Driveclub has become PS4’s biggest liability

By Matt Martin, Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:56 GMT

Sixteen days since Driveclub went live and the game is still struggling to work online. Sony can no longer make excuses for this disastrous release, says Matt Martin.

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“These server problems, these broken features, this public balls-up, continue to reflect badly on the PlayStation 4. It’s very easy to point at Driveclub as a failed online experiment where ambition has got way out of hand.”

Driveclub’s bungled release has turned into PlayStation 4’s biggest embarrassment.

What should have been a standard-bearing racer for Sony’s console has turned into a jumble of broken promises, unfinished features and mediocre gameplay.

It’s a pretty racing game with an under-powered engine, and, even worse, it fails to work as advertised. “Drive together. Win together” is Sony’s tagline. We can’t. We’re still unable to connect to the servers more than two weeks after release.

But Driveclub didn’t just stall at launch. It’s had public problems all the way through development. This should be PS4’s flagship driving game, but it couldn’t even turn up to the console’s launch party.

Months after PS4 was on sale (and selling well), the second release window cracked, delaying the game until October in order for developer Evolution to fix the online play, matchmaking and menus. That didn’t exactly work out well, did it?

Between the delay and release we also found that the game wouldn’t ship with dynamic weather effects and a photo mode – standard features for a modern racing game, surely? And there’s been confusion about the difference between the PS Plus Edition of the game and the full-priced version since the dual-release was first announced.

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Back to the here and now and the game is up and running in some form. Getting online to play multiplayer – the very feature that we’re told will define Driveclub – is hit and miss. Server errors are common. When you do get the joy of an online race it’s not unusual for it to unceremoniously boot you back off the server with a big red message. Gee, thanks.

That’s the privileged position that those of us who have the full game are in. Anyone waiting for the PS Plus Edition are doing exactly that – waiting. It’s been on hold since the server problems began on day one. All online games go live with some problems but they’re usually fixed in a short span of time. Driveclub went live 16 days ago.

Evolution was absolutely right to prioritise those players who paid full whack – it’s the one thing its got right during this whole fiasco – but all those PS Plus subscribers have a right to complain too. We call the PS Plus Edition “free” but subscribers pay good money for that service and its games.

The developer is just as frustrated as the player. I’m sure it is and I’m sure it’s working hard to get Driveclub fixed because studios live and die by their last title. I don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes but I sure hope Sony is helping out as much as possible.

Driveclub could have been the new definitive racing experience for the PlayStation brand. Gran Turismo used to do that job, but in this new generation releasing a game every 3-5 years isn’t a viable business. Driveclub was (is?) going to get updates, new features, cars and tracks every month. That’s forward thinking. That’s next-gen.

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“All that future potential – the updated features, the new content – should be a lesson in how to extend the life of a game in a new era of connected entertainment. Unfortunately it’s going to be seen as compensation for those that endured the gruelling release window.”

But at this point it’s barely functional and feature incomplete. The game is meant to be getting a whole stack of content next month and every month after that until at least June. I hate to think what a mess that schedule has now become.

Reviews for the game may have been lukewarm but Driveclub could have shaken that off. Games only have a finite window to sell and it shrinks the further it gets from release day. Driveclub is losing potential buyers all the time its online modes are wonky and there’s no way to sample the PS Plus Edition. There’s going to come a point soon – if already hasn’t passed – when players will stop caring.

Driveclub needs its online features because without them it’s just another good-looking racing game. Reviews have noted many times that it doesn’t have any personality of its own – which is fine if it’s all about the players – but when the players can’t connect the game’s whole reason for being is thrown into question.

These server problems, these broken features, this public balls-up, continue to reflect badly on PlayStation 4. No one is disputing the sales success of the console, but it’s very easy to point at Driveclub as a failed online/social gaming experiment where ambition has got way out of hand.

All that future potential – the updated features, the new content, the dual release – should be a lesson in how to extend the life of a game in a new era of connected entertainment. Unfortunately it’s going to be seen as compensation for those that endured the grueling release window. It’s DLC as an apology. Driveclub hasn’t just had a disastrous launch. The launch is over. Now it’s having a disastrous existence.

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