One thing I’ve enjoyed this generation, as you may have noticed from my post about continuing coverage of games that see continued development, is the introduction of Early Access titles. I know its not everyone’s cup of tea, but I actually really like the theory of buying into a game during its development process and seeing it continuously evolve. Since starting this site I’ve covered a few of these titles, most notably Session and Skater XL (both of which currently have big updates in the works so will see some more coverage when those eventually arrive) and now I have another one to keep tabs on Drift 21 from developer E.C.G Games.
Drift 21 seems to aim to bring to driving games with drift mechanics what Session/Skater XL bring to skateboarding games, an emphasis on realism and customisation that other games don’t necessarily offer. It has two things going on here, the first is the actual driving of a car on a circuit, which will obviously be its core component. Here, unlike with those skateboarding games, you can see that some real work needs to be done on the physics model. I’ll try not to mention them too much as driving is very different to skateboarding, but those two games have their physics model mostly down, with some tweaks here and there to balance things towards their developers intended market preference. Drift 21 hasn’t quite got that down.
The cars kind of feel like they’re floating, there’s no physical feeling of actually being attached to the circuit, like there’s no traction. I don’t mean that it’s like driving on ice, its difficult to explain and is something you have to experience to really understand, but there’s a disconnect. This is exacerbated if you use a chase cam, which kind of gives the impression of driving the circuit rather than the car.
The other half of the game involves you actually building your car, I know there are more dedicated releases that do this too but this is my first experience of one. I’d like to say its quite fun, but again, it needs some work and lacks purpose. Obviously bolting on “better” parts makes your car perform better, and you can run your car on a dyno to see the performance difference every time you change a part, but currently, there’s no option to fine-tune things, making it all feel a little pointless.
It’s clumsy too, you can turn on a mode that highlights parts you need to buy and place, but quite often they’re difficult to actually click on, it could do with a zoom option. Likewise painting and applying decals to your car leaves a lot to be desired, especially when the loading screen shows a car that’s impossible to recreate, or so it seems to me.
To add to this there’s little in the way of playable content. There are six circuits, all of which are tiny, all are “set” in Japan (though you wouldn’t know it) and all lack character, there are only five cars, no career progression, but none of Early Access games are usually this light on actual content whilst the developer gets the actual gameplay in order, the thing is, from what I can tell this games been in some kind of development since 2018 and yes we’ve had COVD-19 in that time, but in its current state, it doesn’t even feel like a technical demonstration of what the developers are trying to do like Skater XL and Session did and whilst it’s unfair to judge two different genre’s of game, I’m trying to make the point that the developers of those titles have given players the tools to have a play around with, they’ve given them an engine to learn, but that just doesn’t feel like the case here.
Like I said at the start though, I’m not going to abandon this all together, but when the Early Access build costs nearly £25, it’s hard to ignore just how far away from being finished Drift 21 feels.