One day, the veterans of Evolution Studios will tell their great grandchildren the tale of DriveClub, and it'll make for entertaining listening. The first-party, selected as one of the teams to help launch the PlayStation 4, missed its deadline by a country mile – and then delivered a product that ultimately didn't work.
But the Runcorn-based team persevered against a tidal wave of dissatisfaction, furnishing the simcade racer with dozens of free updates and one of the greatest Season Passes of all time. Its reward? P45s all around, but Codemasters swooped in and kept the team together, while Sony temporarily re-hired key figures to make DriveClub VR a reality.
It's the kind of story that Hollywood plots are based upon; the rock-solid foundations for a memorable motivational speech. But while it's a miracle that this virtual reality racing game exists at all, we're not overly convinced that it actually needs to; its content is too similar to the original outing, and its vision too compromised to make it the definitive way to play.
Y'see, while DriveClub may be one of the best looking games on Sony's new-gen console, its PlayStation VR counterpart is a visual eyesore. Textures are toned down to the point where Microsoft Paint appears to have been the image editing program of choice, while the lighting lacks that lustrous vibrancy that made GIFs of the original game so glorious.
It's a shame to focus on everything that's missing – like the brilliant dynamic weather, for example – when the end-result is a game that runs at twice the framerate, but when you've experienced DriveClub at its best, even that all-important boost to 60 frames-per-second can't really compensate for the sacrifices elsewhere.
We suppose that virtual reality is the real reimbursement here; the ability to sit in the cockpits of supercars and race around the scenic highlands of Scotland and the windy corridors of Japan. But even though you can almost smell the expensive leather interiors, the simple reality is that DriveClub VR is a bit exhausting to play.
And that's because the image quality inside the headset can't really cope with what the developer's trying to do. Detail levels tend to drop off the deeper into a scene you go, and unfortunately for DriveClub VR, this means that you end up with crystal clear dashboards and blurry roads. In other words: you have to squint to see where you're driving. You can change the camera angle, of course, but the main appeal here is being inside the car.
This is a problem when you're trying to manoeuvre a Ferrari F40 around a finicky Chilean bend. It's something that you could probably adjust to with time, and the added depth of the scene helps you to better judge the position of your car relative to the competition, but we found the experience all rather exhausting on our eyes in a way that native PlayStation VR games aren't.
Factor in that this is practically the same DriveClub that you've already invested thousands of hours into, and it's a difficult sell. There are some new virtual reality hub areas, though it shows its non-VR origins by reverting to Cinematic Mode during loading screens; the addition of a fresh campaign would be exciting if it didn't follow the exact same format as the main game.
Then there are the real new additions: the ability to inspect your car in VR will delight petrol heads, but the models have been so compressed that it feels like you're looking at a cheaply manufactured toy rather than the real thing. Cruise mode lets you soak up the idyllic scenery on any stage, but the visual hit means that it doesn't offer the kind of virtual tourism that you may be hoping for.
You can ride shotgun in replay mode which is a nice addition, but one that probably won't offer a whole lot of mileage. And then there are the new tracks, which are being patched into the original game for free. Now, we're not knocking the effort that's so obviously been invested into this version of the title, but we can't help wonder if it would have been better spent elsewhere.
Sure, you get the same great asynchronous challenges feature, as well as the cool co-operative and competitive online modes. And the handling model is still excellent, brilliantly blurring the lines between arcade and simulation racing – but it's more or less the same as the game that you've already played with worse graphics and a draining virtual reality wrapper. Those kitted out with wheels may appreciate the added realism that being able to physically look into corners creates, but personally, we prefer the ability to see where we're going without feeling like our eyes are going to explode.
DriveClub VR has all of the features and functionality of its PS4 forebear, so you're guaranteed quality handling and plenty of content here. But the compromises made to get the virtual reality working strip the racer of its visual prowess, and its poor image quality can make it hard to see. There's no shortage of effort been invested here, but we can't help but wonder whether the rewards were worth all of the evident exertion.