Drive Club

Af­ter de­lay­ing its PS4 de­but’s launch, Evo­lu­tion is back on track

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher SCE De­vel­oper Evo­lu­tion Stu­dios For­mat PS4 Ori­gin UK Re­lease Oc­to­ber 7 (US), 8 (EU), 10 (UK)


Let’s get this out of the way now: when it launches in early Oc­to­ber, DriveClub will ren­der at 1080p, but only at 30fps. Evo­lu­tion Stu­dios had hoped to achieve 60fps when de­vel­op­ment be­gan, but even with PS4’s for­mi­da­ble power, ap­par­ently some­thing had to give un­der the weight of the sheer amount of de­tail the team is cram­ming into the game. But in a genre that’s all about pre­ci­sion and speed, is fram­er­ate re­ally worth sac­ri­fic­ing for the sake of fidelity?

“I ab­so­lutely think so,” DriveClub game di­rec­tor and for­mer de­sign di­rec­tor Paul Rustchyn­sky tells us. “I sus­pect a lot of people think we may have com­pro­mised the game­play ex­pe­ri­ence by choos­ing 30fps, but we’ve spent a huge amount of time min­imis­ing the la­tency be­tween the pad and what hap­pens in­side the game so you never feel dis­con­nected, and you never feel like you’re get­ting a sub-par ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s a bal­ance, be­cause you can only do so much on any plat­form – PS4 has been fan­tas­tic to work with and we’ve done a good job of push­ing it. It’s al­ways a trade­off, ul­ti­mately, and I think we’ve made the right choices to make the best driv­ing game we could have made.” The pay­off, he says, is ex­cep­tional au­dio and vis­ual fidelity, backed up by a slick in­ter­face to sup­port DriveClub’s in­trigu­ing so­cial as­pects.

When we pre­vi­ously played the game, it was 35 per cent com­plete and un­der­whelm­ing, at least in some re­spects. But from what we see of the cur­rent build, play­ers will have plenty to dis­tract them from count­ing frames. Evo­lu­tion’s at­ten­tion to de­tail is, in a very real sense, ob­ses­sional. Ev­ery car in the game has been metic­u­lously mod­elled, each boast­ing be­spoke seat­ing po­si­tions, and cus­tom en­try and hand an­i­ma­tions for both male and fe­male driv­ers. It takes the team roughly seven months to as­sem­ble each 260,000poly­gon in-game model, all of which are treated to sev­eral lay­ers of paint shaders, build­ing up from car­bon fi­bre (where ap­pro­pri­ate) through to the gloss coat. It’s easy to ques­tion the stu­dio’s ex­cesses in ren­der­ing its car­bon-fi­bre weave, but the re­sult is that any ex­posed car­bon matches ex­actly what you’d find on the real car.

Au­dio has been han­dled with the same fa­natic rev­er­ence. Through­out de­vel­op­ment, Evo­lu­tion has got its hands on ev­ery car in the game, cap­tur­ing the sound of each en­gine with up­wards of 18 mics. In-game, this is repli­cated through around 90 sam­ples per car and a lit­tle gran­u­lar syn­the­sis, and if you ro­tate the cam­era around the car you’ll move from a throaty ex­haust note at the back all the way through to the tre­bly rush of air at the

front. We’re ush­ered into a wait­ing Fer­rari 458 to lis­ten as au­dio di­rec­tor Alan McDer­mott revs the en­gine a few times, then plays the in-game equiv­a­lent to us. The com­par­i­son is re­mark­able. McDer­mott tells us that, on hear­ing his team’s work, both Mercedes and BMW re­quested Evo­lu­tion’s record­ings to re­place their own sound li­braries. In au­dio terms, DriveClub is peer­less.

“I’m fight­ing now to get it so that in the race, mu­sic’s off by de­fault,” says Rustchyn­sky, laugh­ing. “The mu­sic is the car en­gine; that’s what you want to hear. And the sound’s go­ing to im­prove by the time play­ers get their hands on the game as well, [since] we’re just fin­ish­ing hook­ing up the drive train so that you get the os­cil­la­tion as you switch be­tween the gears. It sounds great, es­pe­cially in cars like the [open-top] BAC Mono, where it’s a very di­rect noise from the en­gine.”

But while DriveClub’s de­lay has al­lowed for a great deal of additional pol­ish, the main rea­son for the hold up was the UI. Evo­lu­tion wants to make things as sim­ple as pos­si­ble for club mem­bers, with its own party sys­tem (you can still use Sony’s party chat if you wish) and a dy­namic menu. The newly de­vised sys­tem starts at the high level with op­tions such as Drive, which cov­ers rac­ing and time tri­als; My Club, which dis­plays sta­tis­tics and other data; and Chal­lenges. Be­yond that, there’s also an ac­tiv­ity feed sim­i­lar to the one you’ll find on your PS4 dash­board that shows you what your friends are do­ing and which chal­lenges are avail­able. Click on any of the dis­played no­ti­fi­ca­tions and you’ll go straight to the rel­e­vant track to take on that chal­lenge yourself. And rather than have a lobby, DriveClub pre­sents its live events as a race cal­en­dar, al­low­ing you to book a slot in ad­vance for an event tak­ing place in a few min­utes, or even one sev­eral days away.

On top of all of this, a free DriveClub mo­bile app will al­low you to check on club progress, man­age team mem­bers and even watch streamed races from other play­ers. It’s

“I’m fight­ing now to get it so that mu­sic’s off by de­fault. The mu­sic is the car en­gine”

a sim­ple enough sys­tem, but one that keeps DriveClub’s so­cial ri­val­ries at the fore­front of ev­ery­thing you do. It’s con­vinc­ing enough on paper, but find­ing out whether it can keep pace with Need For Speed’s ex­cel­lent Au­tolog will have to wait un­til it’s in the wild.

And this is where DriveClub’s de­lay might prove a boon. Evo­lu­tion could have been there at PS4’s launch, but ad­mits the ex­pe­ri­ence would have been a com­pro­mised one. Now it will be able to sell its vi­sion of a so­cially net­worked rac­ing game to over seven mil­lion play­ers. If Forza 5 and Bat­tle­field 4 are ex­am­ples of what hap­pens when a de­vel­oper is rushed, DriveClub is shap­ing up to be a paragon of al­low­ing a project the time it needs to reach its full po­ten­tial.

Car han­dling feels as meaty as it did when we played the game last year, strik­ing a good bal­ance be­tween ac­ces­si­bil­ity and au­then­tic­ity, with dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties to be found across DriveClub’s fleet

Paul Rustchyn­sky, game di­rec­tor

ABOVE LEFT The re­worked menu sys­tem feels slick and in­tu­itive, and the use of the touch­pad as a home but­ton is pleas­ing. Quite why it’s caused a year’s de­lay is harder to fathom, how­ever.

ABOVE DriveClub is, vis­ually speak­ing, worlds ahead of the pre­vi­ous build we played, and the team is promis­ing even more im­prove­ments in the form of re­worked par­ti­cle ef­fects, depth-of-field tweaks and other flour­ishes

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