It’s now been more than a year since Driveclub made it’s debut on the driving game scene. While it certainly did not have the best of starts, Evolution Studios has worked tirelessly to not only fix the existing issues, but also provide oodles of new content and updates. Its latest creation takes things in a surprising new direction, with driving machines of the two-wheeled variety making an appearance. Bestowed with the wonderfully imaginative title Driveclub: Bikes, this release is purchasable as both DLC to the existing Driveclub game, or as a stand-alone expansion.
The racing is broken up into a tour campaign mode along with single race and time trial modes, alongside a new mode simply known as skill. You start with a couple of accessible bikes, and then unlock more with progress, though you’ll be unlocking far more cars than bikes unfortunately. It was rather infuriating feeling that brief rush of hope only to have it squashed as it turned out to be yet another car that you can’t use. And the new skill events that require you to perform tricks on small sections of track are dull, and certainly no substitute for the drifting mode that they are replacing.
The tracks and environments are identical to what is already available in the Driveclub game, which is a let down for existing players, but new-comers will be awed by the rugged scenery and technical challenges. The circuits and point-to-point routes are beautiful and varied, with plenty of road courses complemented with a sprinkling of race tracks. Whether the black ribbons of asphalt are weaving through the Scottish highlands, skirting past Norwegian glaciers or threading through the forests of Canada, there is a great deal of diversity to be found.
The handling makes the game very easy to pick up and play, and even rookies will be duking it out with the frontrunners in no time. Bikes respond quickly and accurately to directional changes, but some degree of track knowledge will still be required to make sure you aren’t plowing nose-first into a guardrail. Actually, the crashes in Driveclub: Bikes are rather sad, as after smacking into a barrier you are treated to a brief loading screen before your rider is sitting atop his motorised steed again. No carbon fibre fragments scattering across the road, no riders sailing majestically through the air – I was a bit miffed by this small omission.
The concessions to the more arcade approach are obvious, with both traction control and ABS in full effect throughout racing. And while there is a weight transfer system for the rider, it appears to have a very limited effect on the handling outside of performing wheelies and stoppies. Unfortunately, there is no way to turn any of these assists off, which will no doubt be a blow to those wanting something more realistic.
Currently there are only 12 bikes in the game, and to put it bluntly that really isn’t a lot. They all fit into the same class, and while they have their differences in handling and speed, there’s no drastic disparity between them. Given the nature of the original game, that all these machines would be modern sports bikes is understandable and fits with the rest of the Driveclub experience. However, a few classics would not have gone amiss, nor would other categories of road bike such as cruiser or touring.
The multiplayer is a little odd in it’s structure, but a bundle of fun once you get onto the track. The lobby browser has a rolling system where a never-ending string of preset events are scheduled about a minute apart. While this generally works well, you do get a few occasions where nobody else bothers to join the event you picked, and this shunts you back to the browser to try your luck again. The racing itself is fast and frantic, and as it is almost impossible to block passing riders, the winner is usually decided by skill rather than who can ram the most players off the track.
A completely unexpected bonus to those who bought Driveclub: Bikes as a standalone will be the ability to race a few cars as well! The original sections of the game are not locked, and if you head to the PlayStation Marketplace there are over a dozen free cars available for download that you will then be able to race in single events. This is the icing on the cake really, as you’re not only getting a full bike game but half a car game too.
As a standalone package, Driveclub: Bikes is not only an enjoyable experience, but also fantastic value for money. It may not have quite enough bikes yet and the new skill events are a flop, but the rest is a testament to just how much Evolution Studios has polished its racing formula. And for those who already own Driveclub and have a hankering for something new, this is the perfect excuse to add a bit of two-wheeled racing mayhem to their existing game.