Drive Any Track Review

by Justin Khan on May 26, 2015

in Game Review Bits, General Gaming News Bits

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There are not enough games that are powered by music. I don’t mean the games where you play or dance to a list of pre-selected songs, but games where you play against the music tracks you load in. Beat Hazard and Audiosurf are great examples of this, as each session is generated by the tempo and overall complexity of the song you chose. Drive Any Track (DAT) from FOAM Entertainment and Firebrand Games is an excellent addition to the scarce genre of music powered games. DAT features very fast paced, frantic at times, gameplay with amazingly tight controls and visuals that will captivate anyone playing or watching. Fueled by the MEGA (Music Environment Gaming Algorithm) Engine, this Early Access game has everything it needs to become among the greatest music based indie games.

Upon launching DAT, you are presented with a menu that is very easy to navigate and makes it quick to get into the action. You choose your song, pick a vehicle to race with and, voila, you’re racing your music.

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A straight to the point menu. Clicking on “New Track” brings up a window to navigate to your music.

I have to admit, when I loaded up my first song into the game I was not immediately sold on it. Unlike most racing games where you start the race idling, you are launched immediately at top speed into a three-beat countdown in time with the song. I chose a ridiculously fast Happy Hardcore song so this caught me way off guard. I could not read the on-screen instructions as I was distracted with my runaway vehicle and very pretty flashing colors everywhere. On top of this I was failing to grasp the controls because I think I was trying to play it like Mario Kart which I quickly learned, you cannot do. I was hitting every barrier and launching off the track with every jump and it was not until about half way through my first song where I figured out what you had to do. Also, dropping use of the keyboard and plugging in an Xbox controller to play made me finally understand how the game handles.

There are a series of electrified lines that are traveling the track with you, which represent the “Sync” of the song. If you slow down by hitting barriers or walls you will fall behind the first Sync area, which is between the first two Sync lines. This means you are a bar behind the song and will earn less points. When you either fall too far out of sync, wipe out or fly off the track, the game will re-sync you just behind the first two sync lines which is a very welcome feature since trying to catch up to the sync lines would otherwise be near impossible. Along the tracks there are small boxes that, when hit, fill a meter displayed on your vehicle which represents your boost ability. When the meter is filled you can propel yourself forward with a button press to catch up with the sync lines or launch ahead into the “Super Sync” area, which gains you more points. The stay-in-sync gameplay is very well implemented and is incredibly fun.

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Falling out of sync after hitting a barrier. You can see the first sync line further down the track.

Without realizing it I ended up playing DAT for four straight hours after my first song and I was hooked. DAT  is very easy to get lost in. The track pulses along with the beat, and most genres of songs have their own beautiful visual aesthetic. The actual handling of the driving feels really responsive and the drifting works very well and is similar to drifting in the Gran Turismo games.

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Blue and purple elongated hexagon style for Dance and Classical songs.

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Yellow and orange block style for Rap, Hip Hop and Jazz songs.

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Black and red angled style for Rock and Metal songs

The track, as far as I can tell, is loosely generated on the song provided. However, there were many times where there was a barrier, loop, spiral or jump section that I couldn’t really place in the song as a drop or an upbeat section. I think it works better for some songs over others. Either way, because you are driving so fast on these tracks, the fact that they sometimes don’t match to the song isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You need to stay very alert when playing as there are many times where twitch reaction is required to save yourself, for better or for worse. Due to the snaking of the track and the camera placement, it is sometime impossible to see or react in time to avoid barriers or jumps in front of you. Infrequently there will also be jumps that, based on your trajectory, force you to land on barriers, fall through a jump gap or launch you into the abyss as the track turns sharply either direction immediately after the jump. There were a couple of times that I also landed so hard after descending from a jump that the shock flipped my car upside down causing me to wipe out. These are more of a common occurrence in higher than three star difficulty tracks and can be pretty frustrating, especially when you are doing very well on a song and something unfair messes up your run.

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Is there a barrier ahead? Who knows!

Along with the Boost Boxes, there are coins that litter the track. You are awarded the coins you snag during the race plus additional coins at completion of the track.

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My cash out of coins after a race. I’m rich!

Coins are used to purchase additional vehicles or style packs for each vehicle in the garage. I like the inclusion of multiple vehicles and the ability to change their appearance although I could not figure out if the differing vehicles had unique attributes. They all felt the same when handling them and the speeds felt identical as well. Either way, there is a plethora of immaculately designed vehicles ranging from a sports car, to an SUV, to a pick-up truck.

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Using my coins to buy a new car! Exciting!

At the end of a race you are awarded experience which goes towards your in-game level. It was unapparent to me what the point of the leveling system was. There is a possibility that it will be used for ranking in the highscore leaderboard feature that is already implemented. I love the inclusion of the leaderboard as it immediately makes the game competitive. Every song that has a track generated for the first time will also have the name of the user who created it. This is the same track that everyone who plays the song will race on. Each track has a worldwide top five ranking. If you achieve the highest score on the track, the game will generate a ghost of your race and put in online for everyone to see or race against. One thing to note about the ghost is it is completely opaque. I ran into a couple instances where a ghost obstructed my view from a jump or barrier making me hit it or wipe out. Lowering the opacity of the ghost would help this tremendously.

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Opaque ghost threatens your eyesight.

Another really neat feature is the first person mode while racing. Tapping the Y button on the Xbox controller enables this mode which allows for an entirely new playing style. The first person mode feels faster than the regular play because you are closer to the ground but is just as gorgeous.

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First person mode in its finest.

There is one major drawback to the first person play. The camera spins and angles itself with the car making some jumps and spirals to be very confusing and incredibly tough to land as the track goes out of sight. If the developers fix it so that the camera will always point towards the ground when you are airborne, you would easily be able to recover and land safely on the track.

Drive Any Track is an incredibly fun thrill ride. FOAM Entertainment and Firebrand Games have created a welcome addition to the music powered genre of games. It has already offered me hours upon hours of fun gameplay, and I will probably continue replaying it for a very long time; especially because the full version is targeted for release later this year with even more features. I look forward to the future of this game after a few of the aforementioned things have been fixed and the community becomes involved with the feedback process. The foundation has been set and is as strong as it possibly can be. If you like music based gameplay, you need to pick this gem up.

Review Score: 8/10

Pros:

  • Very fast and fun racing gameplay
  • Tight driving and drifting controls
  • Sync gameplay feature implemented very well
  • Beautiful graphics that differ between other games
  • Online leaderboard, ranking system and race against ghosts
  • Infinitely replayable as long as you have music to play with

Cons:

  • Camera placement makes for some unfair disadvantages
  • Some jumps lead to unavoidable wipe outs
  • First person camera is broken
  • Ghosts can obstruct your vision of the track
  • Leveling up has no point?

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