Driveclub on PS4: perfecting car creation & why only Driveclub 2 will be prettier – Evolution explain all

Not all driving games are born equal. There are long-running arcade blasts, demanding sims championed by a few and played by almost none, and cartoon rides that shoot rainbows out of their exhausts. There are officially licensed chart favourites, promising much each year then delivering it the year after. And then… (puts on best Clarkson voice) there’s Driveclub.

DriveClub on PS4

It’s a blueprint for high-fidelity racing on PS4. A giddy celebration of performance vehicles built with lunatic purpose by a team whose resume reads like a who’s who of driving game development, with credits on Gran Turismo, Grid, F1 and Project Gotham. Driveclub is, in many ways, a cut above the rest. And with more socially connected features than any racer before it, Evolution Studios’ passion project promises to be more than just a treat for the eyes. Silly naming conventions aside, it’ll change everything you know about putting virtual pedal to metal.

DriveClub on PS4. Subscribe for more PS3 & PS4 videos.

But what does its social element boil down to? We’re not talking about a persistent open world like the one Test Drive Unlimited dared to dream it could pull off, so it can’t be equated to an MMO with carbon emissions. Game director Col Rodgers fills in the gaps left by that impassioned – if a bit nebulous – presentation at the PS4 reveal. “It’s effectively a social network for racers,” he tells us. “It’s completely connected. Think of it as a set of tools for players to create the sort of racing game that they want to make.”

“Think of it as a set of tools for players to create the sort of racing game that they want to make”

One of those tools is the ability to form that eponymous clan. Here, like-minded folk can band together based on their car preference, driving style, nationality or favourite Yu-Gi-Oh character, give themselves a silly name, and compete with other clubs from around the world. Yugi Muto R00lz D00D can even design its own signature logo and car liveries, so whenever other players see your walrus-with-boxing-gloves insignia against a tasteful fuchsia paint job, they know they’re about to go toe-to-toe with the very best.

That element of expression through customisation owes a lot to the wider world of online gaming, but it isn’t very ‘social network’. That part, Rodgers says, lives in the game’s front end: “You’ll see suggestions for friends, you’ll see news feeds, and other things,” before you hop in a car. If you’re breathing into a paper bag at the thought of all this social contact, you’ll be glad to hear it’s not mandatory. There are asynchronous offline challenges, and even AI drivers to compete against. As with witnessing a thug making off with an old dear’s purse, you don’t have to get involved… but you probably should do regardless.

“As you’re driving around the track,” design director Paul Rustchynsky explains, “social goals will appear. It’ll say ‘Player X has set an average speed of Y through this sector’ then at that point you have to try to beat them.” If you do, you’ll be showered in in-game currency, and presented with another social goal to beat on your next lap.

Sure, you’re still not winning the race – but you’re progressing in the game, earning bragging rights and gaining the budget to move away from the game’s initial hot hatches and into supercar territory. The team’s planning much more from its social element, but along with the full car list, the specifics are locked away in the safe where blueprints for energy-efficient cars and Bernie Ecclestone’s F1 scripts are held. What they can tell us is how each car is made, and as it turns out that’s endlessly more exciting than seeing a list of Prem footballers’ preferred means of polluting West London. It’s not a matter of drawing the shape of each car – it’s about building up the individual materials from scratch and putting together a car from those components. It’s a staggeringly involved process that Rodgers says takes “about six man-months” per car. Art director Alex Perkins reveals exactly how those months are spent.