Let's get straight to the point: 2K Drive is an excellent driving game. It's hampered, however, by a few minor but persistent and technically sloppy niggles in its design.
The slightly-too-elaborate progression system (borne out of its free-to-play roots), the unstable performance, the confusing menu design - these are all factors that come close to destabilising this tip-top driving game.
Instead, though, these unsavoury elements merely detract slightly from the overall impressive package.
Sure, 2K Drive will prove divisive among the wider gaming community. For petrolheads with patience, however, this might just be the racing game for which they've been waiting.
The format of 2K Drive is much like any other racer: you're given an entry-level vehicle, you enter races, you win. From that point, you earn money to gain access to better cars and tougher competitions.
You can improve vehicle performance with Upgrade Packs. You can personalise your motor with all sorts of decals, paint jobs, and trinkets.
There's a sense of ownership to everything you do in this game. When your car is damaged in a race, you must repair it. When it becomes dirty, you'll need to wash it. When you go online, you'll use the highly personalised RaceFace feature (whereby your own mug is placed onto the driver).
But, my word! Those events
There's loads to see and do in 2K Drive, and it's all fantastic fun. There are your standard races, of course, with head-to-heads and time trials completing the set of must-have racing game modes.
Then, there's Elimination, in which each person in last position is gradually knocked out until only one driver remains. There's also the Overtake Challenge, where you need to drive past a specific number of cars within a certain amount of time. On top of that, there are sequences in which you need to outrun a helicopter, where you must transport cargo without dropping it, and where you must stay off the ground for as long as possible.
Then, there are the rally stages. These are, for my money, the standout elements of the game. With 2K Drive's world-class physics engine pushed to the limit here, you experience a rough and ready fight to stay in control of the vehicle. Dust billows up and mud cakes your car. It's a wonderful antidote to Real Racing 3's comparatively clinical pursuits.
With plenty of camera angles from which to choose - including the incredibly detailed cockpit view - and plenty of driving assistance settings, it's as welcoming and accessible a race simulator as you'd hope to find.
The "but" you've been waiting for
But 2K Drive has some serious flaws right now. Flaws that its developer needs to address straightaway.
For one thing, the menus are some of the most sluggish and bewilderingly designed menus through which I've ever had to wade. After you complete a race, the menu appears at the top and bottom of the screen, and is unresponsive for the first tap or two. Then, when your input is finally registered, the transition from screen to screen is slow.
Furthermore, I was inexplicably booted back to the iPhone's Home screen on many occasions during the course of the review. And when I was out of range of an internet connection, these issues became even worse.
The progression system is also a little odd, with its freemium racer roots very much in evidence here. You need a number of trophies per set of challenges to tackle the final stage, but you often won't have a car powerful enough to win the tougher events. This means you'll have to go and purchase other cars to race in separate events, earning more money to afford the upgrades you'll need to be competitive.
Overall, though, I don't think the IAPs hurt the game as much as they could have. Go have a read about them in the box out up there, and see what I mean. In actual fact, it's the non-racing technical elements that harm 2K Drive the most.
If the atrocious menus and frequent crashes were eliminated, I'd argue that 2K Drive represents the finest racing experience you can find on mobile. Because of the technical issues and unfortunate UI design, however, it just misses out on an podium finish.
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