WEATHER FORE­CAST

EDGE - - PLAY -

While we’ve played a build of the game that in­cludes dy­namic weather, the fea­ture some­how hasn’t made it into the game for launch. It’s a great pity, since it not only di­als up DriveClub’s al­ready not-in­sub­stan­tial visual ap­peal, but adds some va­ri­ety to the con­di­tions you’ll find your­self driv­ing in. It will be patched in shortly after launch, we’re told, but Evo­lu­tion’s spin – that this gives play­ers the chance to learn tracks in the dry first – rings hol­low. Another miss­ing as­pect is re­plays, which will be added in time, but are es­sen­tial for show­ing off your cus­tom club liv­er­ies. its frus­trat­ingly in­con­sis­tent rules, whether you’re to blame or not. Ev­ery­thing you do earns fame, a cur­rency that al­lows you to level up and earn new cars, but you’ll be fined for im­pacts and off-track ex­cur­sions, and in­cur tem­po­rary speed re­stric­tions for even slightly cut­ting cor­ners. Well, some cor­ners, be­cause the bound­aries seem to have been placed at the whim of who­ever built each track. An over­bear­ing track re­set, mean­while, be­gins a three-sec­ond count­down the in­stant you put a wheel wrong. It feels es­pe­cially pa­tro­n­is­ing in the con­text of the game’s chal­leng­ing han­dling model.

But as grat­ing as all of this is, it’s quickly for­got­ten once you have the road to your­self. Driv­ing well in DriveClub is as re­ward­ing as it is in­volved, re­quir­ing you to pay close at­ten­tion to the road sur­face and your car’s at­ti­tude as you ne­go­ti­ate each road­way. When you do break trac­tion, it feels, cru­cially, earned – there’s no sep­a­rate physics model for drift events here. Evo­lu­tion has even repli­cated the way manu­matic gear­boxes pre­vent po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing bad selections, mean­ing that, for once, spam­ming down­shifts to un­re­al­is­ti­cally bleed off speed into a cor­ner sim­ply isn’t an op­tion.

The com­bined re­sult is one of the most finely bal­anced time-trial sim­u­la­tions yet. The game’s road­based tracks might me­an­der with­out much in­ci­dent, but its fic­tional cir­cuits are ex­cel­lent. Each of the five race tracks fea­tures three vari­ants, and while there’s noth­ing here to ri­val the likes of Gran Turismo’s Trial Moun­tain or Forza’s Maple Val­ley, we lost a few hours loop­ing the par­tic­u­larly mor­eish Scot­tish race­way in a BAC Mono.

It’s this that drives the asyn­chro­nous mul­ti­player, too. The much-vaunted club sys­tem is un­der­whelm­ing, lack­ing any real sense of col­lab­o­ra­tion beyond an as­cend­ing club fame me­ter, but tak­ing on friends in Chal­lenges and Face-Offs proves con­sid­er­ably more suc­cess­ful. The lat­ter of th­ese take the shape of av­er­age speed, drift and cor­ner­ing mea­sure­ments, which take place dur­ing most events and re­ward the best driver with fame bonuses. Chal­lenges, mean­while, are more in-depth, al­low­ing you to send par­tic­u­larly good lap times – or even en­tire races – to friends and other clubs to try to beat. And the ag­gres­sive AI is slightly less ob­jec­tion­able when you’re try­ing to best a friend’s race per­for­mance, since you know they also had to fight their way through the pack.

For all its suc­cesses, the fact re­mains that even after sig­nif­i­cant de­lays, what’s been de­liv­ered is far from fin­ished. And of even greater con­cern is the jar­ring dis­par­ity be­tween Evo­lu­tion’s care­ful recre­ation of re­al­world con­di­tions and driv­ing physics, and the out­dated op­po­nent AI that clogs up its roads. But de­spite th­ese dis­ap­point­ments, there still re­mains a great deal of driv­ing plea­sure to be ex­tracted from DriveClub’s so­cial as­pects and ex­cel­lent han­dling – es­pe­cially given that ghost op­po­nents can’t dent your car.

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