The PS4 has been in the wild for nearly 10 months and in that time we have had only 2 serious racing games to get our hands on – The lukewarm Need For Speed and the lacklustre Moto GP 14. Fortunately, racing games seem to be like buses and if you wait long enough, 3 come at once. That is exactly the situation we are facing over the next few months with PS4 exclusive Driveclub, Ubisofts The Crew and Slightly Mad Studios Project CARS all arriving in close proximity of one another. All 3 are aiming to race into your hearts (and your wallets) but which will take pole position? Having got my hands on all 3 of these games in the last month, here are my thoughts.
Driveclub has had a bit of a torrid time in development. Initially set to release alongside the PS4 back in November 2013, it has had 2 subsequent delays but is now racing towards the finish line and its 8th of October release date. The game looked great back in April 2014 when it resurfaced to announce the second delay but that extra time in development has really paid off because Driveclub looks fantastic.
Visually, Driveclub is stunning. The road textures, the incredible detail on the car interiors and exteriors, breath taking lighting effects and beautiful surroundings all combine to make Driveclub one of the most attractive racing games there ever has been created. Driving along a track, watching the slipstream kick up leaves behind you as the sun sets in front of you really is eye watering pretty. Interestingly, even though the game only runs at 30 fps, I have not noticed any screen ripping or juddering during my time with Driveclub – perhaps this is because I always play racing games with an external view point where the camera view point moves more slowly. Some of the tricks used to hide the frame rate are obvious – the blur on road markings and objects at the peripheral of the screen hide a multitude of sins – but this does not detract from a otherwise beautiful game.
As for handling and game play, Driveclub is more Gran Turismo than Gran Turismo has been in its last few outings. The cars feel a little floaty at times when barreling down a straight but when it comes to cornering, Driveclub really does have this nailed down. Kicking into a power slide feels grandiose and joyful while your round another car who took the racing line. It is a shame that Driveclub falls short of its aim to be a true simulation by incorporating some more arcade-like aspects. Car damage feels like an afterthought and hitting obstacles like road signs just knocks them in front of your car – something that is sure to frustrate the purists. Of course, neither of these things should be the most important aspects of a driving game but it feels like there should have been more focus on these aspects when aiming for a racing sim.
The one aspect of Driveclub that I have not been able to get my hands on is the social aspect as I have always played this game in controlled environments where this aspect wasn’t included – but if this part of the game works as expected, it is something worth getting excited about. Starting a club and recruiting your friends will add an entire new dimension to racing. For example, one of your Driveclub members may decide to take one for the team and take a wider, beastlier muscle car onto the track with the aim of blocking the track with wide, slower power slides, giving his team mates a little more breathing room. It’s an interesting prospect and one I hope delivers on the PR blurb promises.
Much like Driveclub, The Crew is aiming to become a socially connected racing game although it is coming at this proposition from an entirely different angle. Instead of setting up clubs, you and your friends team up in a crews of 4 and take on a variety of missions in an open world racing sand box. A lot of these missions feel like they have been drag and dropped from a Need For Speed game and feature such classic modes like “Get away from the police” and “Go here before the time runs out”. These elements mean that The Crew has a more arcade like feel to it but is a lot more fun to play.
The Crew looks good – not great, but good all the same – and blows all of the last gen racing games out of the water but doesn’t look as sharp and crisp as Driveclub or Project Cars. The car detail is impressive and the lighting effects are gorgeous as they reflect off of the wet roads or cast shadows but the road textures and some of the surrounding environments let the game down (at least on the build I played at Gamescom). Bumping through the dusty brush by the side of a desert stretch kicked up an impressive, realistic looking dust cloud but the grass and brush were distracting in their simplicity.
As for handling, The Crew is the most basic of the 3 games in this comparison. The Crew is a far stretch from a racing simulator and concentrates on making racing fun and accessible over realism and attention to detail. More serious than the plethora of “I’m a cool street racer” games we have endured through over the past decade, the game has a nice feel but still feels more like Ridge Racer than Forza. There will a lot of fun to be had with The Crew if the social aspect of the game takes off but if you are looking for a realistic racing game, this one will not be for you.
Slight Mad Studios is an apt name for the Project Cars developers because this game is insane and, when I say this I do not say it lightly, could be the best racing game of all time. It is the best looking and most realistic racing game I have ever laid eyes on, even when compared to Driveclub or Forza Horizon 2.
The attention to detail in Project Cars is astounding. From the individual spots of tarmac to the carbon fibre hoods, Project Cars is almost photo-realistic – to a scary degree. While racing around a track it is easy to mistake the game play for a real life race video and you can almost smell the petrol fumes and burning rubber. It is mind-blowing. There are no tricks needed to hide any visual quirks because the game is just that good.
The handling is equally as impressive and feels responsive and life-like – difficult to pick up at first but soon becoming a challenge of you against the road. It feels masterful when you finally get to grips with the skill required to play Project Cars well and then the game really opens up. Car damage is realistic (to the point that badly smashing up your car can put you out of the race entirely) and the AI is as intelligent as any I have ever sported against.
One of the more surprising aspects of Project Cars is the car sounds. Even sitting on the busy Gamescom floor with head phones on, the car sounds were thrilling. Revving the car left a stupid goofy grin on my face because the cars feel really meaty and powerful.
Project Cars could set a new bench mark for racing games when it finally arrives on the PS4. Its attention to detail, excellent game play and driving purity are mouth-watering.
Well, that is a difficult question to answer as all three of these games are brining something different to the start line.
First Up is Driveclub – a lovely looking game with responsive controls, decent AI and an almost obsessive level of detail on the vehicles. The frame rate lets the game down slightly as this will likely be more noticeable to some and the social aspect of the game has yet to be proven. If this was a car, it would be the Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe. Functional, fast, gorgeous but a little over shadowed by its more expensive rivals.
The Crew is aiming to bring the fun back to racing and do it in style. Driving across a massive sand box version of America is exciting enough but the fact you will be able to get 3 friends along for the ride takes this to the next level. It is a shame that the driving feels the most basic of the 3 but this will offer a higher level of accessibility which means even your “Call of Duty and FIFA only” buddy can pick up and play. If The Crew was a real world car it would be the Mercedes S65 AMG. Not the prettiest of vehicles but seriously fast for the price and with plenty of seating for your friends.
Lastly, the slightly mad Project Cars. Impeccable visuals and game play to match, this game will be a must buy for racing purists. That focus on realism will turn off some more casual racers but it is hard to ignore how good Project Cars is turning out to be. Project Cars is the Bugatti Veyron of the gaming world. Sexier than any other car on the road, fast and filled with luxury (which comes with a price tag which will turn most away).
The truth is, there will probably be space in your gaming schedule for each of these and they all deserve your time and money for one reason or another – but if I was a betting man, I would back Project Cars to take pole position once all of these beauties are on the market.
Driveclub is a PS4 exclusive and arrives on the 8th of October.
The Crew has been delayed and will release in Q1 2015.
Project CARS lands on the PS4 on November 21st, 2014.