Driveclub guide

I feel the need. The need for improving my driving skills

Sony's new online-integrated racer is a lot of fun if you're the competitive type. But what are you supposed to do if you want to be competitive, yet suck at the game? That could be a problem. Fear not! I've got 10 tips that'll make sure people ask to join your club instead of make excuses and leave.

I've also arranged them in order of difficulty, so you can work your way through, improving as you go. I appreciate some of the slide titles sound like they've been written by Captain Obvious, but do read the explanations. There should be something of worth in each one for everyone.

Learn how to crash properly

Just like a fighter has to learn how to fall, you need to learn how to wall. Er... hit the wall. OK, no more rhyming. Driveclub really doesn't penalise you for hitting barriers (which it probably should), which means you can get away with even moderately heavy impacts without losing too much time. But if you hit the wall at anything approaching 90 degrees, you will essentially stop dead.

So get into the habit of hitting walls flush with the side of your car. If you're turning right and you see you won't be able to avoid hitting the barrier on your left, don't keep turning right as you hit it, as that'll throw you back across the track. Instead, just as you're about to hit the wall, turn towards the barrier so that the car is parallel to it, then let go of the steering. With practice, you'll learn to minimise each accident and your lap times will plummet.

'Lift and turn' will give you amazing cornering grip

So, you've learned how to crash better, but--and this might sound crazy--maybe you should try 'not crashing' to begin with? Driveclub's physics may be simplified compared to the likes of Gran Turismo, but transferring the car's weight to the front wheels by braking--or even just lifting off the throttle as you turn in--makes a massive difference to how quickly you can change direction. And the sooner you get your car turned, the sooner you can get back on that lovely accelerator.

This tip works best for shallow, high-speed corners. Approach from the other side of the track to where you want to turn, so if it's a left-hander, get on the right. Then let go of the throttle, then immediately turn in, aiming for the inside of the corner on the other side of the track and power through.

Forget what your eyes tell you about the track limits

It feels safe and fair to stay within the white lines that generally denote the edge of the track. But the truth is, the vast majority of corners in Driveclub can be significantly cut. Not quite like Forza Horizon 2, where you just cut out entire sections by taking to the nearby field, but so long as you keep two wheels on the road, your other wheels can be beyond a kerb and you won't get penalised.

Obviously, it's bumpy off the track surface so it may not actually be quicker to take to the turf, but not only can you cut corners on the inside, you can make the corners shallower by starting as wide as possible. Be warned that the dirt off-line will slow your car down, but sometimes you can even use that to your advantage. The long version of this corner (pictured) in particular benefits from this technique as you start your turn on this small patch of tarmac. Give it a go.

If you're running out of road, lift as soon as you realise

Sometimes, even if you've slowed down, you'll find yourself in a corner that's longer than you expected, and you'll be sliding out towards the edge of the track. One that doesn't have a friendly Armco barrier and instead features a selection of ramp-like rocks. Often in this situation, you can simply 'get out of the throttle' and regain traction. In other words, let go of R2 and keep turning.

Again, it's about transferring the weight to the front wheels. It sounds like it wouldn't make much difference, but it really does, allowing you to rescue corners without hitting the brakes. And because you're not actually using the brakes, you'll carry more speed out of the corner, which is what it's all about, after all.

Glance at the track map whenever you can

It is certainly possible to learn Driveclub's tracks, but there are so many of them (many with a lot of similar-looking corners), it will take a while to do that. So I can't emphasise enough how important it is to look at the track map. In fact, in views like the bumper cam, sometimes it's the only visual cue you have that a corner is coming (see above).

Fortunately, it rotates so that the corner is always shown in front of you, like a Sat Nav. It may be difficult to take your eyes off the road and look at the track map, but if you get used to reading it quickly, you'll give yourself the knowledge for the next few seconds. Not only of how you should approach the next corner, but when you'll have time to look back at the track map. Clever.

Use other cars as cornering aids

Now, to be clear, I am not recommending you use other cars as brakes. Hitting the back of another car too hard will incur a penalty that reduces your engine power for a few seconds, and you certainly don't need that when you're trying to set a fast time.

But the minor 'fame' penalty incurred by brushing against or 'leaning on' another car is comparatively tiny. So there's a lot of time to be gained by pointing your car down the inside of the car in front, and using the collision to point you towards the exit of the corner with minimum loss of speed.

Drifting in races/time attack is useful, but not always fastest

Drifting is stylish, fun and is rewarded with Fame points, so it's worth learning how to do it well. Approach the corner from the outside, then turn in and hold the circle button until the back has stepped out. Then let go of it and get back on the gas. Well done, you're drifting! But did you know it's often the slower option when it comes to fast laps in Driveclub?

As with OutRun 2, getting your car's wheels in good contact with the road and accelerating through a corner is faster than sliding around it sideways. You can't accelerate while drifting, see? By all means use the hand brake to flick the back out and point yourself in the direction of the next straight, but do all you can to regain traction if you want to beat a rival ghost.

Use manual gears

I can't emphasise enough how much better you'll do if you learn how to use your gears effectively. It really isn't that difficult. If your engine note is high, shift up. If it's too low, shift down. Try to keep the note reasonably high as that's where the engine's power is. So it makes sense to say that if you're drifting, shift down so you get enough torque to sustain your slide by spinning the wheels.

Gears are also a great way of making sure you're tackling corners at the correct speed, and indeed carrying speed out of them. Gauging where you are on the track when you need to shift up to 5th can let you know that you're on a great lap (or not, as the case may be). Acceleration is better with manual, drifting is better with manual everything's better with manual. Granted, it's two more buttons to think about, but once your manual shifting becomes automatic (ooh!), you'll never go back to auto, I guarantee it.

Who taught you how to drive?

Yes, that's a Sega Rally reference right there. Did you get it? Did you get the reference from the randomised tracklist of post-replay scenes in a Sega Saturn game from 1995? 'Course you did. Well done, you.

And if you're looking for more, check out Why the racing genre needs to be more hardcore and, of course, our Driveclub review.

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