16 Months After Release, Driveclub’s Still Got It

A Ruf in its natural stance: oversteer. Image courtesy of torque99.

Looking at my in-game statistics for Driveclub, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m a superfan of the title. Maxed out XP, all Elite levels achieved, platinum trophies for both vanilla DC and the Bikes expansion plus more accolades than a war veteran. There’s no doubt whatsoever – no current generation game has even came close to the time I have played Evolution Studios’ middling racer (outside of a certain kart racer). I’ve raced in over 2,000 events, earning every single star.

At risk of going on about how much I have actually played of this game, I will cut it short. My main starting point for this discussion piece is that even though I have more than had my money’s worth (and enjoyment) from Driveclub, would I say its a fantastic ‘must own’ game for the PS4? The fact I even have to ask myself this question should say how conflicted my feelings are about this title. Through this piece I aim to show what makes Driveclub top class… and conversely what pushes people away.

The Exige is part of Driveclub’s Original Roster. Image courtesy of MeanElf.

Rough Beginnings

A week prior to the release of Sony’s first proper PS4 racing exclusive a trailer was released showing off what it had to offer combined with multiple quotes from media outlets. The most out of place quote coming from VG24/7 stating Driveclub was a “Forza Killer”, complete with a slightly gaudy clip of a ‘Playstation Blue’ car totalling an ‘Xbox Green’ car straight off the road. Confidence ‘carsonified’.

Driveclub formally released worldwide October 7th 2014 after numerous delays, finally making it out the door in less-than-ideal fashion. Thanks to an abundance of server issues and release problems that Evolution and Sony described as “embarrassing”, and a testament to “why games are delayed”, huge damage was done to the title’s reputation. For many, this was the point Evolution Studios lost a huge chunk of potential fanbase.

Problems and kinks weren’t the only thing that stalled Driveclub though… luke-warm reception from critics (71 Metascore) and players (6.0 User score) gave a general consensus that although pretty, the racer was shallow and didn’t offer anything new to the racing genre as a result of the half-baked club mechanic and linear career mode compared to competitors. Furthermore, the disastrous Sony-promised PS-Plus version of the game was delayed indefinitely.

Despite this the game did develop a fanbase. Being platform exclusive it already had a reliable group to defend short-comings whilst it was subject to criticism from every direction. Plus, the more people played the game it became apparent that there might just be a decent driving game underneath the slightly-generic paint Driveclub is coated with.

It seemed then, that Driveclub was destined to fall to the wayside and be forgotten about. Promises of a season pass which detailed how much would be included but no detailed content and a weather mode; footage of which was restricted to a ten second Twitter video didn’t seem to give the game any sort of reprieve in the minds of gamers and critics alike. Driveclub became the symbolic representative of what the modern game industry lacks; customer care and consideration.

However, Evolution Studios wouldn’t ditch their brainchild and thus the rescue mission began… to make Driveclub great.

Old Town (added in the February Update) is Driveclub’s first city circuit. Image courtesy of RL_23.

Like A Phoenix From the Ashes

Accused of broken promises and half-baked ideas, Evolution’s main focus was getting the Driveclub servers at an operational level whilst working on gameplay tweaks and alterations. The first major update was the addition of the promised weather mode which was every bit as impressive as its initial reveal from a visual stand-point. Weather gave the predictable vanilla release a new lease of life and the dynamic possibilities of Driveclub’s weather system is something not matched by anything in the genre.

From here Evolution hit a good stride, as a good-will gesture the first few bouts of season pass content were made free to everyone(with the promise those with Season Passes would still get their value through an extension) and the game received monthly updates adding welcome fan-feedback-enabled changes. The incremental approach worked incredibly well for the team who, rather than seal themselves away in seclusion, embraced what the players had to say. As opposed to staying in developer ‘safe zones’ like NeoGAF and fan-sites the team would openly discuss on public platforms like Facebook and Twitter about where the title was and where they wanted it to be.

The feature list grew for the game and eventually the PS-Plus version of the game released to cries of “the full game should have been free!” from players/bandwagoners still burned by the game’s initial release. This comment allows a segue into the next interesting topic regarding Driveclub; Value for money.

BMW plays a large part in Driveclub’s car list. Image courtesy of Delicious.

Redefining the Post-Game Support Cycle

Driveclub’s botched launch almost played well into Evo’s hand in the long-run. It didn’t take very long at all for the game to plummet to less than half-price and for the Driveclub PS4 bundle to become the most commonly reduced set in stores. The price made the game attractive to possible players since there still wasn’t much competition and the mixed-views meant to most it might be worth a punt at least.

Driveclub is the highest selling exclusive on PS4 and I’d happily hedge my bets this is down to the insanely cheap prices Driveclub could – and still can be – found for. The standard price of the game coming down on the PS Store could be interpreted by many as a sign of acceptance that the game didn’t have the impact they would have liked (e.g: The Order 1886).

However, I personally believe this was an intentional ploy to make players more likely to shell out on the Season Pass. It is certainly appealing: for just under the price of a full retail title you could get a full retail title and a season pass chock-full of premium content not many games match. In the end, the craving for more content is what made Driveclub realize its new status as a ‘service’ as opposed to an entry in a newly born series as it was initially intended to be. Rather than exist until fading to obscurity, Driveclub continued to evolve by tackling common fan complaints like a too Euro-centric car list and a lacking track selection with aplomb. Introducing entire new locales and adding fan favourites like the Nissan GT-R and very recently the R34.

Quite simply, you will be hard pressed to find any game on the market that even places itself in the same level as Driveclub when it comes to the car-list. Outside of a lacking, sadly ignored Hot Hatch category, each car class has a plethora of vehicles for an arcade racer. Ranging from supercar staples like the Ferrari 458 to future beauty in the Renault R.S01.

Evolution Studios have hit a point for me where I don’t even consider not buying the DLC: it’s a formality. As an individual who isn’t a fan of the modern gaming industry I consider this a big deal, as aside from a few outliers DLC doesn’t usually impress me. Driveclub’s DLC does feel like an investment: value is practically guaranteed.

The Civic-R is the first Japanese Hot Hatch to appear in Driveclub. Image courtesy of sebmugi.

Contrasting Opinions

With all Driveclub has to offer and its admirable rise to glory, it shouldn’t be outlandish to suggest that it deserves to have a place in every PS4 player’s library. However, the divisiveness of the title comes from two core areas in my opinion: on the track, and personality. Driveclub’s physics are a decently enjoyable romp, there’s no special asset that feels like it sells the physics but they suffice for the type of game it is. Evolution have left the physics mostly unchanged, however small tweaks and a new Hardcore mode were added fairly recently for those who felt it was too forgiving. The ‘feel’ of Driveclub’s physics engine has a tendency to isolate simulation fans and casuals alike for vastly different reasons.

Looking at comments from casuals, the game is accused of being ‘too heavy’ for an arcade racer. Obviously the discussion topic is based upon a unified idea of what an arcade racer is instead of accepting that there are sub definitions like ‘semi-simulation’ that are now commonly used. For many casual racing fans/general gamers Driveclub hits an awkward level between flow and weight of movement.

For simulation fans, its the polar opposite. Many complain that Driveclub’s physics engine doesn’t even emulate what a real car would drive like within ‘Arcade’ constraints or not and for these people it is the true deal-breaker. From a personal stand-point, I don’t mind racing games having vastly different handling engines. The contrast between something like Ridge Racer and Driveclub highlight just how vast a category ‘Arcade’ really is.

The other point I made note of was Driveclub’s lack of personality. This is something I whole-heartedly agree on, Driveclub is devoid of a ‘soul’ – so to speak. As an example, Gran Turismo may have had an arguable quality drop but it still brings people toward it due to its charm. Driveclub doesn’t have an easily-associable ‘charm’. It’s a serviceable racer that has a good car roster and pretty graphics but unfortunately in an age where we expect more innovation, it doesn’t stick as well as it might have a generation or two ago. Previously, racing games had a purpose of showing the power that a console was capable of whereas now more than ever, other genres are preferred to service this requirement (action games especially).

That’s not to say Driveclub isn’t deserved of its dogged photo-mode fanbase and luscious looks, in my opinion no game looks better from a visual stand-point and the comprise of dropping 60fps in favour of half that pays off visually (if leaving myself longing for what 60fps would look like…).

Bringing it back to the main point – Evolution could patch in every car in existence but it can’t patch in a soul and thus this extended support could fall on deaf ears.

Before updates, this photo wouldn’t have had the cars, weather or location on display. Driveclub has come very far. Image courtesy of Nato_777.

The Final Straight

Driveclub is a very interesting title to consider within the racing genre. For all the things it has done right since launch, it is still unlikely to budge those who have decided it’s just not for them with valid reasons. However, without sounding like a bad salesman: if you haven’t tried Driveclub yet, go for it! There’s been no better time to do so at the price point of the base game and resulting season pass. Controversially, I wouldn’t recommend just purchasing the base game. I feel to get the most out of the game you need the season pass (which is basically always on sale and never full price).

Driveclub always pulls me back in despite my acknowledgement (and admittance) of the shortcomings it won’t overcome. Without the incredible post-game support I probably wouldn’t still be playing the title but that just proves how fresh Evolution have kept the game. Little over 16 months since release and I still feel the hype about some new events and cars. Driveclub is starting to feel like the service Sony now tout it as and for me this deserves your hard-earned gaming time. So, until your chosen simulation of choice takes over your life… why not give Driveclub a try? You might end up loving it more than you expect.

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Comments (41)

  1. B.K

    I’m sorry Brendan, even though you tryin hard to sell the game to the crowd, its still an arcade game with horrible physics and a catastrophic Lobby System.

    The collision physics must be the worst I’ve ever experienced in a racing game. The cars are badly balanced the DLC cars are far better than the normal cars, what a coincidence.

    The community is full of crash kids. I’ve driven yesterday about 15 races and not a single clean race. This game benefits the crashkids, thats why you always see this behaviour.

    DC is a pure blender. For me the worst Arcade racing game since NFS Most Wanted(criterion). They should stick to Motorstorm-like games, other than that they arent even mediocre, but its enough nowadays only graphics matter.

    1. ImaRobot

      Racing games are plagued with people that troll and grief online. That is not a fault of DC.

      However, I disagree. I think the worse arcade game since NFS, is still NFS.

    2. bloodsugar6

      ‘Catastrophic lobby system’?? Not sure what you mean by this,either I can jump into an ever changing roster of events with randoms on a public session(either on my own or in a group of up to 6 friends/clubmates) or set up a private lobby with a group of clean racing friends.It all works pretty smoothly other than the occasional disconnect and other than the event list being India heavy there’s always a race I’m interested in.

      Yes,there are ‘crashkids’,but this is hardly the games fault.I have to say tho’,once I got half decent at the game,it was pretty easy to pick off the rammers and get out of their clutches.
      Good god man,why torture yourself playing 15 races on game ,which judging on your comments,you hate so much?I’m surprised it was even still on your hard drive………

  2. jm79

    Also, as SZRT Ice says, the audio is top notch.
    And what a fantastic argument for dynamic conditions, nothing can compare.

    1. B.K

      Audio is top notch? Are you kidding mate?

      The RS5 sounds like a vaccum cleaner. The Maserati Gran Turismo is worlds away from its original sound, the 458 sounds like an R8, and GT-R sounds horrible like 80% of the other cars. You always notice this computer generated sound like in GT.

    2. jm79

      I remember reading the Edge review of F355 Challenge back in the day, where the reviewer sniffily complained that the real-life Ferrari was not much like the game version, or some such. I thought ‘what a bellend’.

      Reminded of that now B.K.

  3. wraith of horus

    I bought the game when it was new. The visual landscapes, vistas and weather and lighting were really good. However Vrossi couldn’t of put it better for me. The driving physics just put me off playing the game. The cars look to big when the camera is behind the car and proportions or dimensions all wrong when compared to gran turismo or forza 6. I don’t dc has anywhere near the list that forza 6 has that said the cars are good , fresh and modern ones and now even bikes. I haven’t tried the game for ages but even since this Supposed update. I never downloaded the dlc because never enjoyed game enough to play it enough to move on to a better or different car. I think I’m still on the first car they give you or a small Mercedes. Not sure but the driving physics are my deal breaker. Forza 6 does this right. Maybe dc has killer sounds. The sounds are still good in forza 6. Anyway that’s just my opinion on dc. I just it ages ago when it was quite a lot more money and I feel it’s wasted Coney for me. .maybe I’ll load it up again and try out the new hardcore physics engine to see if I can somehow try to like it but I imagine my feelings will be like Vrossi and it will just get put down again to gather dust.

    1. bloodsugar6

      Maybe,imagine,not sure.All apt words really when you didn’t even get past the first car,I’m guessing I spent more time trying to get the cellophane off the box than you did on tarmac.Personally I found Driveclub a little bit average to begin with but once I’d gotten on to some of the more interesting cars in the performance and super class,it had it’s hooks in me.S go on,put a little effort in to see whether the game really isn’t for you,you may just find you didn’t waste your money after all.


    I think DC got identity crisis…. is it a simulation? it’s trying to be one but no where near… is it an arcade? bit too hardcore to be considered an arcade game considering arcade racing games barely using brakes, let alone not using them at all…

    I think this game were developed only to show PS4’s graphics potential to its max…. best part of it IMO? raindrops and the way the droplets move and gets wiped by the wiper

  5. DaGiBUS

    Driveclub has always seemed to me as an answer to Forza Horizon and from the outside looking in, it seems that it’s matched FH, if not bettered it.

    1. B.K

      I’m really not a forza fan, but how it can be better than Horizon when DC doesent even have open world?

      Horizon 2 got great physics(for this genre), got great tuning options(in DC Zero) and good graphics even though not as good as DC.

      This makes no sense buddy.

  6. glassjaw

    Solid writeup, props to the author. Though I must say I couldn’t disagree more with the comment about DC lacking soul. What “charm” does GT have? Lifeless, sterile environments? Catatonic A.I.? Elevator music? A massive selection of cars that PD didn’t feel the need to pour love, care and attention to? Earlier GTs had personality, sure. But nothing in 5 or 6 can touch DC’s immersive weather effects (the best in any racing game ever), beautiful, lush locales reminiscent of a Nat Geo film, killer sound, immaculate attention to detail, and thrilling track design. This game is criminally underrated due to a terrible launch. But in the months that have followed, it’s easily become my favorite racing game of the last five or so years.

    1. SimTourist

      What’s the point of comparing Ps3 games to PS4 games? If ported to PS3 would DC still have the same weather effects, environments and detail? Probably not. PS4 is 10 times more powerful, so the level of detail is expected to surpass PS3 games. Let’s wait until PD rolls out their game and then judge.

    2. Brendan R.

      My point was Gran Turismo on the ‘whole’ has a specific feeling that brings people in to play. Even when GT6 attempted to remove that classic GT feel I like to hope 7/Sport reverts to capturing the GT feel instead of using hideous tile based menus like every other game in the past 3 years.

    3. Johnnypenso

      @glassjaw I’ve always wondered the same thing myself. The user interface has a certain feel to it that I like, but the meat of the game, the actual car on track in GT, is pretty sterile and lifeless. Pretty much every other game I’ve tried beats it in that regard and since that’s where I spend most of my time is on the track, what’s happening in the menus has meant less and less to me over time to the point now where the UI is just some nonsense I have to get through in any game to get to the real thrill of driving a car. AC has about the most basic UI of any game I’ve played for about 10 years and I could care less because the driving experience is so good. I imagine it’s about the same with DC although I’ve never tried it.

    4. glassjaw

      @SimTourist It’s not about the technical gap. You needn’t look farther than Codemasters’ efforts last gen, or the Motorstorm series for examples of racing games that had more personality, in my opinion, than GT5 or 6. Hell, my favorite game ever is Ridge Racer Type 4 on the PS1, and that has more style than anything else before or since. Driveclub’s level of detail is obviously very high, but there’s so much more to it than that.

  7. SimTourist

    I still don’t quite understand why people praise Driveclub’s DLC so much, it’s all super cars and sports cars. At the same time we see Forza not only having a base car list several times larger than DC, but expanding it with a huge range of vehicles every month. And yet people complain about forza and praise dc. I need some explanation.

    1. Brend

      It depends what view point you take really…Driveclub gets most of it’s praise as a result of being an Arcade title with fantastic support. Forza is another series with great support in my opinion.

      However, I do think that not everyone agrees Driveclub is an outstanding example of DLC, I’ve heard accusations of withholding content and similar. Also the fact Season 2 isn’t having a Pass by the looks of it…point being; Racing fans are overly cynical at times, those slating forza but heralding DC obviously don’t understand ‘parity’! :)

    2. SavageEvil

      @Sim Tourist, it’s called having differing likes and tastes, pretty sure the world would be incredibly boring if every one liked the same thing.

    3. ImaRobot

      That has less to do with taste and more to do with illogical statements @SavageEvil. For someone to praise DC’s approach, Forza’s should also be praised. If there taste is nice cars coming in consistently, then Forza also does it. How would like one, but disliking the others approach revolve around taste, when they are pretty much done in a very similar fashion.

  8. sebmugi

    the worthy heir of Metropolis Street Racer ^^ (old PGR)
    it is now the best acrade racing game of all time and this is a first game on a new game console .. it leaves dreamer for more!
    very good paper and thank you for choosing one of my photos;)
    long life gtpanet

    1. B.K

      “best arcade racing game of all time”

      You’re too funny man. You obviously never played a good arcade racing game like Burnout 3, Blur etc etc etc.

  9. SZRT Ice

    The game looks amazing. The driving actually encourages use of the cockpit view. I personally feel that the sound is great. And intense competition is there to be had.

    As stated above, one of my few quams is the “Club” aspect, which seems only relevant in statistics, showing how much your club members play overall. There’s no designated mode for locked club vs club racing. And if you enter a team race, random players will be added to the match to even out the teams (only 2 teams at a time). Sometimes, even placing your club members on the opposing team.

    Other than that, the game could use a bigger variety of tracks and game modes to keep things entertaining.

    1. Fat Tyre

      Right because GT5’s physics were beautiful haha.

      I haven’t played Forza3 but I do have FM5 and 6 and physics are great in fact it surpasses GT6 imo, you should give it another go at it if you love cars.

  10. vrossi

    As great as DC’s grafix & dev support are…
    the physics are a deal breaker. I kept this game for over a year & tried very hard to like it.
    I even bought the motorcycles hoping they would change my mind. But. In the end…I got $23.00 for it that went towards Just Cause 3.
    DC is Sony’s Forza. Beautiful to look at, but with broken physics.
    I played the hell outa Forza 3(while waiting for GT5) forcing myself to put up with those poor physics.
    I wish all racing game dev’s would put physics first. Cuz God knows…us hard core racing game fans need more GOOD racing games.

    1. Brend

      I’m glad you posted here with how you found the game vrossi. As I remarked in the article, Driveclub is divisive as much as it is ‘great’. Some players really just can’t enjoy the gameplay and that’s fair enough!

  11. Donnced

    Good post for an excellent Arcade racing game.. When i buy it I’ve got my doubts… But the fly away in a few races, then i buyed the season pass and the game have me hours and hours of pure fun! And still today they surprise me with the support Evolution Studios gives to his game.

    One of the best arcade racers i played for sure..

    Like McDonald’s says… I’m loving it!

  12. doblocruiser

    …and don’t forget that amazing nice and great place here at GTP the DC players have created :)

    Great read :)

  13. jm79

    “So, until your chosen simulation of choice takes over your life… why not give Driveclub a try? You might end up loving it more than you expect.”

    This totally sums it up for me…

    Great game, and at times, just about the prettiest videogame I’ve ever played.

    1. Broda

      I’m in the same boat here. I just got it a week ago. Rather enjoying it. I wasn’t totally expecting it but I wanted to just drive with some cars that weren’t in GT. Once I got over the initial “oh… this is how it feels” i got more used to it I get how to control it now and its been way more fun. For me I’m a very visual person so I can’t stop looking at the cars and the lighting. Also… would love some of these point to points in a Gran Turismo in the future. Norway and Chile are just incredible to look at.

  14. gladbecker82

    I was mocking this game for being a broken mess but now I think it’s an amazing racer, the car selection is top notch and probably only slightly beaten by Forza 6, if at all.

  15. nick98

    In my eyes, everyone who hates on Driveclub surely can’t let go its launch issues. So far, DC, with its constant updates, has become one of the best games available on the PS4, and a great spiritual successor to Project Gotham Racing. Its DLCs are very well-worth their price, and its competitive value is astounding. Driveclub is too good to pass up IMO.

    1. Brend

      I wouldn’t have said Driveclub was worth its full retail price at launch like I said. However what it has become is nothing short of incredible.

      Having it since release, it’s been an insane turnaround

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