We've rarely seen drifting grace the spotlight in gaming outside of just being another mode in our racing sims, but Drift 21 strives to change that. Released in Early Access this month, the project is dedicated to the motorsport and features an impressive line-up of licenced vehicles and Ebisu circuits, considering its relatively small-budget status. With the project being so early into development though, does it currently warrant the attention of drifting fans?
We are sure motor enthusiasts will have a ball here as there is a comprehensive Garage Mode where you can build your car from scratch using a toolbox of 750 parts. Instead of simply selecting upgrades from a menu, here you need to strip down your car and manually install components yourself, making you feel much more involved in your ride's development. Even if your knowledge of assembling drift cars is limited, things are made simple as you can highlight all missing parts and be taken straight to the warehouse store.
We did find, however, that the tutorial within the garage ended abruptly, which led to a lot of initial confusion. It was unclear at first, for example, that we had to put our engine on a stand before tinkering with parts, so we found ourselves fumbling around before taking to YouTube for directions. There's also currently no way to resell your parts within the warehouse, so you are left to wallow in buyer's remorse and have to grind it out to make your lost cash back.
With it being the product of a smaller studio, we were impressed how Drift 21 manages to convey AAA quality with its picturesque visuals, and use of real-world vehicles and tracks. Inside the garage you can grab the keys to rides from Nissan, Mazda, and Subaru and the four tracks; School, Driftland,Minami, and North are all real Japanese circuits. At present though, there are only three vehicles and four tracks which feels pretty limited. The developers, however, have confirmed that new content will start to trickle in throughout the Early Access period, and have already honoured this commitment by adding the North track just days after launch.
Players can enter the driver's seat using a mouse and keyboard, or a gamepad, and support is available for select steering wheels (Fanatec, Thrustmaster, Logitech). We used an Xbox One controller during our playthrough and found the core mechanics of driving to feel instinctive, although it did take some time to get accustomed to executing drifts. Thankfully, there is a Free Mode here, where you can get to grips with the controls and have the freedom to skid across the grass and slam into the track barriers as you hone your craft.
At present, Drift 21 features three offline modes and these are the aforementioned Free Ride, Solo Run, and Time Attack game types. Time attack sees you whizz between checkpoints, but as it features a point requirement, you'll need the handbrake on when manoeuvring corners. In the Solo Run, you're tasked with racking up as many points as possible by completing specific objectives at points on the track. Speed Zones, for example, award points based on your speed and Clipping Points require you to pull off drifts using both your rear wheels.
Multiplayer functionality is something that is sorely lacking from Drift 21 in its current state and expected features such as online leaderboards remain absent. Being able to tear up the track with friends either online or in split-screen would greatly add to the longevity of the project and we can see it functioning well within the foundation already provided. The developers have confirmed that multiplayer would be coming with the option to create competitions, but currently, we don't have a timeframe of when to expect this arrival.
It may be a while before this drifting sim soars across the finish line and there are still many improvements we'd like to see to make this one worthy of a purchase in Early Access. The vehicle and track selection is currently limited and there is no way at present to engage competitively either online or in split-screen. We do, however, think the Garage Mode showcases a lot of potential and we were impressed by its polished visuals and licenced content. It's one to keep an eye on then.
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