The current generation of consoles are social machines that allow players to share their experiences as much as possible. Developed for PlayStation 4, Driveclub is the racing game response to this, providing a community experience in a genre that has traditionally been all about competition. Together with some other novel features, Driveclub has enough to stand out from the crowd. However, Driveclub has some serious impediments that keep it from competing properly with other racing games on the market.
The main feature of Driveclub is the clubs. Clubs are teams of up to six players who work together to attain points and move up the social leaderboards. You can do this by competing in multiplayer events and races, working alongside the others in your club to beat any competitors you come across. Thankfully, the multiplayer aspect works well and there are few problems with connecting to other players.
Once online, you can get stuck in an in-depth challenge system. This is one of the main contributors to the social leaderboards and they help to foster a sense of community. You can send any of your recent races to friends to see if they can beat your time or performance. It is even possible to make these challenges open to the public for an extra sense of achievement. The more people who take part, the bigger the reward for the winner of the challenge. Although many titles have similar systems, here it works especially well thanks to the clubs and the general sense of competition.
But, not everything revolves around these clubs. Similar to the online portion of the game are singleplayer events. There is a tour mode for those who don’t want to join a club or have no interest in multiplayer experiences. These are both lackluster when compared to the offerings you will get in most other racing games. Consequently, there isn’t much here for those who prefer to game on their own.
One of the most important elements for any racing game is the selection of cars available for players to drive. Driveclub leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to its vehicle roster. There are only 50 cars available, although more are promised in future DLCs, and these are mainly focused on European models. As a result, the likes of Nissan, Toyota, and Ford are nowhere to be seen.
Driveclub’s competitors are nowhere near as sparse as this. It is surprising that this small selection was considered enough to please gamers who will be expecting far more from their racing titles. Even stranger is the decision to unlock cars in a specific order, meaning you may not get the car you want for a very long time.
The lack of options continues when it comes to customizing the various vehicles. Beyond basic paint jobs you are able to apply when unlocking a car, you cannot do anything else other than change the colors. There are no decals or methods of creating your own custom designs. Accordingly, every car has a simple look and there is hardly any diversity to the cars involved in each race.
Don’t expect to be able to tune your racer to its full potential either. Driveclub doesn’t offer any ability for tuning the engine or other aspects. It is frustrating to get a car only to find out you cannot upgrade it or significantly change anything about it.
A major problem for Driveclub is that it cannot decide what it wants to be. From its impressive visuals and realistic look, you’d think this was an attempt to create an authentic racer that simulates real life. Conversely, the simple controls and lack of any driver aids or complexity to the racing would suggest that the title is in fact a fun arcade racer. Neither is completely true and Driveclub ends up being stuck somewhere in between those two options.
Compared to other current racing games, Driveclub just does not provide a fun driving experience. There is almost no challenge, as you have too much grip while cornering and can brake practically wherever you live and still avoid crashing into walls. When Driveclub does try to make races a bit more difficult, it does so in a way that spoils whatever enjoyment can be had by punishing you with excessive penalties.
Finally, there are the AI racers that you’ll come across, which spend most of the time trying to crash into you. They also seem totally focused on stopping you from passing rather than going as fast as they can, ruining their own race to make your life miserable. When they do inevitably make contact with you, it is in the hands of the game whether you’ll get a penalty or not, through no fault of your own.
In brief, Driveclub just doesn’t have the features or gameplay to set it apart from other racers on the market. Sure, it looks nice, particularly at night when the excellent lighting system can be properly shown off. But, Driveclub suffers from a distinct lack of depth and fun. Without the multiplayer, this game would be dead in the water. Even with the online features, it fails to do anything truly memorable.