DriveClub Technical Review

Publisher Sony
Developer Evolution Studios
Platforms tested PS4
If adrenaline filled racing is your thing then you should enjoy Driveclub as it is stacked with it. After the latest photo, weather and online patches are now all delivered, and boy did evolution deliver on fixing the issues and melting faces as the new dynamic weather update is really, really beyond compare.I am flabbergasted by its beauty, detail and accuracy, but more on that later.

Please view our detailed review of the game back at launch (Video link below) where I cover all aspects of the single player, AI, progression and online well at that point lack thereof. But evolution have worked hard to fix these issue and get the game up to and now beyond what was promised at launch. I am happy to report that now the game works brilliantly online allowing seamless mid game challenges to crop up and tickle your competitive bone as you play, dynamic options like speed sections, drifting and corner precision all offer up even more choices as you race and make the seamless link to sp and MP that little bit more blurred.


Gameplay & Controls

Joining a club allows you to use the colours you have taken from your new club mates or even design your own from the set colours on offer, you can use these across all cars earned in the game online and offline. Along with the base set of tracks and cars these have now been expanded for free with some new DLC delivered to soften the launch issues myself and others had, with new tracks and cars (like the Ferrari) just bolster the already great line-up the game shipped with.

The control system is still great with a very solid simulation running across all cars that leans slightly more to arcade but is not simple by any means and runs at a much faster update than the silky smooth 30fps frame rate offered which is smoothed further still with the great and not overdone motion blur effect in the game. Each car handles sufficiently different as to need some time to learn and makes each car a new experience to drive and with the new sound & weather patch that covers snow, rain and full on blizzards accurately degrade the grip from your tyres and thus affect races, which is furthered still by the low sun reflecting off the track and screen and being dynamic on long races can even get worse or improve as the race carries on.

Like its muse, Driveclub critiques and rewards your driving prowess during all races and tracks from clean sections, to high speed runs, cool drifts and much more. Also deducting you points for off track excursions and bad race etiquette. On seem tracks it can be harder to keep in line than other and there are many. Spanning across 5 separate locals like Scotland, Norway and more. These are broken down into around 11 tracks per slot. That can vary from short single sections of 1/3 laps to long rally type events spanning long scenic views of the country and these can be breathtaking and distract you from the task in hand.


Content

With a total of 55 tracks and 50 cars you have a varied selection of places to see and seats to view from. And the attention to details on the cockpits are supreme. Each car gets a quick cut edit as you chose for each race but inside in during races you can admire the brushed leather interior or the carbon fibre dash, each car looking and feeling sufficiently different from each other from boy racer Clio to the lush design of the Ferrari you can tell at a glance what you’re travelling in. The detail also gives you a fully working an accurate dash with some cars having a review camera so no mirror to clutter your view, OSD Speedo is dropped from interior as you use the clocks which also even top up on the milometer. You can even see your feet on the accelerators and brakes has you drive, the attention to each detail is highly commendable and welcome.

With each track having a varied selection of corners, challenges which is added to by the in game AI. And this game is all about driving from when you boot up the game within 60 seconds you will be gone, on track. No menu or long credits just straight into the driving to earn your wings. As the game starts they do not pose much of a threat and the within the first 2 races you have already earned a handful of achievements to make you feel good, trophy hunters will enjoy this game!

You work through the tour and complete each challenge to earn more stars which In turn increase your personal driving level and unlock more cars/paint and further tracks/challenges within the world tour. As these are locked off in grouped sections it allows you to pick and chose how you attack is and stops a grinding feeling setting in if you do find one section harder then you can jump into others and earn points there and return when you have unlocked a better car or more skill. And skill is needed as the game is well suited to latch onto your competitive spirit. Within races you have to win or beat the time and this is harder the further you progress with the AI starting off low and slow mistake prone and timid. But by the time you have reached the amateur cup each point or podium is well earned, with less and less mistakes made and at time they can be aggressive, box you in, barging past causing a crash, which adds to the challenge to get back in and take the fight back.

Whilst you’re not block passing and nipping up the inside the game also adds in one of its biggest innovations. With mid race face offs cropping up to add to your woes, average speed, drifting points or precise corner challenges all taunt you with a the carrot of even more stars to unlock more content and earn even more from the race. But at the risk of losing places in the race or losing face to the challenge. If it is a multi-lap race you can see the taunt at your crack handed skills, but next lap you get another chance to smack down your dominance to some other random unknown Internet racer! A victory is still sweet no matter where and how it comes. Along with the individual race bonus point prizes you always seems to be able to have options to win within a race even if the top step alludes you.

This is carried further in the game with the ability to hit time trials or drifting challenges and if you are happy with your skills then you can hit the options button and fire it out into the community to see if anyone can step up, but this is where the biggest issue I have with the game arises. It is a social racer designed around creating a club or joining one and then all members race both online and off sporting your clubs colours and badge with pride, earning points for yourself, your club, moving you through the ranks to become legends of racing.


Online

Multiplayer lobbies can still be long winded and finding a game or staying in one is still not anywhere near perfect, but this is an issue that I could levy at pretty much all recent online games at the moment. Once a game is found from your chosen track, racing solo for a club or to boost your teams colours and collectively extend your teams car choice and kudos along with the ranking, this is also the best way to experience the game as pitted against very competent and aggressive at times AI is never the same as actual other like minded speed freaks vying for that win and pushing your skill, precision to the max. Even when some races can deter into copies of Mario kart mostly they are fair, fast and fun battles across the great range of tracks and conditions making it such a fun and frantic affair, which now is made even more spectacular and tension filled by the new weather system.


Visual Fidelity

The new photo mode a new Sony exclusive game norm now (aside Shadow of Mordoor) Is great allowing you to admire the amazing attention to detail the team have put into every car, alloy, calliper and paint work. (Go into detail here on visuals), you can see tyre tracks in the wet as cars scream through, rain drops not only distort the background but the light from cats eyes, care even coloured smoke lights catch them glancing past and reflect it accordingly. With the deformation and damage system each impact and scrape not only sounds rough but damages the cars bodywork and pristine paintwork, leaving yours and other rivals cars battle scared as the race progresses. Physics and destruction extends to roadside objects with signs, cones etc being struck and ricocheting around the track to be dodged or struck on the next lap.

But this mode also allows you to admire the new jewel in the Driveclub pit box, the dynamic weather effects are simply beyond any level I expected of them, no other racing game hell just game full stop comes close to replicating the accuracy of rain, snow lighting and even sheer terror of screaming around tracks in various lighting and weather conditions, snow drifts really are a challenge for any level.

Rain is rendered with a superb particle shader system that not only allows it to increase in density as it falls even being lit by your headlights as it cascades but also continues with a full fluid physics simulation across the car. Here you can see that the droplets on the windscreen all move and bead with the cars inertia, as you drive forward they bead up the screen complete with streaks collected by the wipers that even have different speeds the heavier the downpour. But also drift right and left accurately as you hurtle around each track trying to see, they even go as far as to group into bigger puddles as they touch and collect others on the full physics path, even the side window is not free from the water as it collects, shimmers and beads across. From external views that are processed through an accurate and impressive DoF effect that not only bead as before but also refract light through them as the sun, brakes or other lights hit them. Tracks build bigger puddles and show full HDR screen space reflection across the service that builds or dries as the weather pans out, along with the full physical shader across all elements in the game, this allows cars to bead and reflect more light and specular reflection from the rain or snow as it settles and glistens, Sleet and spray is kicked up, the water beads can be seen on cars, with full self shadows and car reflection evident throughout, even the rear view mirrors can be seen.


This weather and PBR with the dynamic lighting system including global illumination elements that reflect, absorb and bounce light everywhere, as here the yellow paint of the car is bounced back onto the dash board and cockpit. tree leaves now look wet in rain and radiate light, soaked track surface bounce light even to the point as cars blast passed road paint the reflected light is seen on the car, the HDR light aids the GI with snow covered tracks having a bright ambient light, and as the sun dips or hides behind clouds the entire scenery is dulled or brightened, It really is without rival, I feel like I almost have to defend my view at present of PS4 games that are delivering the kind of visual leap expected this generation. But they truly are and as much as I try to stress just how accurate and downright stunned I am at the visual splendour that the talented team at evolution have come up with I still think that in the flesh on your TV it will impress even more. I do not jest when I say that right now at this point Driveclub with its great visuals and now new dynamic weather has really closed the gap between game graphics and photo realistic views. And being a physically based game the light, weather and scenery can look gob smacking and at times and bland at others and this is just like real life, you can see here a prime example of how the correct light and shader combination can transform a game or scene from nice to jaw dropping. The shader code employed here are certainly edging toward the level of CG and this is something that Sony seem to have a big 'drive' for within its worldwide studios. The Order 1886 is the next game to launch that is using Disney level shader to mimic real-life and movies, sharing the work from ex Hollywood CG shader talent who is also working with naughty dog on uncharted 4 which is also as expected running a full PBR solution, this approach using shader code rather than direct textures not only brings the game world closer to films but also aids bandwidth and gives a lot more custom choice and control to the team as they make the game which is a very organic process most of the time. But I will cover more on this within another video.

And also improved even great still of immersion with the sound in the game allowing the patter of rain, clunk of wipers and Roar of the engine to reverb, occlude and receive as much love as the already eye watering visuals. It's the only time you hope for rain! If you are looking for a detailed, immense and fun racer there is no other option for PS4 owners but Driveclub, it will also be a game to impress anyone doubting the kind of visuals these system can produce, the most hardened gamer cannot be impressed by what EVO have produced here.


Performance

With my frame rate analysis you can see that in the height of a monsoon with 12 cars racing around the game does not skip, stutter or falter. Pushing all these new additional effects, physics and post processing has had no effect on the rock solid frame rate, showing how much headroom they had left under the hood at launch with no detriment to the performance, it really is a very impressive showing and now a game I can only recommend to any car racing enthusiast. I hope that evolution can continue the journey with this game and engine as the sheer thought of the delights this engine could produce with a new Motorstorm game, dynamic weather effects, physics and great track design leaves my mouth watering as much as the track.

With hopefully the PS+ edition to be given the green light soon anyone with a PS4 and a sub can check this game out for free complete with sound/ photo and weather updates in place...

Each car handles sufficiently differently and takes time to learn and perfect. With the rear wheel drive BMW being great for drifting but a hard beats to control in the heat of battle, firing out of corners you can easily spin yourself into the scenery, with other cars being more controlled but needed more precision to keep your lines right and the momentum going. And staying in the straight and narrow is key in the game. It punishes you with a speed limiting penalty if you cut corners too much or collide heavily into other cars as a form of mobile breaks. You can go of track enough to gain small advantages of where you misjudge a corner but they keep you true with a timer that ticks down before replacing you. And the onscreen notification and sounds all work well to keep you informed. But the game allows you to tailor and one great option that I love is to turn off all OSD and leave it free and uncluttered. The sounds of the timer are clear enough to know when you have pushed your luck enough, and the controller feedback is superb with it rumbling on each side or one based on the surface, or tyre spin it all just adds to the immersion. With wheel support right now sitting at the one (here) true race enthusiasts can get the full feel if they find the DS4 insufficient.

With a selection of views to choose from the cockpit view is superb allowing you to take in the sites as you race around and admire the stunning visuals this game boasts and is certainly an area that is not feeling under done. From the atmospheric fly over’s you get before a race to the light refraction on the headlights of cars the game oozes next gen CGI like no other racer. Textures are very detailed and broad across road surfaces, cars, buildings, bridges, rocks, snow you name it looks very vivid and striking. Again sporting a physically based render that spans across a deferred render to allow such a mesmerizing lighting system to a forward render for transparencies it really is a powerhouse. With lighting hitting and reacting accurately across car paint, dashboards and windscreens with even cracks catching light bounce and shimmering as the sun or headlights glance across. Sporting s dynamic lighting engine with global illumination it handles light and ambient day night all so accurately you can be blinded by the sun glare only to slide around a corner and see the road clearly as the sun moves behind. It is this stunningly accurate display of sun light over saturating the image so that rocks, cars all lose detail and colour, as the light diffuses realistically. You can see it on the skin of your hands as you drive, as the skin pigment darkens as the light shine from certain angles, this is incredibly detailed and entirely accurate. It goes even further and truly shows (hopefully) what big changes we can expect this gen, with a Fully simulated weather and cloud system, being used from a middle-ware solution in the game that not only looks gorgeous as you career down mountain passes or through valleys to see the looming cloud overhead, but only covers the sun casting shadows across the scenery or track, peering though as you drive causing light glare flashes or increasing the reflection of your dash in the windscreen as it passes by. Suppressing shadows as the sun is muted, only to burst through again basking you in glorious sunshine. Be it sunny or cloudy or even full storm filled sky's the ambient light dulls, shines or blinds so accurately that on some track in certain condition is really borders on photo realistic.

Sporting what looks to be TMAA anti aliasing solution to soften sub-pixel crawl they also seem to have merged more anti aliasing work within the composite textures to give a lot of the detail such a clean view that is almost higher than a native 1080 but it is a native display. You still get some edges on cars and power lines but it is a very clean game that competes well with other high end racers. In the end DC is a stunning piece of work and hopefully the start of a game that Evolution can add, update and fur fill their dream of a truly immense socially connected racer for the new generation. They plan to listen to the community to improve and add to the game and with the to come weather and replay patches being very welcome, I would love to see a PSeye linked head tracking for in car view, imagine when VR lands with project Morpheus being able to look around your car as you drive...it really would be one hell of a ride. I would like to see the tight constraints on track excursions to be lessened or an option so that going off on tracks or even reversing being something you could enforce or lesson for online races. Adding more options for other vehicles rather than performance, maybe some true rally races off road tracks or even harking back to Motor-storm some epic races through the eye of a storm to really showing off the visual punch this game has.


Summary

Overall now that the online is now nearly fixed and the controls, and feel was always bang on the money, the stunning CG visuals now improved to eye popping levels with the dynamic weather adding to the already present volumetric cloud system. It stands as a game I can easily recommend at this as a superb mixture of arcade racing thrills and In-depth racing skills. It stands as possibly one of the most impressive games so far this gen, bordering on photo-realistic and has a superb and satisfying control system and the races can be so close and exciting with not only the precise motion blur and locked frame rate giving an immense feeling of speed, adding to by the buffering of wind shaking the screen and in close multi car battles as you are in the middle of the skirmish vying for the lead it truly captures the essence of close quarter racing like so many others games fail, the question is are tough enough to be in the club?