Driveclub: Worst Launch Ever?

Platforms: Sony Playstation 4

A week or so before the launch of Evolution Studio’s Driveclub the official Twitter page for the same game asked us who would be in your first club. I responded, excitedly, with the name of my friend from the other side of the world, each of us looking forward to the game as much as a dog looks forward to fetching a ball or finding a stick. A lot, then. Did Evolution and Sony not know then what kind of clusterfuck was about to happen? If they did, why hide it - and if they didn’t, can that be described as gross incompetence?

For those who don’t know, Driveclub is Sony’s answer to Forza, it’s Evolution’s dream game and it’s a pin-up title for the PlayStation 4 having originally been designated a launch game. Yes, the launch from eleven months ago. So Evolution and Sony have had all that extra time to make the game better. What have they been doing exactly?

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You see, what’s happened is this: the game has launched and no-one can consistently get online. It’s hard to create or join a club and even if you do the people you invite probably never get online themselves. If you do get online and create a club it doesn’t matter until folk do join as until that point a club is inactive. You might get lucky and join a multiplayer lobby - and have a great time - but if you try and invite friends to your lobby, or join theirs, you'll invariably get an error. This is days after the UK launch; after the USA and rest of the world got their hands on a copy.

The game has been built on the social aspects of it - it’s all about driving in a club, after all. In your Driveclub you can race in single events, the world tour or in multiplayer games and earn experience for yourself and your wonderfully named team. Your clubmates do the same. They play during your nighttime on the other side of the world and when you wake up you have earned rewards waiting for you to try having done nothing. You can set them challenges and vice-versa. It would be glorious. Social gaming at its best - working together to gain reward and fighting each other to obtain grudging respect.

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But none of it works. Why does it not work? Driveclub is a really good driving game so far, as much as I can tell. It handles well, it looks glorious and the variety of cars and races on offer seem to provide a multitude of gameplay. It’s really, really fun, and although it seemed not to have that reason to play early on, it does now. I’ve driven hundreds of miles already but I still don’t have a Volkswagen Golf GTi because I’M NOT AT CLUB LEVEL ONE. Yet I’m at level twenty-nine personally. I am hamstrung because I am not part of a club - a club I did manage to create days ago but no-one can join. I cannot enjoy the game as it’s meant to be played because someone somewhere royally underestimated what this game would need.

Why though? The game was due to be October’s premier PS+ offering. It was going to be given away for free, a stripped-down version anyway. That hasn’t happened because the servers can’t cope with those who were eager enough to get the game straightaway as they love driving games. I love driving games and I want to love this but by the time they ever fix it, I’ll probably be done with it. Although I can’t be, really, as half the trophies require clubs to be working. I’m meant to drive 1000 miles to get a silver trophy - in my club. I have done at least half that and am well over half-way through the game. If it ever works, I’d need to buy the season pass to achieve that in lieu of grinding through levels I have already played many times.

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The game has been delayed by eleven months. So Evolution could do what? This is the easiest game ever to predict online needs: they were giving it to all PS+ subscribers at a minimum. Subscribers, by the way. In this day and age; in this generation, online is a point of entry, it cannot be a work in progress. If you pay for it, even more so. I pay Sony to play online but can’t play online in their exclusive driving title designed to be played online. You couldn’t make it up.

What Driveclub always needed was a thriving community. For that it needed to, you know, do what it said it would do. This launch will kill Driveclub and that would be a shame. So far the half-game we have is better than might be expected given other critique around the web. I dread to think what the remainder will say. You’ll hear our verdict eventually. Perhaps we should be giving it now but it seems unfair despite this total and utter inadequacy. It’s unfair because of the incandescent rage we’re feeling meaning any score, or words, will be too harsh on the game itself. The launch though, and the current status of the fixes (read: not very good ones)? No words can be too harsh.

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