DriveClub surprised after its very rocky start by being a deceptively deep and entertaining racing game, which Evolution Studios then followed up with over 6 months of decent length DLC in the form of tracks, cars and new championships. Once the season pass was up we were all fairly sure there’d be something to fill the void of the monthly releases, yet weren’t really expecting what was announced and released in the span of a couple of days: DriveClub Bikes. Is it worth donning your leathers and polishing your helmet for, or will it just give you road rash?
Structurally the game is the same as we’re used to with the cars, pick from Tour, Single Event or Multiplayer and select what you want to do. Focussing on Tour mode, challenges are set for each event that earn you stars and unlock more to do. Races and Time Trials are the same as before, and the drifting events and been changed to suit a motorbike’s unique capabilities – wheelies, stoppies and going stupidly fast. Each block of events leads to a championship challenge in a specific country to round off the section and unlock new and faster rides. Multiplayer and Single Event modes offer the same setup as the cars counterpart, which you’d expect. This is after all, an expansion of vehicles rather than adding vastly different things to do.
What DriveClub Bikes has to deliver though is a great racing experience. I don’t ride a bike in real life or have a lot of experience with this type of vehicle outside Trials Fusion, which became apparent in the first race when I reached a tight-ish corner, failed to brake and turn properly, crashed out and then spent the rest of the time languishing at the back of the pack. Racing on 2 wheels is a very different prospect from charging around on 4 – acceleration is faster, braking sharper, but cornering a lot slower, and of course it’s very messy when you hit a wall. The game handles bailing by blanking to a white screen and resetting you to track which means you don’t lose much time, and that DriveClub keeps its PEGI 3 rating.
Once the physics of having half the number of wheels you’re used to is under control, and you’ve mastered the art of not hitting the barriers at speed, the beauty of the tracks comes into play. Considering they were all designed for super and hyper cars, bikes adapt nicely to them. There are a couple of corners that don’t seem to fit with their severity indicators – a green that feels like a red, or a yellow that you can take flat out, but the layouts work for you and your AI competitors very well. You’ll get friendly that competition too, mainly because they are just as good as you, especially in the early stages, and they’re not afraid of a bit of jostling either. I found them to be just the right balance between frustrating and simple. Starting at the back of the grid and never catching up doesn’t force you to quit and go to something else, the short tracks promote a quick restart along with learning the braking and accelerating zones so you can beat your opponents.
Adding a total of 12 vehicles into the roster, DriveClub Bikes has focussed only on superbikes, and predominantly from Japan and Italy. Whilst each might not be drastically different visually, especially if you’ve applied your club paint job, the performance and the sound are. A Ducati snarls and grumbles as you manhandle it around tight, twisty sections, whilst the Ninja screams when it hits the top end of its revs; and both will try and throw you off backwards if you don’t compensate for the torque off the start line. Evolution haven’t been stingy with the weather effects in this tour either, with most events having some form of rain to obscure your vision or make the bike slide out from underneath you. Combining the elements, the noise and the speed really builds an atmosphere that makes you feel euphoric when it all goes your way, and that it’s purely your fault when it goes wrong. Not to mention absolutely terrifying in heavy rain at night.
All of the standard features from the main game apply to DriveClub Bikes, and there are even a couple of new ones that have been added in the latest patch, with placeholders setup for the bikes DLC too (we can expect the first one towards the end of November which will apparently be free). Like DriveClub’s cars, bikes is an arcade experience with a little more depth than most titles in the genre, and given the transformation from launch of the online service, this is definitely not something you should ignore if you’re feeling the need for speed. There’s a decent amount of content with longevity to it, and all at the low price of £11.99 in the UK… on yer bike!