Version tested: iPad
So it really isn't Project Gotham Racing. When word got around that Lucid Games, a team formed from ex-Bizarre veterans, was working on a driving game, several eager fans put two and two together to get PGR5. That wasn't the case, of course: Lucid was instead working with 2K as part of the publisher's concerted push into iOS gaming, on an all-new game that's out to compete with the bountiful successes of CSR and Real Racing.
But there is a lot about 2K Drive that is indebted to PGR, and Lucid's pedigree injects some real legitimacy to the sometimes fuzzy world of the mobile racing genre. Street-spec cars pound around loosely re-imagined urban tracks, while flickering away behind the sweet arc of a powerslide are systems that string all the way back to Metropolis Street Racer's kudos points. So it is Project Gotham Racing, really - but 2K Drive never quite lives up to its legacy.
It makes a decent swipe, though. 2K Drive's handling is surprisingly deep, and in the mobile space uniquely rewarding. There's none of the cotton-wool swathe that mutes Real Racing's cars, and with assists off, 2K Drive doesn't pull any punches. A Fiat 500 will let its front-end lead you waywards until you aggressively coax it around a corner, a feat made possible by a handbrake activated with a swipe of the brake pedal. It's a neat way to broaden the vocabulary of the mobile racer; Lucid is totally justified in its confidence in 2K Drive's handling.
The nuance comes alive in off-road events where top-heavy pickups wallow around in the dirt. The cross-armed acrobatics demanded are arguably too much for motion steering on a mobile device, but they can be toned down if necessary. (You can steer with touch control, too.) It's a testament, too, to the variety that 2K Drive strives for - off-roaders join more typical track and street races. Locales are limited, but good: the streets around Trafalgar Square are open for test drives or closed off in various configurations for races, while the Bonneville Salt Flats are the basis for the CSR-style drag races.
The racing genre's understandable obsession with the testosterone fireworks of Top Gear are here taken a little further. Sometimes it's a bit clumsy - you face off against 'The Beast' at the end of championships in a one-on-one race - but elsewhere there's been a little imagination in deciding which of the show's ideas were ripe for smuggling. There are football mini-games and a skidpad where you're asked to dance around in order to avoid the lock-on of a circling attack helicopter.
2K Drive's not a terrible looking game - it offers console quality graphics, though that console is the Dreamcast
It's the kind of punchy lateral thinking you'd hope would make its way into a new PGR, and to an extent it works - across all the flavours 2K Drive offers up, driving comes with the soft hook that's been sorely missed since Bizarre's demise, and Lucid's smart to serve up its handling in increasingly playful modes. Elsewhere, though, 2K Drive is disappointingly sloppy, and the signs of a smaller team that's still coming to terms with iOS hold it back.
It starts from the first time you boot the game up and cascades messily from there. 2K Drive's not a terrible looking game - it offers console quality graphics, though that console is the Dreamcast rather than anything more contemporary, and it doesn't scale up particularly well on an iPad - but it suffers from a front-end forged in the depths of hell. Icons squat noisily on top of other icons, while what was conceived as a magazine-style spread of stories of from the real world of motoring integrating with 2K Drive's different events and challenges ends up being a vomited stream of low-res images sitting awkwardly in multi-coloured panes.
The scrappiness seeps beneath 2K Drive's skin. Unlike Real Racing 3, this is a premium-priced release, so the free-to-play nonsense that obscured EA's effort is largely absent here. But still Lucid has decided to inherit so much of the needless clutter and noise of its contemporaries. There are so many systems of reward within 2K Drive - Miles are spat out at the end of every event, going towards your driver level and allowing you to upgrade or repair your car, while Coins that allow you to expand your garage are more sparse - that it all becomes meaningless noise. It's hard to tell whether to be angry at former Bizarre staff for the trend they birthed with Metropolis Street Racer, or just to be sad that the simplicity of kudos has been lost forever in a world of pointless points-scoring.
It makes for an unnecessarily fussy experience; that which has been borrowed from other mobile games is ironically what makes 2K Drive more difficult to engage with on the go. There's too much clutter and too much noise, and it's not even slickly slotted in - there's just lump after lump of menu occasionally padded with an over-long loading screen, ensuring that time on the track remains at a miserable minimum during any particular session. It's a decent drive that wears its iOS clothing unconvincingly, perhaps a symptom of 2K's inexperience in the area. 2K Drive could have been something special, but it's missing the guiding hand Lucid needed to take it beyond half-heartedly evoking memories of old.
6 / 10