E3 2014: Driveclub lets you Race in the Snow and Rain

Take the weather with you.

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Clouds. Accurately modeled, dynamic, and superbly rendered clouds. If I didn't know any better, I'd wager Driveclub was a tech demo, not the fully-fledged social racing experience it's aspiring to be. Or at least that's the impression I got from its latest outing here at E3. Its social features--the dynamic challenges from your friends list, the ability to craft new challenges and send them to friends, and the multiplayer system that automatically schedules matches for your party--were all there, but there was definitely more love, and a more passionate delivery given to its looks.

To be fair to Driveclub, its weather system has just been revealed, and it does look extremely pretty. The first track I saw--a misty, overcast road set amongst the highlands of Scotland--was breathtaking in scope. Impressive draw distances saw the mountains stretched off into the mist, while the much talked about clouds diffused the sun's rays, and helped it cast a shadowy grey glow over the road. To demonstrate just how much effort had gone into the lighting system, the camera panned up above the clouds to reveal a blazing sun and blue sky, with the modelled diffusion creating the light below.

It was definitely impressive, but it seemed a tad, well, unnecessary. After all, how much are you really going to notice that the sun's rays have accurately bounced off of a paving stone when you're screaming by at 100 miles an hour? According to developer Evolution Studios, a lot. To demonstrate, we took a spin around the highlands while the rain was cranked to maximum. As the rain poured down, the light reflecting from the water on road made it trickier to see, while water droplets streaked across the screen and the car's hood, also decreasing visibility.

The game was paused to show how pools of water had formed on the tarmac, while spectators, watching from the grass beside the track, were surrounded by puddles on the sodden ground. The attention to detail on show was ridiculously over-the-top, but Evolution didn't stop there. Switching to night, I was shown how the car's headlights were affected by the rain, with each droplet reflecting more light, creating a much brighter scene than on a dry day. From there I was taken to the mountains of Norway and driven along during a particularly fierce snowstorm. More so than the rain, the snow reduced visibility to a sliver of sight, and I imagine if you're flooring it around a corner in that sort of storm, it'd be a very scary experience.

So yes, Driveclub is a very pretty thing, and it certainly features some of the best-looking environments that I've ever seen in a racing game. But here's the thing. The weather effects are quite a recent innovation at Evolution Studios, which means they're not actually going to make it into the game's October 7 release date. Instead, they're going to be part of a downloadable patch that'll arrive "shortly after" its release. And I'd love to tell you how the cars handled, and how the weather affected them, but sadly this was very much a "look, don't touch" experience. Still, what a lovely thing to look at.

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