I'm not very good at Driveclub. I'm in the process of playing F1 2014 for review, and I always like to dip in and out of Burnout Paradise or Need For Speed: Most Wanted for a regular Criterion fix. One sits firmly at the simulation end of the spectrum, the other two are much more geared towards exaggerated thrills and over-the-top racing.
Such extremes in either direction are far too much for Driveclub.
I won't pretend that I've been looking forward to this game with eager anticipation. Indeed, it's difficult when there's not much to actually get excited for. The USP upon which Driveclub has been built is currently in a sorry, shambolic state. Apparently, Evolution learned nothing from the half decade or so in which we've had systems like Autolog. At the time of writing, Driveclub is still engaged in a "one in, one out" system regarding access to its servers. As you'll see in the video, connectivity was limited. And by limited I mean laughably non-existent.
First Contact is a series all about first impressions. The ones I had of Driveclub were a mixed bag, to be sure. It wasn't all bad (though my driving, as you'll see, certainly was). It looks fantastic. So good, in fact, that when you start up the game you might well crash terribly in your first race on account of enjoying the view. I speak from experience. The handling is geared more towards the arcade end of the spectrum than sims, but that's okay, and the little objective challenges for each race are a nice way of encouraging replayability.
But it's a little difficult to get a handle on Driveclub when the very things that its supposed to be selling people on aren't working. Without the Clubs and the pop-up challenges and the asynchronous social interaction and competition, all that we're left with is an archaic template for a racing game: start with hatchbacks, race, unlock, work your way up to supercars. It works, sure, but in the wake of Criterion and Playground's more expansive works, it seems a little backwards, especially when there's not much else going for it right now.
That'll change in the near future (hopefully), and we're going to give Evolution a little leeway in terms of getting the review out (it's impossible to review right now), but my first impression of Driveclub is to wonder where the hell that extra year went.