There seems to be a trend of late to drop games as surprises, giving players little warning when they will hit and Driveclub Bikes is one such title and as a standalone expansion to the main game it had to do quite a lot to prove its worth.
Driveclub suffered at its launch, both with its constant delays as well as issues upon its release, players abandoned the game in droves seeking their racing fix elsewhere and now Bikes comes along built off the back of all the hard work the team at Evolution Studios did to fix the main game. As you don’t need the main game to play Bikes, it is a great way to get into the series, the plus side to it is, if you have a PlayStation Plus account, it also gives you the PS+ version of Driveclub as well. But there are issues with that, namely that the game rewards you with vehicle unlocks when you achieve certain milestones, but it will make you go to the store to download them.
Driveclub had this annoying feature of resetting you to the track should you go off it and not make it back within a set timeframe, it also deducted points if you went and cut corners, the system while annoying was pretty consistent, however now with Bikes, it never knows when to do it. There were times when I would follow the line of the other riders and be penalized for cutting the corner, just as they had done, but there were also times when I would do it on my own and be fine, the game just never knew when to apply the rule. It also had the issue of random resets when you crashed into the wall, I get the outcome they were going for, should you as a rider bash into the wall in real life you would fly off, so the game resets you back to the track, the problem is, it seemed to be selective as to what qualified as a significant impact, enough to trigger the reset.
If you can overlook the games inconsistency, then you might find a solid arcade racer and it is an arcade racer, there is nothing in the game to prove otherwise. The bikes handle well enough, leaning into corners is as you would expect and if you are going top speed up towards a crest you can see the bike reacting by lifting the front wheel from the ground, what proves the arcade nature is that the bike never seemed to be able to wobble and sending you flying if you cornered incorrectly. The bike just gripped hard and would send you in the opposite direction, but the rear wheel never gave out causing you to have to correct in the corner, something that simulation level games would do.
The courses are a good mix of track based and non-track based, with a few set on dirt roads at points, with different race modes there is quite a lot to keep you busy. Perhaps the most interesting mode is where you need to perform a series of moves and complete challenges to amass as many points as you can, the challenge for this is that you also have a timer counting down. The standard progression for the game is that you will compete in these events and as you earn the stars, they will unlock Trophy events, which then allow you to progress to the next group.
The game looks better than other motorbike games this year, but only at certain times, there are a lot of pop in when you turn corners and come out of tunnels, as the game struggles to render things before you see them. The weather effects look incredible, but that is all they do, there are times when the tracks will have water all over them, puddles forming in corners and such, but there is no impact to the way the bike handles in the wet. The spray of the water from the bikes is impressive as is the rain as it streaks across the screen, but the lack of interaction between the water and the bike is a missed opportunity. From an audial point of view, the game is mixed poorly, the bikes dominate everything when you are racing, the game says it has in race music, but I could only ever hear it when I was the only bike around, though when I could hear the music it did little to make me miss it.
Driveclub Bikes does a good job with the foundations it was built upon, but with indecisive rules the game is using, you never know if you will be penalized or not. The multitude of game modes does provide you with a lot of variety, which for the price is welcome.