The name Evolution Studios may not be on everyone's lips, but this team was responsible for some of the best racing action you could find on the PlayStation 3. That's because it worked on the numerous Motorstorm games that released, including the unbelievably wild Apocalypse, a racer where you literally had to keep on your guard while the track conditions changed around you.
For its move onto the PlayStation 4, we would've happily taken another Motorstorm game. Instead, the development team has shifted gears, instead going for a more realistic racing game, while keeping the competitive angle and arcade-style skills completely intact. That's what Drive Club is all about.
Initially introduced earlier this year at Sony's PlayStation 4 event, Drive Club is all about gaining points for your racing league. You start by joining up with fellow racers in a squad, then competing for first place victories across a number of tracks. These vary, ranging from winding mountain roads to all-out racing circuits, where the goal is to take the lead by any means necessary. While the game lacks the destructive off-road angle that fueled Motorstorm for so long, it still has plenty of thrills.
That's mainly due to the various challenges thrown at you over the course of each event. You not only compete against other players through "ghost car" replays and connectivity to other drivers through the PlayStation Network, but also through Overdrives and Face-Offs.
Overdrives require you to meet certain criteria to accomplish goals on each track, whether it's reaching a top speed on a straight-away, executing a drift around a tight corner without crashing your vehicle, or avoiding on-track obstacles. They vary by track, so there's always something new to take on.
As for Face-Offs, these work like Overdrives, but compare your performance to drivers in other clubs. For instance, when you enter a Face-Off, you'll see a rogue driver's skill score pop up, and it's up to you to match or surpass it. It may take a few tries – some DriveClub members will be better than others – but, if you're good enough, you should have no problem getting through it.
Beating both Overdrives and Face-Offs will add style points to not only your score, but also your club's. Competition is everything, and with each win and goal you meet, you rise up in stature compared to others. It's this level of competition that will have you return for more, just to see what new challenges await.
Although only a few were available with our hands-on demo with the game, DriveClub will provide a number of cars that you can use to get around. These are usually sleek sports models, like the Hennessey Venom and the Pagani Huayra – but there are some general cars as well, in case you don't feel like raising the bar on performance right away. You can also tweak various items on your vehicle to make it feel more like your own, and make minor adjustments in your car with a few flicks of the analog sticks.
At first, the handling may feel a little stiff, but that's just because you're getting used to a general arcade-style control set-up, rather than the one Evolution has used over the years with Motorstorm. Once you get into a drift for the first time and see what functions you can activate between controller functions, you'll find that the controls work quite well for this. Each car also has its own adjustments – for instance, balancing the torque steer on the Venom so you get the most from its engine – which adds further to the replay value.
Unfortunately, Sony wasn't able to confirm all the details about the direct online racing, only the "ghost car" models and stat tracking. That said, given that this is a next-gen machine built on racing thrills, we can't see why the game wouldn't be without it. After all, nothing beats humiliating a club member in real-time, rather than doing it through a "ghost car" delay.
One thing's for sure. Online or not, Drive Club will have a lot of terrain to race on. The variety of tracks will be staggering, and the new cars you can unlock – there are dozens to choose from – can fill up your garage in no time. You can also keep track of smaller things with your club, such as your standings and see how you fare in the ranks, and throw out challenges to those who dare to question your racing greatness.
Finally, if you're concerned about picking up the game upon its release, don't be. Sony has already confirmed that a special version of the game will be free of charge to PlayStation Plus subscribers. If that's not a reason to hop on board its subscription program, we're not sure what is.
We'll have more in-depth tips and strategies for Drive Club following its release on November 15th, right alongside the PlayStation 4 console.