Reviewed: September 6, 2006
Released: August 8, 2006
Of all of the motor sports that have benefited from the video game culture, none owes its popularity more to gamers than the newly-fashionable sport of Drifting.
Wikipedia defines Drifting as:
In Drifting, the idea is not to win races by speed, but rather to successfully pull off the most impressive series of powerslides throughout the course. Winning and losing is a function of the overall form and style of each run – with form and style based upon the driver’s ability to maintain balance between being in control of the vehicle, and losing control completely.
The sport may have been born out of the twisty mountain roads of Japan, but as a direct result of the video gaming culture – who found the driving technique to be very similar to the techniques employed by their favorite arcade racing titles – Drifting has quickly taken over the motor sports world with its own televised Grand Prix series and a full stable of racing icons.
Basically, this real-life sport is a true amalgamation of today’s popular motor sports gaming culture; taking the courses and vehicles of Gran Turismo, adding the tuning culture of Need for Speed Underground, and tossing in the physics of the Ridge Racer games.
D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series pushes the following features:
So, I already broke the news – D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series takes on the uber-sim perspective, which has got to be a first for a style-based racer like this. Every aspect has been tweaked by Yukes to make the vehicles behave and react just as they do in real D1 Drift racing.
In fact, early on in D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series , the game explains that as a result of the Drift tuning, the cars may be difficult to drive in a straight line – and they are absolutely correct. One quickly learns that navigating even the simplest of courses in Drift racing – with their over-revving engines, high torque tuning, and slick-slippery-slickery tires – is not much different than trying to navigate a cone course at 40mph on a sheet of molasses-covered ice.
Does that sound strange? Molasses-covered ice? Well, it really is the best way I have to describe the bizarre dichotomy of taking a super high-powered yet sluggishly slow car (from over gearing), and then tuning the suspension to make it immediately go kaddywampus at even the slightest the turn of the wheel.
A perfect finds the rear drive wheels squealing pretty much the entire time, with the driver lacing the rear end around a series of tight corners on short highly-technical sections of some of the world’s top tracks. As mentioned, speed is not necessarily going to win you a race – but a certain amount of speed must be maintained to keep forward motion through the driving line.
Yukes’ physics engine demonstrates the impeccable attention to detail that these wrestling-game moguls have been known for over the past years. Each car feels weighty, and the suspension effects are as accurate as those found in any game. Drivers will often have to fight the car from pulling to the lowest side of the crown or banks – especially when speeds are kept low.
Really with respect to the physics, the only thing missing – and something that would really help out in this case in particular – is the necessary sense of g-force. The game does support the analog force-feedback driving wheel made famous by Gran Turismo – but how many of us own those?
D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series features a number of in-car views that I found made controlling the car much more intuitive than the few behind-car views. Out of the car, I had a very difficult time maintaining drift through long hairpins where in-car was not an issue.
The points-based judging uses the vehicle’s angle to the centerline, and the length and speed of each drift. Lacing a number of successive drifts together will result in combo multipliers, but will also increase the chances of losing the large score to an off-the-track or contact violation.
The head-to-head races line the two competitors up – one in a lead position, the other in the follow position (they swap positions on the second run). The lead position has the ability to set the speed and has a bit more freedom to his racing line. The follow position is limited to the lead’s speed, but has the added ability to nose up into the lead’s inside lines in an attempt to break his drift.
Going off track or contacting the competitor’s car will result in a total loss of trick points for the line and often putting an abrupt end to any chance of coming out on top. The AI is near-perfect in execution, and only after practice will you begin to even pose the least bit of a challenge.
There are a number of control mechanisms that allow you to kick your vehicle into an induced slip; e-brake, clutch release, torque acceleration, and feint drifting. D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series ’s mandatory training mode will introduce the complex control mechanics required to initiate and maintain a constant drift around tight corners – speed up, slow down, feint out then in, tap the e-brake, slam the accelerator and clutch, let off the clutch and turn into the apex, pump the accelerator to maintain the angle, bring it back to straight, and leave the curve.
Luckily, D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series does feature a couple of standard racing modes to let you try your hand at traditional racing using these awkward vehicles – but trying to put the hammer down only makes things worse, and you will spend more time treading grass than carving chicanes.
I’ve got to give it to them – Yukes nails the mechanics of the sport firmly on the head. However, given the subject material, it ends up playing out more like an overly tedious tightrope walking simulation than the fun racing game it should be. The gamer is always on the verge of either winning or losing all, and a single mistake will often ruin an entire run against the picture-perfect AI.
D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series ’s unyielding attention to detail extends to the visuals as well – with highly detailed models of Drift racings top technical courses, racing vets are sure to feel at home with the old-school favorites like Fuji and Tsukuba.
And when I say that the tracks are detailed, you better believe that I mean it – and more than just the pristine track layouts and solid background detail. D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series is the first game I have ever played that actually features the authentic advertising placards pimping the competition – in this particular case, a number of the tracks feature authentic Gran Turismo billboards throughout. Now that’s a ballsy move on Yukes’ part.
The car models are fabulous, and they feature realistic reflections and shading effects. There are a number of in-car and behind-car views to choose from – but as I mentioned above, the in-car views make the controls a bit easier to manage.
The sound quality is equally impressive – if you can put up with the ever-present redline engine whine and tire screeching, that is.
Yukes does a great job capturing the different engine pitches, and exhibiting the difference in aural perspective from inside the vehicle, to behind the vehicle, and back again. This is not necessarily a new trick for the genre, but it is definitely a nice added touch.
The “Enhanced Commentary Engine” which is touted to “let players hear what the tree judges say in real time” isn’t as cool or as technically sound as one would expect, and really only tends to make the gamer more frustrated when the judges constantly criticize for seemingly uncontrollable events.
I have a feeling that even the uber-sim Drift racing fans are going to find fault with this title. D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series may be a technically-impressive game with a number of great elements, but as a whole it just is not much fun. D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series is hard, and not a fun hard. It seems like winning is more a function of luck than skill – no matter how much you practice.
All in all, powersliding around curves is infinitely more enjoyable and rewarding in games like Ridge Racer and Burnout that they ever will be in this game.
Back in the early days of the PS2, Square (of Final Fantasy fame) released a deep and highly detailed racing simulation called Driving Emotion Type S. Knowing the Square pedigree, a number of gamers (myself included) flocked to the stores to pick up what was being touted as the natural successor to Gran Turismo.
What we found was indeed a highly detailed racing sim; with all the right physics modeling, beautiful graphics, and deep gameplay. What we did not find was fun – Driving Emotion Type S was just too darn difficult and frustrating to be any fun. Especially not compared to Polyphony’s Gran Tursimo masterpieces, which always seem to find the perfect balance of simulation and fun.
I am sure that there are hundreds and hundreds of Drift racing fans who are going to go nuts trying to get their hands on D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series. And of them, only a small percentage are going to really enjoy all of the overly difficult simulation aspects that go into nailing a successful run in this game.
If Yukes’ plan was to instill a greater respect in these drivers and their crazy motor sport – well, they have succeeded. I now know the level of commitment that these men and women put into their hobby, and I will finally be able to watch the televised events and actually understand the course of events. But if Yukes’ plan was to sell me on a D1 Professional Drift Grand Prix Series sequel – they get a DNF.