Playing Drive!Drive!Drive!, the hectic arcade racer from developer different cloth, reminded me of playing with toy cars when I was a kid. I’d be aimlessly slamming (I mean, ‘driving’) around a few cars at the same time in crazy, destructive races that had close to no sense to them at all, but hey, it’d be good fun to me.
When playing a traditional racing game I’m used to simply following one race, focusing on one car, and not having to worry about any other races that might be going on at the same time. You don’t have the same freedom to relax in Drive!Drive!Drive! though, with the game instead forcing you to compete in multiple races at the same time. It’s a unique concept that might sound a little absurd and baffling to simply read about, but it actually works quite well in-game. Unfortunately there are a few issues that can cause the occasional infuriating moment during a tense race, though it’s nothing that’ll ruin your overall experience with the game.
The core gameplay concept of Drive!Drive!Drive! sees you switching between multiple cars on multiple tracks that are all competing in individual races. You can only control one car at any given time, though the slightly incompetent AI (slightly incompetent might be a bit of an understatement…) will take over for you when you’re occupied with another race. This crazy gameplay mechanic is what makes Drive!Drive!Drive! so unique and the game deserves some credit – it really has brought something fresh to a genre that hasn’t seen too much innovation over the last few years.
Switching between races simply requires the press of a button, with the change from one car to another seamless and performed in real-time. It’s actually pretty sweet to flick from one race to another so effortlessly and it certainly helps maintain the player’s engagement with what is a fairly distinctive gameplay mechanic.
You’re always able to see how your cars are performing in other races with a position indicator on the corner of the screen, so you always know when to switch races – for example, if you have three races going on at once you can see what position in the race each car is and if you see one of your vehicles is slipping behind (and believe me, positions can drop fairly rapidly) you can quickly switch over and try to recover the lead. It adds a real tense and exciting vibe to the game, especially since you’ve got to not only pay attention to the race you’re taking part in but also your performance in others too.
This is where Drive!Drive!Drive!’s main problem comes into play. The game almost prides itself upon the incompetence of the AI driving, but at times it could actually be a big burden to the gameplay as opposed to a nonsensical but amusing aspect of the game. Now I don’t mind the fact that the AI could be dumb, but one time I saw my position dwindle in a race due to the fact that my AI controlled vehicle was driving in the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting any Lewis Hamilton-esque skills from the AI, but I don’t think I’m asking too much by expecting it to be able to correctly identify the right direction to drive in.
I don’t want to be too harsh on the game based on the dumb AI though since it’s actually one of the things that makes the whole thing work, but the randomness of it all could be a bit too frustrating. Sometimes you might get through a race with next to no problems besides the AI simply requiring a helping hand here and there; other times it would all go tits up from the get go due to some brainless move from the AI and you’ll be put in a position where there’s nothing you can do to salvage any form of success from the race. Imagine this happening towards the end of a race that you’ve worked incredibly hard in and you’ll start to understand why Drive!Drive!Drive! can cause quite a few frustrating moments. It just needed some level of consistency between being ‘stupid’ and being ‘so stupid that I want to tear my f****** hair out’.
Fortunately when everything clicks together in the game it provides a highly enjoyable arcade racing experience. There are a few games modes that you’ll play through across the game’s main campaign: Purist is your typical race against other racers, Arcade challenges you to earn as many points as possible through drifts and slick racing, Time Trial challenges you to complete multiple races in the quickest time, whilst Collection challenges you to collect as many crystals as possible by flicking quickly between races. Each mode provides something unique and enjoyable, ensuring the game offers an experience that never starts to feel too familiar and will constantly keep you entertained.
You’ll unlock plenty of different cars as you progress through the game too, each one offering varying stats that can provide specific advantages across the different events. I’ll admit that I actually got into the habit of simply using the fastest car on offer, but the diversity on offer will certainly please the more dedicated racing fans out there. Each event you take part in has bronze, silver, and gold medals to unlock, so sometimes having the right vehicle can be the difference between a gold and silver medal – always remember though: if you’re not first, you’re last…
The tracks of the game are a blast to race across too. You’ll rarely find a track that simply features long straights and bends – instead there’ll be huge jumps, massive loops, and huge turns that’ll have you zig-zagging your way to victory. I’ve already mentioned the game reminded me of playing with toy cars when I was younger, but some of the tracks themselves bare some similarities to the crazy ‘Hot Wheels’ toys you’d get as a kid too. Whilst there are a plethora of courses to race across in the game, you’re also able to show off your creative side with the in-game track builder. It’s not only fun to create some insane courses but it also adds an extra degree of longevity to the game, ensuring that you’ll always have something new to do in Drive!Drive!Drive!
Whilst I’ve got some complaints with the AI of Drive!Drive!Drive!, the problems were never too common of an occurrence to make me have any real issues with the game. It’s just that the moments where the game did go horribly wrong have stuck with me, though other players might be spared those issues and will get to appreciate the game’s finer qualities (including the stupid AI).
Drive!Drive!Drive! offers a solid, enjoyable racing experience that offers plenty to keep you entertained for a long time. The race-shifting mechanics are unique and fun, whilst the fact you’re able to create your own levels will keep players coming back for more time and time again. It’s certainly not one of the greatest racers you’re ever going to play, but it’s certainly one of the most unique. Racing fans who want to try something new should give it a go – just don’t be surprised if the game causes a bit of fury along the way.
Developer: different cloth
Publisher: Choice Provisions
Release Date: 13/12/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC, Mac