Driving games are a dime a dozen. Driving games with dedicated drifting modes are a little less common. Driving games based exclusively around drifting are extremely rare, but Drift Streets Japan attempts to go one step further, being an online-only drifting game.
At just £4.99 on Steam, it’s an immediately wallet-friendly prospect. Once you load up the game, however, it becomes apparent that this is a budget title, as beyond the “built in Unity” splash screen, there is no presentation whatsoever. Not even a title screen greets you, instead you’re dropped straight into a garage and expected to buy your first car – from a choice of one really, as you aren’t even given enough money to afford anything else.
This poor choice is reflected in the track selection too, with only five on offer and one of those is a practically empty, endless highway that isn’t suited at all to drifting. Another is a parking lot with several levels, though it is possible to fall from the top-level into a bottomless pit of nothingness thanks to some lazy, cut-and-paste design. The remaining three tracks are at least twisty and drift-friendly, and one even incorporates a gymkhana course at the side of the road, and this is where the game shows the potential that goes unfulfilled, sadly.
The handling model shows that same potential as well, but its physics are underdeveloped and inconsistent, leading to cars sliding in perfectly straight lines no matter how much you attempt to turn or spin your wheels with the accelerator, in order to bring the back-end around. It’s especially frustrating when you’ve chained a nice, long drift combo and then suddenly your car is sliding into a wall without any control, through no fault of your own.
This disappointment seeps into every corner of the game. When you decide to jump into an online game as intended, the lag is unbearable. Not only do cars judder around the tracks and appear at random, the sound stutters along with it. For large portions of the online game, my car silently made its way around the track, with music cutting in for a few seconds before the silence returned. There’s no direction to the competition either, with no real reward for anything you do (earning money is an incredibly long-winded affair) and no actual leaderboards or competition to speak of.
This lack of direction is everywhere in the game, from the absence of a title screen to the absence of any tutorial system whatsoever, Drift Streets Japan offers no sense of progression. Although not in the Early Access program, the game feels unfinished in every aspect. It doesn’t even have full controller support. Configuring an Xbox 360 controller is pointless, as the triggers and analog sticks aren’t even recognised by the game at all. Drifting requires precise control over throttle and steering, which is nigh impossible using a keyboard.
Drift Streets Japan is a game brimming over with disappointment. From its PS2-era visuals and its inconsistent physics, to the complete lack of direction and/or rewards system, it offers nothing but unfulfilled potential.
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