If you follow my news coverage, you probably noticed that I love screenshots. It’s part of the fact that I adore photography in general, and I normally spend inordinate amounts of my gaming time just snapping all the pictures I can.
Screenshots published by Sony to promote Driveclub are normally done with an unlocked camera, which adds a lot to their beauty. Even if I saw a lot of the game with my own eyes in the past year, when I first impacted with direct feed gameplay shots of the Evolution’s new labor of love, I was struck by the fact that they really look rather bland. You can see several examples here and here.
This conflicted rather heavily with what I saw in motion. Driveclub definitely doesn’t look bland when running on a PS4. Yet, if you “stop time” and look at gameplay stills, the spectacle almost grinds to a halt as well. This is a rather peculiar characteristic of Evolution’s game.
Developers normally focus a lot of their resources into elements that can look great on screenshots. Evolution, on the other hand, stressed very heavily on effects that have nearly no meaning unless you see the game in motion: Advanced motion blur and deliberate focus imperfections, a subtle film grain/dithering and digital noise effect, flying dirt and camera shaking… There’s a lot of that pumped into Driveclub, and it makes a whole world of difference between moments in which everything is still and when the action resumes.
More relevant elements to this effect can be found in lighting and reflections, which are fully dynamic. There’s nothing pre-baked in Driveclub. When you’re looking at a still picture, a pre-calculated reflection won’t seem any worse than a fully dynamic one, but when you unleash the motion, despite the limit to 30 frames per second, seeing the environment literally “dance” on your car’s paint is simply breathtaking. Looking at the way the light plays around on the windshield is something that deserves to be experienced.
It’s nearly jarring when you first see it with your own eyes, and it almost seems like you’re not looking at the same game. It’s not like still screenshots look “bad,” mind you, but they simply don’t even come close to what goes on on the screen as the game actually runs.
If you’re looking for Driveclub‘s beauty, you really won’t find it in gameplay screenshots, at least until the developer unleashes the game’s photo mode. Evolution’s new game can be considered one of the prettiest games of the generation so far, if not the prettiest, yet it’s magic in motion. Stop the motion, and you stop the magic, but when the motion resumes, here come the fireworks.