DriveClub has become a kind of PlayStation 4 comfort food for this reviewer. With the troubles of its launch firmly planted in its rear view mirror, Evolution Studios deserves credit for maintaining the relevancy of its arcade racer over a year removed from its original release. This new motorcycle expansion – available as both an add-on for the main game and as a standalone download – aims to keep you on the road even longer, and while it doesn't make any sweeping changes to the outing's core formula, it's a timely reminder that the title's still very much in top gear.
So, what does your ridiculously reasonable £15.99/$19.99 get you? The main attractions are the 12 superbikes themselves – beastly contraptions from manufacturers such as Kawasaki and Yamaha, eager to throb purposefully between your thighs. The motorcycles are as meticulously rendered as you'd expect, but it's the audio that's the real standout here: exhausts pop, engines roar, and tyres make love to the tarmac as you caress it at staggering speeds. Away from the thinly disguised sexual innuendo, there's one thing that really you need to know: these machines are fast – really fast.
There was much condemnation of DriveClub's decision to opt for 30 frames-per-second prior to release, but we reckon that the Runcorn-based developer's proved its critics wrong. While the game certainly would be better with a swifter refresh rate, the sense of speed in this add-on borders on overbearing – it rivals racers like WipEout at its most intense. And that sense of speed can be frightening, as you chop a hairpin bend on the gloomy Scottish highlands with rain lashing your helmet and lightning lapping the not-so distant skyline.
It's these almost random variations in precipitation, cloud cover, and lighting that have helped give the game its longevity; there are 78 tracks in total, but climate changes bolster that number by giving you an almost infinite number of challenges to contend with. These can be minor – like a tiny crack in cloud cover – but when you're moving at over 150mph, a single stray sunray can be the difference between a clean lap and crashing into a wall. Sure, it can be frustrating when you come up against the unexpected – but it forces you to learn the tracks that you're trying to conquer.
That's not to say that the release is impenetrable. There's a full Tour campaign here which takes you through the various locales from the main game, and it gently eases you in with the "slower" bikes to begin with. The handling model, as with the cars, sits somewhere between arcade and simulation, requiring much more finesse than a Super Hang-On but never going too far like a Tourist Trophy. The bikes are twitchy but responsive, and you can really feel the power of the machines when you accelerate down straights or pull out of a tight corner.
The one disappointment is that there are no crash animations, which seems to have influenced the way that the vehicles control; turning a little too sharply into a slippy bend at high speed should, in theory, force the wheels to give way, but Evolution Studios seems to have really increased the traction to prevent it from having to contend with such situations. In fact, it's quite hard to crash in general: bumping into a wall will slow you down but will generally keep you upright – and when you do fall off, you'll be restarted without witnessing any of the drama of your collision.
To be fair, though, this is DriveClub not CrashClub, and the game's built around mastering the intricacies of each event rather than playing bumper bikes. Much of the content is the same – you'll engage in races or time trials with three tier objectives – but a new game type sees you performing wheelies, stoppies, and all of that good stuff in order to accrue points. It's also worth mentioning the sprints, which take teensy portions of track and tempt you to master them – a great fit for the title's lightning fast load times and social features.
Speaking of which, all of that functionality works as intended now. Mini-objectives pop up while you're on the road, and pit you against friends or total strangers. You can also create and tackle challenges, then forward them on to your buddies to complete. Throughout all of this you'll be accruing fame points, which you'll not only use to increase your own level, but also that of your six person club. There are leaderboards integrated into practically every facet of the title, and online multiplayer is also available – though the events only appear to include team races at the moment and no time trials.
With a generous slate of content, DriveClub has managed the transition to two wheels with gusto. The game's come on leaps and bounds since its launch last year, and with the addition of bikes, there's never been a better time to give it a try. The motorcycles aren't especially realistic, but the sublime sense of speed and challenging tracks mean that there's much more depth here than your average arcade racer. For fans of the main game, this add-on is nigh on essential – and for everyone else, it deserves your attention at the very least.