Review: Drive!Drive!Drive! (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC, Mac

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • 4K

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Drive!Drive!Drive!
Format: PSN (530 MB)
Release Date: December 13, 2016
Publisher: Choice Provisions
Developer: Different Cloth
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Developing a unique, intriguing game in the racing genre is a fairly tough feat. The different ways in which vehicles can maneuver around tracks have seemingly been maxed out, with an emphasis on refinement over fresh ideas in recent years.

Any attempt to inject a dose of creativity, then, is very welcome – and it’s this feeling which Drive!Drive!Drive! is banking on.

Deciding that racing fast cars around death-defying courses is simply not exciting enough, developers Different Cloth have multiplied the action by three. That’s right: players must monitor three different races – identical and comprising a single lap – at once.

This is a daunting prospect at first, but the Unity-built game has clearly been planned with great attention to detail, as the variety of race types make full use of the strategy behind this mechanic. Triple the action can also means triple the headache, though, which is both a blessing and a curse through the ‘challenging’ AI.

Following its great, tight tutorial, Drive!Drive!Drive! is not shy about focusing on how damn awful the AI is. Indeed, the developers have ensured it’s one of the game’s most important aspects: “Artificial Idiocy™ is uniquely powered by our Intelligent Stupidity™ engine.”

… winning events feels like a greater achievement …
Now, while this kind of wit is welcome, the AI can often become a little too stupid. On the one hand, the game needs to create a level of strategy, as players juggle three different races and make full use of the core premise by switching back and forth often.

But, when 66% of your success or failure is effectively outside of your jurisdiction, there has to be some reliance on the CPU doing its best to maintain a position. Instead, there is a concerted effort on the AI’s part to drop positions no matter how large a lead is, in one of the worst cases of rubber-banding imaginable.

That concept may have actually worked pretty well, were it not for the constant technical issues that accompany this, such as cars, be it the player or CPU, stuck at the side of a track or simply taking a break from the race by sitting idly, facing the wrong direction. Those AI-based problems are in addition to occasional disappearances of the track and wildly inconsistent collisions.

On the plus side, winning events feels like a greater achievement, and the tactics behind each victory – particularly when running through the race multiple times in order to nail it on harder difficulties – is satisfying. At its best, the game is wonderful, but its flaws mean there is often a reliance on luck over judgement.

… two ways of earning a boost for your car …
The lack of polish in those key areas is frustrating due to there being so much good here – including in how easy it is to pick up. The game is difficult to master, but has such an accessible, responsive set of controls (accelerate, brake, boost, and switch race) that casual players can enjoy a quick blast with no problems.

This is especially due to the frantic nature of the game and its fast-paced action. Indeed, it’s almost more suited to a handheld than console, thanks to short, sharp bursts of gameplay. The load times are not too bad, meaning it can achieve that ‘one more go’ mentality of score-chasing.

The arcadey gameplay is amplified through the two ways of earning a boost for your car – drifting and smashing into your opponents, best done by chaining several hits in quick succession. Cornering mindsets are completely changed by the former, as you must judge whether taking the bend flawlessly at a high speed could actually be the weaker option, with drifting providing a more useful boost later on.

Each car, gradually unlocked over the course of the campaign, has its own benefits and deficiencies which can be chosen to suit certain courses or driving styles. Gravity, in fact, plays a part as its weight varies on each of the game’s eight planets.

… the switching is so smooth …
While the tightness of the handling and rigidity of the cars can be impacted by several factors, the control remains fairly satisfying throughout. Furthermore, the format of courses are mixed up nicely throughout the game, with loops, jumps and wipEout-esque boost pads. Environments also change greatly from planet to planet, including underwater sections.

For such a small downloadable title, it does provide a subtle variety to its core gameplay. Disappointingly there are no extra modes outside of the campaign and a subsequent tougher version of the campaign, titled Offensive, but there are numerous event types.

Standard races (well, as ‘standard’ as controlling three different cars can be) each have a combined position target. As a concept, it works well, with a requirement to change the approach from event to event. For instance, on a long track with a target of 12, it might be better to sacrifice one of your cars for an eighth-placed finish while achieving first with the other two.

Other events include collecting objects, point-scoring, and time trials, with the latter relying on a solid judgement of when to use the boost with each car to shave milliseconds from the combined lap time. In fact, time trials are mostly satisfying due to the AI-controlled cars behaving as you’d want them to. Collection is surprisingly good, too, as players must choose vital moments to switch tracks and pull ahead of the pack to briefly drive through a set of crystals.

The developers at Different Cloth have squeezed every possible drop into their cocktail, clearly giving thought to how well the mechanic could be used across different events. Thankfully, the switching is so smooth that the natural unpredictability, such as moving tracks just before a big crash, can never be blamed on a lack of immediacy. It’s disappointing, then, that the game offers no real longevity, making this experience an exciting, but brief one.

… vehicles are disappointingly unimaginative …
Visuals:
The concerted style and futuristic vibe transitions through every aspect of the game, standing out from the racing crowd. There are moments on the first two planets where the game can seem uninspiring through bland, undetailed environments, but that notion is quashed midway through the campaign. Each new world oozes a range of understated visual delights such as weather and buildings.

This is obviously not a graphical powerhouse, tipping the scales at just north of half-a-gigabyte, but its clean look makes the very most of a limited budget and light colour palette. However, the vehicles are disappointingly unimaginative. The most important part of the visuals, though, is the HUD and the smooth manner in which the game alerts players of danger on the other two tracks.

The three courses for each event are effectively floating on top of one another, meaning every one is partially visible. A translucent version of the track flashes white when your AI-controlled car falls a position. The positions on the HUD also flash at that point in your peripheral vision, though the triple mini-map can be slightly overcrowded.

Audio:
Created by Zombi (a synth band, not the Ubisoft title), the soundtrack fits perfectly. Granted, it’s not a sprawling composition that will keep surprising you, but it’s woven into the game very well. The futuristic feel is certainly enhanced by the music in races and menus, though the in-race sound effects are fairly bland.

Online/Multiplayer:
Unfortunately, the servers are completely bare. It’s impossible to find opponents online, in what should be a game that thrives through manic races against other humans, rather than relying on sub-standard AI.

… there is a lack of longevity …
One neat part of the online mode is a track builder, which is fairly easy to use on a grid-based system. The process of creating and publishing a track is very smooth, with a suitable control scheme for the tools. In theory, this should extend the longevity of the game, but the lack of players is exemplified by their being only eighty-three tracks published – many of which are seemingly by the developers.

Similarly, score-chasing should be another key tenet of the game, but its poor implementation and lack of players means leaderboards are rarely viewed. This screams of a game which could be given a second life by PlayStation Plus, so hopefully that route opens up for the title in the near future.

Conclusion:
Drive!Drive!Drive! deserves top marks for improvisation, while boasting solid racing mechanics and a nice variety of event types. The courses are frantic and take place in environments which have a clear sense of style, mirroring the gameplay itself.

However, there is a lack of longevity and the three-track idea is simply not as fun as it should be, primarily due to balancing issues with the (Stupid!Stupid!Stupid!) AI and technical hitches. Though this racer will offer a unique, well-thought out challenge for a few hours, its potential has not been fully met.

Score:

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

Written by Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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