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Driveclub - hands-on review, PS+ delay, preload, bundles & release date

Seth Barton
8 Oct 2014
Driveclub
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We've got everything you need to know about Driveclub in one place, including our hands-on review and season pass details

With delays and controversial pricing strategies making more noise on social networks than a revving V8 engine, you've probably already heard a lot about DriveClub. Evolution Studios' connected racer is due to hit Sony's PS4 this week, after missing its original release date alongside the console's debut last November.

It's available as both a full price physical release and a cut-down basic version which will be free for all PlayStation Plus subscribers. With micro-transactions in both games to let you instantly unlock your favourite car and the option to upgrade from the trial to the full version, it's the biggest racing game yet on PS4 and we can't wait to take it for a spin.

Read our full review of Driveclub rival Forza Horizon 2

Until we get behind the wheel on the 8th of October, however, we've gathered up all the information, gameplay trailers and news to help you decide whether to download the trial or buy the full game, and whether to pick up a season pass. We've also taken a good look at the game's social elements, to see how setting up a club works and what difference it makes to your racing.

DRIVECLUB RELEASE DATE AND PRELOAD

Driveclub will be available this week, though the exact date varies depending on your region: US is October 7th, Europe is the 8th and the UK has to wait until the 10th. If you've bought a full digital copy, you will be able to preload the game beforehand to stop the servers from dying on release. US preload is already available today, EU preload will come online tomorrow (tuesday), and UK 'clubbers will have to wait until Wednesday. The download is a fairly hefty 17GB, so we'd recommend preloading if at all possible.

The free-to-play version available via PlayStation Plus cannot be downloaded in advance. That version provides access to just one location (India), 11 tracks, 10 cars, but includes every game mode. Despite being a cutback version, the download remains 17GB, so you might be in for a bit of a wait come launch day.

If you decide to upgrade to full version later, you will get a discount from the full retail price of £50 for a digital copy, originally this was stated as being £42, but it's been rumoured this now might be much lower at £35 - although we'd be surprised if it was that much cheaper than a retail copy, as PS+ members who bought physical copies would feel ripped off.

Retail copies will be on sale on the appropriate release day for your region, costing around £50 in the UK. There will be a special edition to buy as well, which will include instant access to the following cars: McLaren P1, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series, Ferrari 458 Italia, Aston Martin v12 Vantage S, and Alfa Romeo 4C - and special livery for each, bust that'll cost around £60.

If you haven't got a PS4 yet then there's a PlayStation 4 with Driveclub bundle available, with a PS4 and the game for £350. There's also good news for anyone looking for a Glacier White version of Sony's console; a special Driveclub edition with a white console, white DualShock 4 controller and copy of the game is available for the same price. It's not a bad deal, but it's £20 more than you'll currently pay for a PS4 and FIFA 15, so you might want to grab that instead and buy Driveclub separately.

Read about all the best PS4 bundles and deals

PS+ VERSION DELAYED

The free, limited access PS Plus edition of DriveClub was due to launch alongside the retail version of the game, on the 7th of October in North America, 8th in Europe and 10th in the UK, but Sony "temporarily delayed" the rollout at the last minute.

Game director Paul Rustchynsky blamed heavy server load for the delay, with gamers buying the full game already struggling to get online. Writing on the official DriveClub facebook page, Rustchynsky said "We are seeing a lot of activity and new social behaviours right now, but unfortunately this is pushing the servers to their absolute limits,"

"We are sorry if you are having a hard time getting online as we know many of you are. Please be aware that the game will automatically keep trying to connect you. Once you’re online, you should have no further problems during your session."

Players that have already picked up a copy in North America, or who have snagged an early release elsewhere but are unable to get online will still be able to play offline. Any unlocked cars or races, earned Fame and created challenges will be synchronised once you eventually get connected.

Until the server load dies down, or Sony adds more capacity, the free DriveClub PS Plus Edition won't be released. Nor will the My DriveClub companion app, which will eventually let gamers manage their club and cars without having to switch on their PS4.

There's currently no indication as to when the free version will be made available, although anyone that pre-ordered the full game upgrade from the PS Plus Edition will still be able to access the full digital version of the game. Rustchynsky did apologise for the delay, however, saying "To our PS Plus fans, we’re sorry you’re having to wait longer to play, but we want to ensure that when you come on board, you get the best experience possible."

WHAT DO YOU GET WITH THE PS+ VERSION

Still a bit confused about what you get in the free and paid-for versions of Driveclub? Then have a look at the inforgraphic below. It details all the differences, though please note the small print at the bottom stating that the 'free' DLC only comes with the full retail version of the game and not the PS+ Edition. Essentially you get five times more with the paid version, 5x more tracks across 5x more locations, plus 5x more cars.

Both versions will get the delayed features, with Photo Mode, Replay Mode and most importantly Dynamic Weather being patched into both at some future date. The free DLC looks promising too, with a new location and 11 new tracks, though you'd have to be keen to pay up for the rest of the DLC, as it consists largely of cars, paint jobs and new races on the same tracks.

DRIVECLUB GAMEPLAY

As expected, Driveclub made an appearance at Sony's press conference at Gamescom, giving us a better look at the dynamic weather system and the photo mode that will let you snap great-looking shots to share online. It had already been announced that dynamic weather would arrive after the initial release in October, but we finally got to decide whether it would be worth the wait. Based on the short rain and snow gameplay shown off on-stage, we're excited to have to reach for the windscreen wipers and get tail-happy on changeable roads.

Driveclub weather

^ We can't wait to race in Driveclub's dynamic weather

Beyond the dynamic weather effects, the game in general looked stunning, with a slightly washed out, gritty detail about it that we prefer over the more saturated hues of Forza Horizon 2 - though as an open world game you can't compare the two like-for-like. The rain came down in sheets, and you could see every drop when the developer froze the action and span around the car in the photo mode. For a bravo moment they took the camera up through the thick clouds above the race and broke into the sunshine above, showing that all those clouds, and the light coming through them, are properly modelled.

Driveclub also pushed its social credentials once again. With a demo showing how multiple players were kept aware of each other achievements, and the rewards that everyone in the shares from them. They also talked about, though didn't demo, an app that will let you keep abreast of what your club are up to, and even watch a livestream of them racing. At launch, you'll be able to use all the social features on 25 tracks with a total of 55 possible routes.

Unfortunately, we also learned that Driveclub would be limited to 30 frames per second, rather than the original target of 60fps. As the PS4's first major driving game, many gamers will have been hoping to see next-generation hardware muscle being pushed to the limit, and although the frame rate may not be as smooth as Microsoft's Forza Motorsport 5 on the Xbox One, Evolution Studios has used the extra power to add depth-of-field effects, overhaul the lighting and reflections, and make room in the performance ceiling for the eventual addition of real-time weather.

DRIVECLUB SEASON PASS

Like most major console releases, Driveclub is set to arrive with a season pass for eager drivers to get the most out of the game with extra content. Going into details on the official PlayStation blog, Evolution Studios' community manager Jamie Brayshaw promised that new content, improvements and updates would all be shaped by the players, with new content added every month from launch until at least June 2015. For everyone else, there would be additional track and car packs released for free, even if you don't subscribe, and a continual upgrade process that will see the game evolve ad drivers populate the servers.


Ultimately, the free DLC will include nine cars and 11 tracks, while the paid-for season pass will consist of 38 cars, 176 new events and 80 unique liveries to customise your ride. The €24.99 season pass will give players roughly 60 per cent off buying all the planned DLC separately, which is estimated to be worth around €75.

DRIVECLUB REVIEW - HANDS ON (E3 build)

With all that said and done, let's get onto the racing. The build we got to play back at E3 was a 3-vs-3 race, where you get points for each finishing position from six down to one, and the 'club' with the most points wins, so it has to be team performance to win overall.

The handling has come on a long way since the initial demos. It feels a little on the realistic side of a typical arcade racer, and those who loved Metropolis Street Racer and larer project Gotham Racing should feel right at home, which includes us. The cars feel distinct too, we shot away from the pack uphill in a powerful, but lightweight Super BAC Mono in one race; but then laboured at the back in the next race as our drifty, overpowered Mercedes SLS AMG hit patches of ice in Norway.

Driveclub

It all looks fantastic too, the handling model may not be super realistic, but the surroundings are largely down to earth, and full of enough detritus and odds and ends to give them a feel realistic feel. In Norway for example the snow was muddy and patchy, rather than in deep, luscious drifts.

When the dynamic weather system arrives after launch, snow will fall as you race and build up on track during one season, but it might be raining heavily at the start of a race when you attempt the same course later. This build wasn't available to play yet, and the weather won't make the current release date, but instead be a patch for soon after. It looks stunning in demos though, and it's a sign of how Sony views Driveclub as more a continuing project than a single disc release - though how you feel about that, and how we pay for extra content in the future is still an issue for some.

Driveclub

The social part of the game lets you form a riving club, which you can then race with against other clubs. Your club has its own level, and you earn awards by contributing to its success, such as a new car model for all the members. You do this by earning points, both by winning races, and by taking part in challenges during them, such as a drift challenge round a hairpin, or a speed challenge around two sweeping corners. The best player through the section picks up the most bonus points. Again, it's all highly reminiscent of Project Gotham.

One negative point is that Driveclub hasn't yet come up with a solution for first corner mayhem. You seen it a million times, everyone dives into the first corner too fast, and the resulting mass pile up becomes a lottery. You can hang back to try and escape the carnage, but it's not guaranteed, and if the lead car makes it through cleanly you're then a huge disadvantage. We think some sort of ghost car system for the first turn might be an idea.

Driveclub

Apart from that issue, however, we love the battling feel the game engenders. The team races mean not everyone is out to screw you over. And you can get in some epic battles, without the handling model throwing you straight into a fatal spin.

It's been a long and painful gestation, but Driveclub is shaping up to be a great game, we're now really looking forward to racing you all, and probably losing horribly, later this year.