DriveClub has had quite the journey, hasn't it? The ill-fated Evolution Studios produced this ill-fated PlayStation 4 exclusive racer, and to say it's had a rough time of it would be an understatement. Its time on the road has almost come to an end, as Sony has now delisted the title from the PlayStation Store. Furthermore, the servers will only remain online for a few more months. After the end of March next year, those who still have DriveClub will be disconnected from the titular clubs, and will have to slide through the rain offline forever more.
One thing you can say for the game is that it's been at the beating heart of everything good and bad about this generation of consoles. Announced alongside the PS4 itself back in February 2013, DriveClub looked jaw-droppingly gorgeous from the very start. It was one of Sony's early flagship titles, along with Killzone: Shadow Fall, to really show off the power of its new machine. As with many of the Worldwide Studios teams, Evolution was aiming for something a little more serious for PS4. Motorstorm was raw, aggressive, and messy; DriveClub was more sophisticated, straight-faced, and better looking.
The developer also made it clear early that it had plans to support the game post-launch with plenty of additional content. "Ultimately, the game that you buy at launch will be the doorway to a wider experience that’s going to be fed week-on-week with brand new content,” came the comments from director Col Rodgers. “That’s all going to be free, and the experience of DriveClub when it comes out is going to be absolutely huge.” It was also intended for the game to be an early poster child for PlayStation Plus on PS4. A free version of the game with fewer cars and tracks would mean an instant community for this socially-led racing game.
Things started to go a little off-road when it was announced DriveClub would miss its PS4 launch day release date. It was delayed by several months, eventually launching in October of 2014. The time was filled with mouth-watering clips and affirmations from Sony that development was going well.
However, once the game did go live, things quickly fell apart. Significant server problems forced Sony to delay the freebie PS Plus edition of the game while Evolution rushed to fight the fires. It was a dreadful start for the racing game that championed online play, and the issues would persist for several weeks. Eventually, DriveClub did get back on track, but the damage had been done; the game's reputation was in tatters.
It would be a shame to remember DriveClub as a failure, though. Over the years, the racer slowly became one of the PS4's best, thanks to herculean efforts from the now-closed Evolution Studios. From implementing new weather types and replays to throwing in brand new tracks, cars, and events for free, the developer went above and beyond to try and regain the trust of its players. And, to be fair, the game ended up selling rather well, despite the problems.
This wasn't quite enough to save the studio, however. It was hit with heavy layoffs, and the remaining staff continued to push out game-changing patches. Eventually, the PS Plus edition of the game did release, and the months that followed would see DriveClub balloon in size and quality. It was gradually finding its potential with this newfangled 'Games as a Service' model.
Unfortunately, a huge blow was struck when Sony made the decision to close Evolution Studios entirely in March 2016. The team would go on to make DriveClub VR for the fledgling virtual reality tech, but that was the end of the studio's efforts on the game. DriveClub was finally the game it promised to be, but the company that made it happen was dissolved. Much of the team would go on to create Onrush for Codemasters, while others were migrated to other teams within Sony.
This largely concluded DriveClub's transformation, but what a transformation. It went from being that delayed PS4 launch game with all the server trouble to one of the console's best and brightest racers, with arguably the best value season pass on the system. The developer held on long enough to see its ambitions of a truly connected, social racing title come to fruition. For the years that followed Evolution's closure, the game continued to tick along in the background as a quietly brilliant PS4 exclusive.
As we said at the top of this, it's a pretty extraordinary journey, and one that's spanned the life of PS4. Again, you could say DriveClub draws parallels with nearly all the benefits and drawbacks of modern gaming. Reliance on online features meant the title stalled at the starting line, but countless patches and content updates meant it could slowly make a triumphant comeback.
Now, you'll no longer be able to purchase DriveClub digitally, and in less than a year, the online features so core to the experience will be disabled. It's the beginning of the end, then, but there's still some time to hop into the driver's seat. Will you be taking the game for one last victory lap before the server shutdown in March? Wave the chequered flag in the comments below.