Preview

Driveclub

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The big thing in DriveClub is its focus on social networking, as indicated by the hash in its name – for non-Twitter users, a hash before a word indicates an indexed term on Twitter, a popular social network. (For the sake of our own sanity, we’ll leave the ‘hash’ out of the name for now – Ed).

Games like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit introduced this in driving games with its innovative Autolog system, but DriveClub is taking this a few levels further, making it the focal point of the game.

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In DriveClub you play as a club member and race against players, but mostly you race for your club against a rival outfit. All your performance is channelled into your club’s current score, so while your individual performance is scored, it only matters in that it forms a component of your team’s total. In the past this kind of team-based gaming would have required everyone to be online to compete together against a rival clan,’ but DriveClub rides the recent trend of ‘asynchronous multiplayer,’ where you play against other players but don’t have to be online at exactly the same time to do so.

How this works is pretty ingenious. In the preview I played, I started on a track where I was driving on my own, but three times each lap I was pitted against someone in a challenge. There was an average speed challenge, a cornering challenge  and a drifting challenge, each happening over a different portion of the lap.

These challenges are against someone from your rival club who has just completed that section. This means you’re not trying to beat the best driver’s score in each section but instead you’re racing a ghost of someone who just competed, so it’s a lot more random in how good their score will be and adds some excitement to it, just like racing a person in realtime would.

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If you win a challenge you will earn extra ‘fame’ points. Fame points can also be earned by completing sections of the course cleanly, by drifting and by driving fast (getting a good lap time as well as hitting high speeds). At the end of the two laps of the circuit you could see your club’s current status against the opponent club as well as how you contributed to your club’s overall performance. You get two ranks – a rank in lap time and a rank in fame. Your rank determines how many points you earn for your club, and it’s weighted more heavily towards lap time so while those mid-lap challenges are important, getting a good lap time is still more important.

I love the concept of asynchronous multiplayer because I find myself incapable of performing enough communication and planning to have myself and my friends being on our PlayStations at the same time, all playing the same game. I also love racing games, from Mario Kart to Need for Speed to Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. DriveClub sits somewhere in the middle of those in terms of mechanics – perhaps most similar to PGR on the arcade/realism spectrum.

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It makes sense that it isn’t the most realistic racing game, but does still require actual racing skill since this is game designed around a driving club – people who are not necessarily professional race drivers but enjoy the idea of team competition and also enjoy cars themselves.

It remains to be seen what amount of content is going to be available for DriveClub. Indications are that there will be a free version of game for PlayStation Plus subscribers, but I imagine there might be cars and tracks up for purchase. Nevertheless it is an intriguing take on racing games in a social setting and it’s a PlayStation 4 launch game I would be interested in trying.

Driveclub Screenshot Gallery:


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