Driveclub’s rocky launch turned a number of people off the game, but it’s nowhere near the same game that eventually made its way to the PS4 after a lengthy delay. At Paris Games Week, Sony announced that Driveclub was getting a “Bikes” addition, allowing you to discard two of the familiar wheels and power your way through all of the courses on the world’s best superbikes.
Game: Driveclub: Bikes
Developer: Evolution Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
(Review code provided by publisher)
Nobody would deny that Driveclub had one of the more difficult launches of this generation. The name of Evolution studios has been somewhat tarnished by the troubled first few months, through a number of server problems, coupled with the phenomenal extended delay to the PS Plus edition of the game. Fortunately, the game that shipped is a much different proposition to the one that exists today, and it is all the better for the changes that Evolution have made. The Season Pass is one of the best examples of the concept that I’ve seen, providing not only promised content but a lot of additional stuff that they just threw in along the way for good measure (although a lot of that felt a bit like an apology in some aspects!)
It was with some excitement then, that the Driveclub Bikes addition was met by me. I come from a family of bike lovers, and it was intriguing to see how throwing an array of superbikes round the tracks I’ve come to know over the past year or so would feel.
Available as an add-on to the main game, or as a standalone purchase, Driveclub Bikes adds a healthy array of new content, both in terms of the new machines you can get to grips with, and the tournaments to go with them. Giving players the opportunity to understand an entirely new way of racing, with a (quite literal) new range of mechanics, the immediate impact of Driveclub Bikes is somewhat jarring. Gone are the days of tearing into corners at high speed without the ramifications of clipping the barriers, and instead, you’re forced to carefully calculate the racing line anew. You hit that barrier, you’re on your own.
Quite possibly the most impressive things to have come to the main game in the last 13 months have been the weather updates and other small visual tweaks. It was never an ugly game to start with, but right now, there isn’t anything quite like hurtling down the back straight of one of the Norwegian tracks carved from the icy mountains, with a near blizzard smashing against your windscreen. What could make that feeling more intense? Strip away the protective bubble of your favourite Ferrari and replace it with the growling beast of a Honda CBR1000, in first person. It’s utterly terrifying, yet an altogether thrilling experience. However, I’ll admit that the “inside the helmet” cam is mainly for show in my experience. I couldn’t stomach it for much longer than a couple of laps.
Motorbike games haven’t fared particularly well in recent times. The MotoGP series that I felt started off well back in the PS2 days has deteriorated into something of a mess, and the less said about the similarly monikered Motorcycle Club and Ride To Hell: Retribution, the better. It’s to Evolution’s credit that they’ve turned their hand to the genre and have really made it work, in some cases even better than the four-wheeled family that the game launched with. Having said that, there is something of an arcade feel to the racing. It’s rare that you’ll feel the back end sliding out beyond your control, even if you slam the throttle all the way back whilst halfway round a corner. It definitely starts to twitch, but I didn’t see the bike disappear from under me once. The arcade feel is cemented with the new types of events, expanding on the drift/speed events with the cars to allow some freestyle trickery, with Wheelies and Stoppies playing a big part in your quest to earn fame for your club. Also gone are the traditional speed challenges, replaced instead by a one-shot attempt at hitting a speed trap with a specific number on your speedo. There’s a lot of content to get through, and I’ve not even mentioned the multiplayer, which is really solid as well.
I said initially that hidden somewhere within Driveclub is a very good racing game. I think that, with the year of updates and finally the addition of Driveclub Bikes, it’s fair to say that that game has finally arrived. The online is stable, the club features work as they should, and the thrill of superbike racing is more than adequately captured with this update. A worthy add-on and a perfectly pitched standalone title, Driveclub Bikes is well worth a purchase if you have even the smallest fondness for the two wheeled variety of racing.