Yes, that’s a big mouthful of an article title, but given the fact that three next gen racers are all vying for your money come the November launch window it seems fair to check in on all three to see where your money may eventually find itself.
The obvious comparison will be Forza to Drive Club, two games with distinctively different paths. Forza continues to build upon a successful platform of previously released titles, all one-upping the last in terms of visual appeal, control and user configuration. Drive Club, however, is a brand new IP that places the focus squarely on providing a unique challenge to those who are tired of just racing around tracks they’ve already raced around.
But to ignore the next Need for Speed, subtitled ‘Rivals’, would be like ignoring Titanfall from the Call of Duty vs Battlefield argument. The longest running racer franchise to appear as a launch title this year has gone through a number of different iterations of late, some better than others, but Rivals has plenty going for it too.
Yet we don’t play these games just to gawk at how pretty the cars are (granted, that’s partially why). Forza is a true racing simulator, like Gran Turismo before it, so everything comes down to realism. From the way the car looks to how delicate you need to tap that brake pedal as you turn into a corner. If you’ve played any of the previous games in the series, you’ll know that it’s all about customisation and online races, but I couldn’t help but marvel at the level of detail that Turn 10 have been able to push out of the new console even at this early stage of development.
Yes, everything is all shiny and colourful, it’s what you would expect from a flagship franchise, but it’s the little things that get me. Like the way the driver inside the car moves and reacts to what happens on screen, or the minor paint swapping when you accidentally tag another racer. As I mentioned in my console preview, the controller also comes into play by altering where the force feedback resonates from depending on which corner you bump or what side of the car takes damage. It’s certainly a great addition that hopefully other titles will take advantage of down the track (get it? Down the … oh, never mind).
Drive Club takes the simulator and adds its own layer of strategy to it. Instead of just racing against opponents or checking out fancy cars, you’re challenged to complete numerous objectives within each race in order to climb the ladder, in turn helping out your chosen club. It’s less about the kind of car you’re in and more about the driver you want to be, focusing on your skill behind the wheel and how good you react to the challenges put forward.
The track I tested out featured drift, speed, cornering and lap time challenges within a winding mountain area. As each challenge came into view (say, for example, the drift challenge), a marker appears detailing the current record holder’s score and yours in comparison. Beat it, and you’ll gain extra points towards your overall score. I was able to nail down a lap record and a speed trap record during the few laps I had, though drifting took a little getting used to.
Drive Club reminds me a little of Project Gotham Racing, another racer that challenged your skills not just your speed, and it’s a welcome concept. However, I did find the motion controls a little slippery, but with practise I’m sure it’ll tighten up. As a launch title it hits all the right notes, it’s just a question of how solid the online code will be once the servers go green. Fingers crossed!
The most impressive racer for me, however, is Need for Speed Rivals. Why? While it’s also treading on old ground (racing against other opponents in cop cars, open world scenario, etc.), it’s focus is clearly on action, driving fast cars within dangerous situations. I honestly had more fun because of that, I could feel my heart pounding faster the longer I played. Like Drive Club, there are achievements to complete during the race as well, though they aren’t all as clean cut as ‘drift a few seconds’. Most involve a set number of times to take out a rival cop car or bring down a racer, in a similar vein to previous Need for Speed games, except here it all adds up to your total score. Reach more achievements and you’ll dominate the competition.
The EB Expo booth was split between six seats, three for each team of super cars or police vehicles. Besides the fact that the demo played on a PC using PS4 controllers, the atmosphere within the track we were thrown into was remarkable. At certain points I noticed that some drivers were caught in a rain storm on one side of the large, open world whilst others were completely dry, lightning crackled in the distance and cast shadows across the landscape … was this a racer or Thor’s playground?
That aside, the driving itself is fast and frenetic. Damage models are probably a little less detailed than Forza, but you’ll still see plenty of sparks and metal flying here and there as you do your best to evade the cops at super high speed. Being an arcade game, damage to your car doesn’t really change the handling or speed, it’s more a cosmetic thing (or at least from what I could tell). Controlling the cars is a breeze, perhaps its biggest advantage since realism is thrown out the door. This is a true arcade style racer after all, and it shows in its appreciation of pure escapism and fun.
The final decision on launch day will come down to two things; a) do you prefer arcade or simulation and b) will you own a PS4 or Xbox One? Honestly, all three provide a unique style of play that will appeal to all manner of racing fans, so no matter the decision you make, you should be well catered for. And to think, there’s still Gran Turismo to consider after all this!