Sony shows how VR racing can be a truly amazing experience with Driveclub VR.
I love racing games but I've never been a particularly big fan of Driveclub. It always felt overpromised and under-delivered to me, especially when you compare to some of the top racers out there.
Development on the game has now ceased, but one final hurrah is its arrival as one of the marquee titles for PlayStation VR. Much is the same, but also much is different, not least that you're playing this time with something on your head.
But what Sony has done here is give us a tantalizing glimpse at the effect virtual reality can have on racing games for the better.
To play Driveclub VR you need a separate game, it hasn't been added on to the existing PS4 title. Season Pass owners can upgrade at a discount, everyone else will need to pony up the full asking price. But it's not a 'full priced' title, and it's worth every penny whichever route you go.
The structure of the game and the general look and feel is exactly on point with regular Driveclub. Essentially the core of it has you go on tour and take on various motoring challenges at locations around the world. The environments will be instantly familiar to Driveclub players, as will the cars. The career progression is very linear and not at all complex. You have to complete challenges, earn stars and unlock new challenges. And so on.
In this case, it's not a bad thing that there hasn't been a lot of change. There's not a lot to figure out, you can mostly just get in and drive. Which is exactly what you'll want to do.
In order to bump up the frame rate for VR, there are compromises. The number of cars in any race has been dropped to 8 and the environments are dramatically stripped back. You won't find the detail in the trees or people at the sides of the road anymore.
Where it matters the detail remains high, and that's inside the car. The interior styling of each of the vehicles on offer is exquisite, and because it's VR you get much more of it to enjoy. You can turn around and look in the back, you can look down at the pedals, at the center console, even poke your head literally through the window.
You can play Driveclub VR with an external camera view, but you're wasting your money buying it and doing that. This is all about feeling like you're really behind the wheel of an expensive sports car, and Driveclub VR delivers that in spades. Before each race you can take a look around the outside and the inside, you get to adjust your seating position both vertically and horizontally.
The sense of immersion is such that I can't 'get in' without reaching out and trying to touch something. Even though I know it's fake, my brain is tricked quite easily into believing that I'm really there behind the wheel of that Aston Martin.
VR doesn't just introduce a new dimension to a racing game, though, it completely changes the way you play. You can now look into corners, you can see drivers at the side of you, the walls coming towards you as you get it wrong. Fake or not, I dare you not to flinch the first time you slam hard into a barrier.
That's the biggest change VR brings to Driveclub for me. I've never been much of a fan of the regular game, but this is truly something special. The total immersion and the realism of driving a car has never been so good on a console. Driveclub VR is a little rough around the edges in places, sure, and there's only so much a current generation console can deliver. But it's a reminder of what's still to come.
VR doesn't just enable new experiences, it's capable of completely transforming them. And Driveclub VR is a perfect example.
- Gives a well known title a whole new experience
- Interior detail is superb
- It's like you're actually driving, which is awesome!
- Longevity is questionable
- AI can be a little aggressive