The State of DRIVECLUB – 4 Months Later

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It’s one of the games that was shown when the PlayStation 4 was first revealed and it hit with an immense impact as soon as it appeared on that huge screen. DRIVECLUB was gorgeous and promised social interaction at a level never seen before. The undertaking was (as we found out) a bit too ambitious to actually garner a release close to the launch of the PS4 though. As you can see in my initial review, the state of DRIVECLUB was a bit confusing even before its launch. At that time (pre-release) online multiplayer was actually quite good with minimal lag and fast, intense gameplay. Also in its favor, the team making the game was comprised not only of the folks behind the Motorstorm series but also some folks from Bizarre Creations who had quite the racing game pedigree of their own with titles like Metropolis Street Racer, Blur, and the Project Gotham Racing series.


Unfortunately, the game launched and the servers just couldn’t handle the load, but that wasn’t the full story. Online connectivity as a whole was spotty at best, with Evolution Studios saying that they didn’t plan accordingly and that the servers couldn’t handle the load. But what we’ve seen since its release in October of 2014 is that it’s pretty obvious that this is more than a simple lack of server density. The team has worked feverishly to improve the quality and stability of DRIVECLUB’s online features, which for early adopters meant that a good portion of the game content wasn’t readily available. Core features such as establishing and/or joining a Club and Online Challenges simply weren’t functional.

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Granted, in my opinion there is still a wealth of single-player content in DRIVECLUB all of which worked extremely well, but even then pop-up challenges that were set by those on your friends list were either deactivated or when they did work would sometimes show ludicrous goals (such as needing to hit over 2,000MPH in a stretch of road.) Again, these issues were eventually fixed, but all of these problems proved our favorite mantra here at PS Nation: We’d rather have another delay than become a beta tester for a game that’s not ready. It’s obvious that DRIVECLUB was NOT ready for release, even though it had already been delayed for roughly ten months. Instead, those that got the game at launch have endured numerous server and client patches resulting in various degrees of success. Disappointingly, the game still isn’t at a level for online features that gamers would consider “ready for release” but at the same time that incredibly vocal minority, most of which don’t own and/or have never played the game, spew their uninformed venom across the World Wide Web.

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Now I’m not saying that people shouldn’t complain because the people that own and play this game definitely should. The core functionality of DRIVECLUB has always been tied to online and social features but those are the aspects of the game that are still malfunctioning. Online challenges have been turned on and off and then back on by the developers because of varying online issues depending on what patch revision is being applied. It’s a sweet option and sometimes can be so compelling that you won’t play anything else. Luckily this seems like a feature that’s finally fully functional and has been pretty reliable for a while now. They’ve also made it possible to use a Club paint job even if the servers are offline which is huge since that was the core issue for a long time while the servers were down. To earn points for your Club you need to race with the Club’s paint scheme. So for many of us that were putting some serious time into the game, none of that work was to the benefit of the Club or its other members.

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The Club system allows up to six people to team-up and work toward increasing that Club’s level, and unlike most other clan systems, there are great rewards for those that put the time in. These rewards consist of things like new accolades and paint scheme items but the real prizes are the new cars that you can unlock, cars that are only available to Club members. So, in a rare occurrence, it’s not just about bragging rights or shiny badges because some of these cars are downright nasty (in a good way) on the roads and a real prize to be able to use. There’s such a sense of accomplishment if you have Club members that actually work at it. We’ve had more than a few nights where at least three of us get online together and play for hours just trying to get to that next level for our Club anxiously awaiting to see what we’ve unlocked and cheering together when it’s a new car. In that respect the lofty goals of integrated social interaction work in DRIVECLUB but it depends on buy-in from multiple people, and we’ve all seen how rare that can be on the Interwebz.

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The problem now is that the game still isn’t where it needs to be but the gap to that goal is getting smaller and smaller every week. We actually encountered a regression from an early February server-side patch however. As three of began to play online, one by one, we tried to stream our gameplay via Share. For all of us, if the stream was live, online functionality went right out the window for the person trying to stream. One of the long-enduring issues was instability when you created a group to play together in-game (separate from the PS4 Party System even though you stay in the party for voice chat since it’s better than in-game in our experience). While moving from race-to-race in a lobby a group member would randomly drop out of the group which would also drop that person from the lobby. That issue had seemingly been all but eliminated, that is until the latest patch hit and we tried separately to stream which would force the streamer to drop just as before. Once the three of us stopped trying to stream via Share though, it was a wonderful experience. Online play was solid even though there was an occasional rival that was almost invisible and showing signs of some pretty bad connectivity.

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So, in four months DRIVECLUB has improved by leaps and bounds from where it was on launch day but it still has a long way to go which is pretty frustrating. Before I talk about some of the other improvements let’s talk about the elephant in the room – the long-awaited PlayStation Plus edition of the game which still has not been officially released (though some quick gamers were able to snag it in regions such as Malaysia as it appeared briefly on their stores). This relatively thick slice of the game was promised right out of the gate, offering would-be racers to not just a demo, but an entire chunk of the game with ten cars, a full region and all of its tracks. Even more, you could still play online with anyone as long as the tracks are in the region that your PS+ version is in. It’s a revolutionary idea and one that obviously excited a lot of people. But, as everyone knows, it still hasn’t been released due to all of the online issues and this has been the biggest sticking point of the whole existence of DRIVECLUB up to now.

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Many jump at the opportunity to complain about the lack of the PS+ release of the game at the mere mention of the word “DRIVECLUB“. The funny thing is I can see both sides of this issue. Gamers were promised for months that it would be released when the full game launched and anticipation was obviously through the roof. But I still contend that with the state of things as detailed above, if that PS+ version was released it would have been an even bigger disaster. Imagine if millions of people downloaded the Plus version only to be denied any online access. It was bad enough when the people that bought the game couldn’t use that functionality, but the scores of people that would try it once, fail, and delete it would have been far greater and would have resulted in more than one nail being pounded into DRIVECLUB’s coffin.

I contacted a representative at Sony about any updates regarding the release of the PlayStation Plus version of DRIVECLUB and as of the time of this writing I have not received a response at all. I’ve also inquired about some other missing things such as Replays (which I crave sorely) and the App and/or Web-based system to handle challenges and Club activities. There has been no response to those questions either.


Before I wrap things up though let’s shine the spotlight a bit on what HAS improved. We got our weather system with the most dynamic and impressive representation of driving in a storm that’s ever hit a gaming console or PC (you can even hear the raindrops hitting the roof of the car!). The option has also been added to adjust or remove the crowds and flags that line the track giving an even more realistic feel to the races. A good number of new cars and tracks have also been released, some free and some paid, including a new region (Japan) with ten tracks included there alone. Online play and stability have improved greatly and playlists are more varied and easier to browse. A new Photo Mode has been added to single-player giving players a chance to take some downright gorgeous shots of their cars and surroundings. Online features such as challenges and full Club functionality is finally up to par and invites actually work too. So hey, it’s not all bad right?

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Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not making excuses here at all. I agree that it completely sucks that the Plus version hasn’t been released but I understand why and I support the decision at this time. Quite frankly the game should not have been released yet and everyone from the gamers to the developers have had to suffer some immense growing pains. The fact remains though that I love DRIVECLUB and even with the problems I still play it quite a bit. The core gameplay is unmatched anywhere else and the audio/video is second to none. The fact that the game wasn’t ready at launch (and it wasn’t, I played an early build that was pretty average at best) is something that we have to deal with all the time. But the real tragedy is that the decision was made to release the game when it obviously needed a lot more work, especially with the online features, which are at the very core of what the game is all about.

* All screenshots and video used in this article were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Calvin Vesco

    They said on their Facebook page the other day that they will have information on Replays soon

  • The changes to this game from launch are mind blowing. The weather system is just so awesome ( and challenging).

    • ChazzH69

      I agree. It would have been nice to have bigger clubs and a more forgiving drift experience. Apart from that, I’m addicted to this game, it has become a fantastic racer that looks stunning.

      I’ve only got about 12 stars left to get in the single player. But the difficulty of those outstanding are annoying to say the least.

  • jason

    My biggest gripe was the lack of communication about what the heck was going on with the paid version during the first 6 weeks after launch, but hey ho, what can you do. Its a great racing game

    • Makai Ookami

      They were trying to communicate, they did communicate, the problem was people didn’t like their communication which was:

      We didn’t anticipate this, we are trying to get it fixed, everyone is working hard, the PS Plus version has been put on hold, some of the DLC will be released, etc…

      People complain about them working on things like day and night cycles and releasing content before fixing the online…. How many of the people working on those additional features KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ONLINE CODING!

      What do you do? Tell everyone to take a mandatory vacation until the online engineers get shit working? No, you work with what you can, you keep working, you keep supporting, and stuff gets done when it’s able to get done.

      I think people have it in their mind that there was malicious evildoing being done. Which is wrong. What happened was that they were blindsighted by a problem they didn’t know would happen, and success they weren’t expecting.

      Since we never knew how many people it took to crop up the problem, we can’t even talk about if a Beta would have helped. If the problem crops up at half a million people hitting the servers a beta test of 400k isn’t going to help. If it takes 1 million, 800k won’t help.

      • jason

        no, they didn’t communicate during the first 3 weeks of the game. their twitter feed was dead after supposed fixes and updates. nothing for many many days. Take it from someone who actually bought the game, dude.. stop trying to take up for them so much

        edit: and a little brevity goes a long way. I can’t always read your walls of text

        • Makai Ookami

          You’re just upset because they didn’t use the service of 140 character posts, and instead updated facebook. Looking at their facebook right now.

          Release on October 6th, post on 7th about issues, 8th on issues, 9th, 10th, 13th, (1 week) 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 20th,(2 weeks) 22nd, and 25th (3 weeks)

          I don’t have to take it from someone who actually bought the game, I can just go and look at the evidence. You may not like Facebook, it’s really easy to make a dummy profile.

          You may not like Facebook, but twitter is a SHITTY way to update people.

  • Dan Vincent

    Bought the game day one. And I’m still playing it. But I’m ready to switch over to Project Cars in about a month. I guess I just prefer a sim type game.

  • Trioptical

    So, at what point do you think they make the decision to just skip the PS+ version of the game and just add DRIVECLUB proper to Instant Game Collection instead?