes. One nice touch is the use of coloured flags to indicate the difficulty of the corner. My favourite thing so far is playing with the time of day and weather system. Unlike previous generation games where much of the lighting was prebaked, everything here is illuminated in real time, that means all the shadows and here reflect accurately the position of the sun. And the lighting looks so good on the PS4, truly revolutionary. You can pick any time of the day down to the hour. You can also time lapse it faster so you can start a race at sunrise and finish at sunset or basically whatever you want. Add to this a full weather system (so far only sunny, cloudy and overcast with rain and snow to come as a free update), and you can really adjust the look of the level to a very fine degree. It gives so much variation to each race.
The game is really fun right now, the racing and sense of speed is fast and buttery smooth, track scenery is gorgeous, and the AI is aggressive but fun. It feels like the game Project Gotham Racing fans and Motorstorm fans were waiting for as it blends a little bit of both and mixes it up with fresh locations and an arcadey driving model. There’s not a lot of choice for PS4 racing fans right now, so if you’re waiting for one, this will more than fit the bill. Full review to come.