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.
Happy to answer any questions, just copy me in.
I was really hoping this would score well, especially since it's one of my pre-ordered and now paid-for titles. On the PlayStation Access vid they specifically asked him if it looked the same: he said yes. On the recent eurogamer podcast, Richard whatshisname said that it was very impressive and his co-presenters agreed. I mean, what?If it's so blurry that you can't make out the road then I'd say that should have been flagged before now, embargo or no.
Thanks for the review, Sammy.
Really? I played the demo recently and I was really surprised about the quality of the experience. Obviously the visuals aren't as good as in the base game and focus too long on one specific point and you'll notice, but playing it like I was driving an actual car felt like...well, like driving an actual car.
I think this is an inherent VR problem that the tech as a whole has to overcome: lot of gamers are sceptical because they feel it's another Kinect or 3D and have great looking -sometimes 4K- comparison material, and the more casual people that have an interest in VR expect lifelike graphics we won't see for 10- 20 years.
Sammy - Whats the new tracks like? I'm not fussed about the VR version as the original version is getting patched to include the new tracks/features free!
@Boerewors @Drawfull Again, a lot of people seem to like it, but I felt like I was squinting to see where I was going most of the time. It just didn't feel comfortable to me.
@Cookyman1970 They're new urban tracks in Canada. Pretty cool.
@Drawfull in my opinion eurogamer and DF are extremely biased. whenever xbox one drops a single frame they make it out to be the worst thing in the world, but when ps4 does it's no big deal. so the extreme praise these guys have been giving ps pro and ps vr is no surprise to me.
I just wonder whether we shouldn't expect AAA level games on VR for the foreseeable future because the tech isn't strong enough yet. Will be interesting to see if Pro offers improvements.
@ge2tsammyb will any games with PSVR be getting good scores?
Digital Spy's review says that basically all the screenshots we've seen so far were sent in 4K to the publishers. Is that true?
@dryrain Well, we've given four 7s so far, which is what we consider 'Good' on this site. And the likes of Thumper, Rez Infinite, and SuperHyperCube are all looking very positive.
@manu0 That's ridiculous, Digital Foundry just works with the facts.
@adf86 The problem is, I'm not entirely sure I want "traditional" games on it. The best stuff I've played so far are Batman: Arkham VR (which is a kinda murder mystery in a way) and Job Simulator. Neither of which would "work" very well without VR, which I think is key.
@Drawfull This is common because the screenshots need to be at a suitable resolution for print magazines and newspapers. There's nothing nefarious going on.
I played it in a controlled setting, something I'm always a bit sceptical about, and I'm really curious to see how it holds up when I can play it at home. With PS4Pro announced and playable at different events, I do wonder if they didn't have me playing on a Pro when I played DriveClub VR... Cause although the screen isn't as good as the ones its nearest competitors are offering, I actually enjoyed my DC VR experience way better than Project Cars on the Rift. I surely didn't feel like I had to squint like in some other demos with blurry text or radars.
I hope PS4 Pro will be made available for you guys at least 2 weeks before launch so you can test if the performance of some games is hindered by the limitations of the headset, or rather the base PS4. I'm a console man at heart, I've always been, but if it takes me $900 to get my VR right, I might have to consider buying an Oculus instead since I have a VR proof rig gathering dust back home.
@get2sammyb they do work with the facts, yes. but they interpret and present them differently for sony and microsoft.
@get2sammyb thanks, I misinterpreted - theyre taking the mickey as in a 'what's the point of 4k images' way.
Not a good start for PSVR it's getting destroyed unfortunately, it badly need a great game to save it.
@SnowstormX Are you ignoring the string of 7s that we've awarded? That's not exactly "destroyed".
@get2sammyb Well, 5's or 7's, it's all the same. To everyone who didn't invest in VR now it will mean the same thing: the system doesn't have must-have games, and there is no need to buy it for Christmas.
@JoeBlogs I agree. But among the Wii launch games were Wii Sports, Zelda, Wario Ware and even ExciteTruck, that gave the system a lot of momentum.
@get2sammyb Yh, I know mate I mean in general the media always focuses on the negatives rather than the positives. Just look at how that Giant bomb vid spread like wild fire and then the fan boys jump on it and all of a sudden you have PSVR has terrible tracking when that's not the case. So all the good stuff that's been said about it including the some of the good reviews and scores go unnoticed. Wasn't a dig at you mate love your site and reviews. Just saying PSVR needs that one killer game.
@Kidfried Maybe wait and see some of the other reviews. There's lots more to come!
This is one of the game I plan to buy tomorrow, I guess I'll try the demo first..
Glad I cancelled my PSVR pre order. PS4 just ain't got the grunt.
PSVR seems to be a whole lot of middle-of-the-road experiences so far.
Lol the PSVR already needs saving, that's pretty funny considering it sold out months ago.
While it is cool that the standard PS4 is capable of doing VR, it's clear that most people are gonna want a Pro as well to offset those downgrades. The standard console just wasn't made with virtual reality in mind.
I get that the reviews aren't particularly negative, and I get that even PS4 itself didn't really launch with a killerapp with the likes of Killzone and Knack being only warmly recieved (Yes Resogun was loved by some!).
That said, I feel PSVR really needs that one big game to help it shine, especially given its situation as new tech. The lack of marketing doesn't help - call it a strategy if you want but it doesn't seem very smart really. Still think this will fizzle out within 12 months...
Over to you Battlezone....!
@get2sammyb True, but not exactly 'system sellers' are they? Which is exactly what this platform needs.
@get2sammyb Is there also a possibility that the novelty has worn off for you Sammy?
I mean, if I tried this game tomorrow having never used VR I could be gobsmacked! Maybe you're already bored of it? (Ok, bored isn't the right expression, but you know what I mean)
@bman2112 Nah, it hasn't worn off yet. I still love using it.
If it was only this review which makes me decide if I buy or not I wouldnt do it . Especially for 40 bucks. But after I tried it and 20 bucks discount for season pass holders its nobrainer . Tommorrow Ill see if it was good decision
@Boerewors What else would you expect from a Sammy review? He's literally Push Squares Negative Nancy. A lot of Sand in that one there..
@madrox1030 To be fair his hardware review seems pretty positive:
The game reviews I've seen look very fair too, 6's and 7's aren't awful but clearly they are not up to the standard a lot of people might hope for.
Man, that reads like a huge bummer for me. Being all for racing games in VR, I thought that would be a great experience, especially with a wheel and pedals. But your point of the fuzzy unsharp road ahead makes it totally understandable, because the lack of resolution. So everything that is near you, is way sharper and much more detailed than what is in the distance...
Oh well, since I already downloaded it for €20, I try to calm myself down and hope for a more fitting racing title (btw. what is Project Cars planning on PSVR?)
My PSVR arrives tomorrow after work. Are you trying to rain on my parade?
I'm super excited for it and this although a 7 out of 10 review is making me dread my $425 investment.
Bugger that, I believe this is nothing but jaded gamer/reviewer syndrome,and that I'll love it. Least I hope to god that's the reason.
@Furtin Hey man, dont give up. I played dcvr and it was absouletely stunning for me. Yeah, resolution is not great, some textures are not best, BUT, if you are driving it doesnt matter so much. This is type of game, which you should at least try. For me as a petrolhead junior its must have. Im simply bought on on possibility to be in cockpit. And visuals are also nice overall, dont worry. They only arent as sharp as original dc.
@fybyfyby thanks man.
I'm now waiting for the courier. Minutes feel like hours. Hours feel like days.
I'm totally ten years old at this point.😂
Btw. How's the motion sickness? There seem a lot of comments around about how people get horribly sick after a short amount of time...
Dunno why Bandai-Namco didn't just pump out a Ridge Racer game, as is launch tradition...
@NintendoFan4Lyf Wii had a lot of amazing games (both first and third party), but unfortunately, most of them were swallowed up by the endless shovelware.
@manu0 Eurogamer are pretty shoddy when it comes to game journalism, but Digital Foundry is definitely not biased. They back up their analyses with facts and proof, and they never act like tech snobs - contrary to popular belief. All they do is show-off the tech that runs in games, which many people (like myself) find interesting. I particularly enjoy their retro pieces.
It's the gaming community that's twisted DF into something it's not, and uses it as ammo for their childish system wars. They're Sony-biased! No, they prefer Xbox! Actually, they're PC elitists! They discovered that Mario Kart 8 runs at 59fps every other minute - they MUST want Nintendo to die! Blalalahurglefurgle!!!11!1
I think its a bit unfair to the development team to say Driveclub didn't work on launch, when in fact everything worked apart for the online multiplayer. And lets not forget other games in the past have also been dodge online.
@Furtin about motion sickness...i felt it a little when I was drifting through corner at high speed and watching through side window at the same time But I never had any type of sickness in real car , bus, ship.... So if you are sickness type person you can have problems
@banacheck It really didn't work at launch, they did a great job of turning it around, though. Yeah, the multiplayer didn't work but the whole point of the game was the social aspect (even though, ultimately, that's kinda half baked).
Image 1 highlights my major issue with most in car camera options. You have less than a third of the screen showing the view. No car looks like that behind the wheel it is just ridiculous.
Whohohohohohoohoa! Just had my first proper game-vr experience with this title. Pretty awesome. This is not a "not bad" game. As for first impression I'm more than glad. Looking to try other games but not before I play more of this. And I didn't even have the chance to plugin my T150 wheel yet...
Yes, now that I drove around, I must say that its not as bad as I expected it to be! Neither on the graphics nor on the motion sickness side....
And as Biolan said: I didnt even got my wheel out.
I've tried the demo and felt very sick... I've played after RIGS, so I'm giving it another try...
@dryrain Many already have been getting good scores...
Wow! After reading the review I was surprised to see 6/10. You spent the review telling us how poor a game it is lol
Yep, visually this game is absolutely terrible but it just so much fun to drive around in cars that you can only dream of driving, maybe being a car enthusiast it offers me more than the average gamer??
@NintendoFan4Lyf I'm assuming you haven't played VR yet, I could be completely wrong but once youve experienced it you lose all those feelings you have of comparisons to the Wii and Kinnect.
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