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'DriveClub VR' Review: Sim Racing Meets Arcade Aspirations (Update)

'DriveClub VR' Review: Sim Racing Meets Arcade Aspirations (Update)

Editor’s Note: On October 12th, this was originally published as a “Review in Progress” because the game hadn’t been available long enough to fully test all of its features. The core of the impressions are similar, but the review has been fleshed out in some areas and expanded near the end and beginning.

Driveclub VR continues along the same path as its older, non-VR brother, simply dubbed Driveclub, in that it aims to combine the mechanics and content of dedicated racing simulation games such as Project Cars, with the accessible and fun gameplay of more arcade-like experiences, such as Need for Speed. Sitting somewhere in the middle, Driveclub VR has ironed out a unique niche for itself. In doing so, it took many of the features, cars, and tracks from the previous game and put them in this new package.

If you’re a hardcore racing fan that knows the horsepower of all of your favorite cars, along with the make and model of every vehicle in the last Gran Turismo game, then this might feel a bit shallow to you, which is sort of the point. Rather than focusing on hyper-realism, Driveclub VR wants to provide enough intensity to make your palms sweat, but not so much that you’ll be spinning out and slamming into walls on every turn because you’re not a veteran with years of training.

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Since this is a new game with its own price tag, it was a bit disappointing that it didn’t feature more new content. There are some new tracks and a new Cruise mode that lets you sit back and enjoy the views as the car drives around environments, but not much else. Ultimately, Driveclub VR ends up feeling like an expansion of the previous game rather than a true standalone entry like the developers want you to think.

This means if you played the original Driveclub, there isn’t a whole lot here that you haven’t seen before. What makes that worse is that your saved data isn’t imported and you’re forced to start from scratch. If you’re new to the series, none of that matters and what you’ve got in your hands is one of the most robust and feature-rich launch games for the PS VR. But as the only racing sim on the device thus far, you’re options are limited either way.

And although I’ve never been the type of person that enjoyed these types of racing games, I found myself having a ton of fun with Driveclub VR. When I play anything that asks me to go forward on a track of any kind in a race, I never play with the cockpit mode, but Driveclub VR is changing that for me. There is so much on display here it felt like I’d be missing out on half the immersion if I just stared at the back of my vehicle the entire time.

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All things considered, Driveclub VR is may be one of the most immersive and expansive titles on Sony’s headset thus far. As I sit there in the driver’s seat, I can look at the mirrors on either side of my car to see my opponent’s creeping up behind me. The rear view mirror gives me a clear image of my aggressors and the various details — such as gauges moving and the wheel turning — are all the more noticeable when inside the car itself. Turning my head physically to either side to check my surroundings never gets old.

However, if you look closely while inside the headset, you’ll notice some jagged lines and blurry details. The assets that were adapted from the previous game were clearly not fully optimized for VR, as it can look ugly at times. That’s unfortunate considering how gorgeous everything looks holistically and in screenshots. Consider yourself warned in that regard.

In terms of actual content, Driveclub VR has quite a lot going for it. After completing the opening tutorial race, you’re treated to a large selection of options. Within the core game modes, you can embark on the game’s Tour, which is simply a series of events and challenges. Compete in races, time trials, drift events, and multi-race campaigns to complete goals and unlock more events along the way.

Notable is the game is that your milestones and successes are measured not only by how you perform in the race overall, but how your perform throughout as well. Littered across every track and game mode you’ll notice things like top speed records for certain sections of a track, or drift scores around particular curves.

These areas have been played by friends and other players previously and serve as mini challenges within each race to keep you on your toes. It’s a nice addition that keeps things exciting. Breadcrumb objectives help ensure that even if you’re not stellar at the game as a whole, there are specific areas you can target to excel in.

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Finally, are the game’s touted Club features. You can create a Club of your very own — which is essentially just an online Team, or Clan — and compete with and against other Clubs for fame and recognition. That includes holding events and issuing challenges as well. If you’re interested once you’ve got your hands on the game, feel free to join the UploadVR Club. I tried to find an emblem logo that sort of looked like a face wearing a VR headset with mixed results.

Since the game just came out recently, there aren’t a whole lot of active multiplayer events and challenges to play yet. This will likely grow over time, but your best bet is to play privately and directly with friends or Community Group members that have the game as well. The servers are fine this time around luckily, as it doesn’t repeat the hiccups of the previous game, but the population isn’t quite as high as we’d like to see, especially given the scattering of content offerings.

Other multiplayer games like Rigs, EVE: Valkyrie, or Battlezone have less issue matching players since their game modes and focuses are much more streamlined. Even still, the passive interaction and social challenge features make Driveclub VR feel like a connected experience even when racing against the AI.

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Driveclub VR is shaping up to be one of the most impressive exclusive launch titles for Sony’s PS VR headset in terms of sheer content and fun. It takes the core foundation of what made Driveclub popular with racing game fans, adds in a sprinkle of new things, and adapts it all for an immersive new medium. Visually it’s not too impressive if you look up close, but when you’re flooring it down a long straight away, white-knuckling your racing wheel or DualShock 4 controller, you’ll hardly notice the jagged lines. There’s not much new content here for Driveclub veterans, but new players that like an adrenaline-fueled good time should consider taking this one for a spin.

Driveclub VR is now available for PS VR for $39.99. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

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