Driveclub Bikes Review
Sony PlayStation 4
A year ago saw the launch of Driveclub play out as an epic failure thanks to the woeful preparation Evolution and Sony put into the online aspects of a game which was meant to be played online. We played it a lot and although the driving was excellent the total screw-up meant we couldn’t praise it as highly as we could have. Since then an awful lot has happened, and more than that has changed. We’ve seen the online infrastructure improved such that everything about the game works at all times. One of the best dynamic weather systems ever developed has been added to up the atmosphere and the amount of DLC that has been showered upon fans for a very low price has been best in class (the content currently stands at three times the original game approximately, and more is coming). Now we have the surprise Driveclub Bikes, a standalone game with its own platinum trophy; if you don’t own Driveclub, or DLC if you do - very slick.
It will be instantly familiar to all experienced Driveclub players. The same game engine and all the worlds created therein have been used, with the change being that cars have been supplanted with bikes. That means there are no new tracks here. The physics rules are the same, the graphics are the same, the structure is the same and the bulk of objectives are, well, the same. What is different is how those physics are applied - you have two wheels and it’s all about balance and glide rather than letting your back-end go out, or controlling the front as you pass hundreds of horses through the wheels - and the skill challenges which take the place of the drifting required of cars.
The feel of the bikes is really very different to cars, as you’d imagine. This hasn’t always been the case though when biking games have been made before; it’s always been something more challenging to execute than when racing with four wheels. It’s all a good thing as riding a bike is absolutely not the same as driving a car and racing a bike nothing like racing a car. Whilst cars are all about downforce and grip and racing lines - or drifting if you’re that way inclined - succeeding with the bikes is all about finding the right balance. Balance between acceleration and braking, or full throttle and no throttle. An essential element of success is also rhythmic. You need to lean left and lean right, transitioning between the two as fluidly and as timely as possible, to get that time down and beat the others to the chequered flag. It can be quite lovely when pulled off but it’s downright difficult to consistently get it right. As you might imagine, you’ll spend a few hours getting to grips with bikes at all and then progress for a while before hitting a ceiling. Eventually it will all click and you’ll be garnering all the gold stars available to you. It will feel pretty cool, too, when you have that bike flowing through corners.
That’s the racing side of things. The skills challenges are rather entertaining themselves. As drifting isn’t really part of a biker’s repertoire we are asked to combine raw speed with wheelies and stoppies, all against the clock. It’s remarkably good fun and equally hard, just like the racing. For a given task you will be presented with a curvy track, a timer and a collection of obstacles in your way. These obstacles are combinations of that already described - you might need to make it through one invisible gate above a certain speed, or hold a wheelie for a particular distance. Maybe you have to pull a stoppie instead. With any time you have left it’s a matter of getting to the end with as much leftover to turn into fame. It’s nice that with the move to bikes we still get variety in the tour challenges such that we have the fun downtime of this when the races are getting too intense, or too challenging.
There is a lot of content here as well as in the main game. The tour has 162 stars - the objective of the game is to collect stars by completing goals in races and championships - and already there are DLC packs with more. It’s a dizzying array of content once again which shows no signs of abating. Ally this to the whole working package now - clubs work together to unlock the better rewards, new paint jobs are provided to make things look fresh, the weather and the day/night cycle ensure there’s a myriad of races to try, all subtly different to any other. Taking this one step further is the challenge system which is very moreish. Anyone can set any challenge - race, time trial, sprint or skill challenge. This can be pushed to friends and the community and you all try to best each other. Ultimately you gather Fame and progress up the driver rankings. Evolution have their own set of challenges they update, too. It means that with Bikes alone you can be playing for an age. Fame - the experience in this world - goes up to level 85. For reference we’re ~5000 miles into the game and at level 66. The world leader is 295,000 miles into the game and at level 85. They’ve still got more to play for though in the elite driver levels - requiring fame and substantial other criteria to be met - where level 25 is the top.
With Driveclub Bikes Evolution Studios have been able to surprise us all with no previous inkling we’d get to ride on two wheels, but when we did, we’ve been able to do so properly and from the start. That in itself is an improvement on the original game. With all the foundations in place the game is excellent fun, worth tens of hours of your time and with its own platinum trophy to collect. It is perhaps the best motorcycling game around - certainly in terms of arcade racing (Driveclub straddles sim and arcade with bias toward the latter) - and one which has a very compelling meta-game to keep you going. It will do, until Driveclub 2.0 comes out - presumably with biking from the start.