E3 2013: Driveclub Preview

July 8, 2013

It could almost be considered a tradition to pad the launch line-up of a new home console with at least one racing title. Sometimes it’s a new franchise, sometimes old, usually Ridge Racer. Ridge Racer, it would seem, has fallen off the planet. So instead both Sony and Microsoft aim to have other racing goodies headline their launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year. While the latter will be going with their trademark Forza brand, Sony is offering up something completely new. And they call it Driveclub.

You know the score: drive cars, race around tracks, tour the world. Driveclub does have a lot in common with other racing games, but in many ways aims to be premier “PlayStation 4” title in features, connectivity, and distribution. It’s a “social experience”, as a racer, if you will.

Part of this social experience is Driveclub‘s insistence to keep you connected to the PS4’s networking tools, the game routinely updating your online data with high scores and completed challenges. That sweet drift around a corner, impressive lap time, and spectacular crash will be registered, rated, and scored, slapped up on the network along with a PlayStation Camera happy snap, and open for challenge from friends and others. On your end, you’ll be fed challenges straight from online, dynamically updated to the game as you race. Though Driveclub will initially prioritise scores and challenges set by friends, those who push beyond into higher levels of play will find themselves up against scores set by top level players.

In control and presentation, Driveclub seems to throw in the kitchen sink. Standard Dual Shock controls will suit purists, meanwhile motion controls will appeal to anybody after a Mario Kart Wii-like scheme. On the track we played, an impressively gorgeous and realistic looking drive around Scotland (car details too are spectacular), we did find ourselves over and under-steering with the motion controls. However, the dev team did assure us these motion controls are the most accurate they’ve come across, so perhaps like Mario Kart Wii they simply require a bit more investment to master.

Those following PlayStation 4 buzz will be aware that Driveclub is being offered as a PlayStation Plus bonus alongside the PlayStation 4 launch, as a special edition with a limited selection of cars and tracks (though full game feature set). Really, this method of release in many ways embodies the Driveclub philosophy: the game is seen as a service rather than a standalone game, allowing players to buy extra content to expand their experience.

Whether or not this works will remain to be seen, but at the very least Driveclub is scrubbing up well, and should be one of the better titles at the PlayStation 4’s launch, as well as a welcome bonus for PlayStation Plus owners planning to jump on the PS4 wagon.

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