Developer: Lucid Games
Release Date: September 5, 2013
Though I’m not what you’d call a “car guy”—and I prove it by driving a Scion xB—I’ve always liked racing games. Mobile and tablet gamers have some good choices between the “Real Racing” and “Asphalt” series, but there’s room for another one. Lucid Games and 2K seem to agree, teaming up to hit us with “2K Drive,” a game with real cars you can drive in real locales, but ultimately not enough of either to completely fulfill its promise.
One thng “2K Drive” has going for it is that it gives you plenty to do. The main gameplay mode is called Championships, where you unlock new series of races and skills challenges with different classes of cars a la “Gran Turismo.” There are also daily challenges, an asynchronous multiplayer mode where you try to beat times set by other gamers, and a news feed with content updated daily from leading automotive blogs and magazines. The idea is to make it a car and racing hub instead of just a game, and it’s a cool concept.
But the play’s the primary thing, and “2K Drive” fares pretty well in that regard. Three skill levels are available to test your driving chops, with more auto-correct features kicking in on the lower settings. On Rookie, for example, you actually have to try pretty hard to wreck your car by driving it straight into a corner at twice the proper speed, because the game will brake for you as you approach. Once you get comfortable enough to remove those aids, you’ll drive faster and notice that the tilt steering and virtual pedals (tap anywhere on the left side of the screen to brake and anywhere on the right for the gas) work nicely.
Completing goals in the Championships earns you stars and coins, which function as the standard and premium currencies even though you can buy both of them for real money. You’ll also gain miles to help you level up, and trophies that can eventually unlock a showdown with an AI driver known as “The Beast.” Beating The Beast in a drag race gets you extra rewards, plus in the lowest vehicle class, a few laughs as you go head-to-head on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Nissan Cubes—something I’m pretty sure has never happened in real life.
Once you have some coins in your account, you’ve got some choices to make. Do you spend them on upgrade packs to boost the acceleration, handling, or top speed of the rides already in your garage? Or do you splash out for a new car to use in one of the other classes in the Championships? There’s customization to consider as well; you can change the paint, wheels, air fresheners (no, really) and other parts of your cars to get them to look just the way you want. Considering the high quality graphics “2K Drive” is sporting, the cosmetic stuff—some of which costs stars, others coins—is worth investigating.
You could get yourself a whole bunch more customization options by paying $9.99 for the VIP founder package, which also comes with extra coins, stars, and instant access to over two dozen cars. The question is whether that’s good value when the game is already on the pricey side to start at $6.99. “2K Drive” is worth a premium price on iOS, but not that much of a premium.
That’s even more true when you consider how few vehicles are actually in the game. Despite sporting licensed rides from Ford, Mazda, Dodge, Fiat, Chevy, Nissan, and more, there are only 27 cars and trucks currently in “2K Drive.” That breaks down to only two or three per class, to say nothing of the more specialized events like off-road races. Maybe I’m spoiled by console games with real cars, but I expect more. The same could be said for the tracks and courses too, as the same layouts show up early and often.
Of course that’s the balancing act companies have to go through in the “games as a service” era. I’m pretty confident a nice-looking, sweet-handling racer like “2K Drive” will get even better if enough people elect to get behind the wheel. I just wonder if the sticker shock is going to prevent them from doing more than just admiring it on the lot.
+ Plenty of gameplay modes and an automotive news hub means there’s lots to do
+ Boasts good looks and effective driving controls
– Pretty expensive, especially for the founder package
– Could use more tracks and definitely more cars