In recent years ‘drift competitions’ have been the biggest sporting trend in Japan. Over here in the States, the sport is just starting to gain speed. I mean, c’mon, they made a Fast and the Furious movie about it. And if you can make a Fast and the Furious movie about it you can definitely make a video game about it, but let me give you a quick summary of the sport just in case you don’t know Vin Diesel’s every move.
In drift competitions, coming in first place doesn’t really matter. The real winners are based on style, angle, speed and drift length as they slide their cars around turns. Drivers fly through winding tracks sending their cars power-sliding around corners, constantly on the brink of losing control. It’s kind of like the power-slide on Mario Kart, except in real cars, faster, and constantly over-steering around corners. Sound fun? On paper, yes it does, but the finished product isn’t all fun and games.
When first starting out, keeping control of the car is a real chore. In other words, these cars are tailor-made to basically drive sideways around corners. The physics engine used is fairly good, with the cars feeling like they are ready to throw themselves around corners. But to really get the hang of it in D1 Grand Prix you have to take everything you know about racing and toss it out the window. Instead of braking early and making quick work of a turn, you have to attack the turn while jamming on the handbrake. If you can get the hang of it, you can pump the clutch and do a burnout on your sideways exit from the turn to get the most points out of each drift. This takes a while to get used to and seems to suck some of the fun out of the game due to frustration and loose controls. Although there is a training mode, the learning curve will probably turn off most casual gamers, but hardcore fans of the sport will enjoy the decent list of real life cars, drivers, and tracks.
The amount of content isn’t bad at all with 20 real D1 cars from Subaru, Nissan, Toyota, and others making an appearance. Also, the inclusion of real-life tracks from D1 events over the years is a nice plus. Multiple real-life pros also make an appearance in their respective rides and numerous racing modes are available, but this just add more ways to frustrate yourself.
On the graphical side of D1 Grand Prix, the game seems to be lacking that final polish. The paint jobs and car models are decent, but the race tracks seemed almost empty. Nothing really seems to jump out at you. The damage isn’t as realistic as one would like and the cars sometimes seem to be moving in slow-motion. Announcing during the race is a bit inconsistent by ripping on you for failed drifts, but a second later, they praise the same drift.
Drift racing is definitely an exciting sport to watch and could certainly be made into an exciting and engrossing video game, but D1 Grand Prix has some definite control issues that crush the fun under the foot of frustration. The game offers a good amount of content and the overall appearance isn’t half bad, but the controls (or lack thereof) are the major downfall of D1. With the possibilities available, D1’s different take on racing really could have come out much better. The game may be a gem on paper; it just happens that the fun got lost somewhere in the execution.