DriveClub‘s rather torrid development cycle has been no secret. It’s been pushed back more often than the Decepticons in Transformers. These delays were not simply due to getting Driveclub ready for market. The whole game was even thrown back to the drawing board mere months into 2014. As it finally slogged towards a release just last month though, the hype train left the station at speed.
Beautiful images raced through the tunnels beneath the internet and gave gamers a high-octane surge across their bodies at the sight of such beauty. Promises of a socially-connected experience where you could compete with others either alone or as part of a Club sounded like unmitigated joy. Heck even the array of cars and courses offered was enough to get almost any petrolhead’s blood flowing a little quicker.
As the first pieces of information from previews and pre-release reviews by the press dripped out into the world opinions were mixed. While the Metacritic score stands at 71%, a spread between 8/10 from GameInformer to 5/10 from Gamespot shows that opinions differed on the experience. These opinions had (mostly) been formed during a period where the established games press alone had access to the title. As we all know, scores don’t often discourage those excited for a game from picking it up.
When DriveClub finally found its way into the hands of players though, things started to turn a little sour and cracks began to show.
DriveClub’s Harsh Reality
I was lucky enough to obtain a copy of DriveClub myself from a friendly and independent retailer at the moment it hit general release. In an act of foresight to the experience I was expecting, within minutes of holding my copy in my hands I was in a taxi willing the driver onward at speed to get me into DriveClub. Arriving home I became a 6 ft, 215 pound blur of fat and hair to get the game started. Now, before anyone shouts fanboy here I’ll say one thing; DriveClub isn’t some fanboy pleasure of mine and neither is Sony. What I love are good racing titles.
Four hours later my sleep-deprived head meets with an all-too-familiar pillow. Racing across beautiful landscapes with some of the most accurate engine sounds I’ve ever encountered had a visible effect on me. For the first time in months I was falling asleep with a smile etched across my face. My eardrums were still ringing from the sound of internal combustion engines and my hands still twitching to make precision clips across any apex in my sleep.
After waking up and sitting down to another day on DriveClub something was a little… different.
There’s no suggestion here that it wasn’t an enjoyable event. The sheer amount of races available alone put many of my most fondly remembered racers from the days of old to shame. Something was missing, though. Every time I’d dive into a race, I was joined by a small bar of red text reminding me I wasn’t able to play online. No big deal, I thought. After all, there was still so much to see and do.
This denial continued for several days until every race event had been completed. Rather than remaining dormant at the same level though, it grew with every passing race. A consistent and encroaching niggle that became an overpowering force raging through the very fibers of my being. Only one question would ever cross my cerebral cortex: Why the hell can’t I play online yet?
Of course we all know why. Developers Evolution Studios hadn’t anticipated the load DriveClub‘s always connected social environment would have on servers. Questions as to why this wasn’t tested properly are warranted but won’t fix the problem. PlayStation 4 owners had already been disappointed by DriveClub once before when it was pushed away from its launch release window. Following this, owners found themselves sat waiting with a slightly lighter bank account unable to enjoy the full experience they paid for.
That’s already two strikes most titles simply cannot survive. Luckily there wasn’t a third strike on the cards. Or was there?
One of Driveclub‘s most attractive release plans was that of a PS Plus Edition which would allow anyone subscribed to Sony’s online service a taste of the pie. This may sound silly but people put money down on subscriptions just for this. The problem for them, and long-time subscribers, came at the date of release and continues on until now. Now being nearly a full month since DriveClub went on general sale.