Drift21 Early Access Review
Source: Steam

Drift21 is currently in Early Access, and I’ve had the chance to have a tinker with the game as well as the new addition, the BMW E46. With the right tuning, this thing is a beast.

Note that this is an Early Access and while I’ve given scores to these before, I’m not putting down a score at this time while it’s still being developed.

ECC Games S.A. are very hands-on with the updates and even in the title cards for the game encourages to get in touch with any comments or criticisms so the game can only get better.

Drift21 The Early Years Access

Driving games are one of my favourite genres. From racing games to car theft sandboxes, driving emulates my love of the real thing, but it’s great to get behind the wheel of a vehicle out of my price range and take for a spin.

But they are sometimes two-a-penny and they’ll either take the path of fully licensed like a Gran Turismo simulation or made-up stuff such as Ridge Racer and arcade-like play.

Drift21 is like a rally game (shameless link, WRC 9) in that it’s a little bit different to conventional driving and requires quite a bit of finesse, depending on the game. There’s another drift game heading this way soon, Inertial Drift, which is an arcade approach, but Drift21 is more on the realistic side.

Drift21 - Interior
DAY – INT – MAZDA. Source: Steam

It’s not a game about racing or championships but time trials, perfecting your line and executing the ultimate corner and sustaining it. The controls are a standard setup and drifting is intuitive in that you sometimes rapid-fire on the accelerator, letting go completely to straighten up, then flaw it once more.

As it’s essentially a trickshot type game, only driving, the focus is on your skill. You’ll have minor milestones to complete per challenge such as how many drift points you can achieve, beating the time on the clock for the appropriate trophy and then getting through the speed trap that’s on par with the course – easily the most challenging thing at first.

First impressions weren’t that good. The frame rate was choppier than a 1970s Golden Harvest movie, the car ambience was annoying, and I wasn’t that impressed with the graphics for a PC game.

I switched to a controller, automatic gears (yes, I’m one of those) and dropped the frame rate down to 30 to be safe. Drift21 is the first game I’ve had to do that on my reasonably equipped PC. 

After these changes, the improvement was instant – notably the shifting of gears and controls, and there weren’t any noticeable changes in the presentation. I started to enjoy it, probably because I could now drive properly.

Grease Monkey

Drift21 is one part drift racing, and the second is a mechanic simulator. If I had known about the second part, I might have been a little put off as my mechanic skills pretty much extend to touching the engine when hot and kicking the tyres if it doesn’t start.

Surprisingly, the mechanical side of things is intrinsic to having the best setup. No doubt you’ve had a tinker with the settings on one of the Need for Speed games or looked under the hood in Gran Turismo and felt that qualified you as an expert, but look under the hood in one of these cars, and it’s like buying a complete kitchen from Ikea without the plans.

Drift21 - Engine bay
A Rubiks Cube of sorts. Source: Steam

The garage space is pretty large and houses every tool you could imagine, yet will never use, and depending on how many cars you have, they’ll be on show here. 

In the Early Access, you start with a Mazda MX5 – my favourite car back in the day with Gran Turismo, but after being introduced to the almighty Skyline, this was a car I wanted to ditch straight away.

The line up of available cars is relatively small at the moment, but a good selection. As a BMW driver ‘in real life’, I didn’t opt for that as a car I’m still genuinely thinking of buying, the RX8, was up for grabs. Boom! I bought it then quickly found out the hard way that there was no way I’d get it on the road without some grafting, rather, drifting.

You see, you’re responsible for building the engine; selecting parts from a catalogue and manually installing them into the car. It’s not a plug and play set up as you put in the engine block, then the filters, hoses, gearbox and so on. It’s educational, and besides enjoying this part, I was learning too!

But, the RX8 had to wait, so it was back to the MX5 and some experimentation. 

When you install the parts, you then need to do some testing to see if it’s roadworthy and get all manner of graph results and tips on what parts to swap out. It’s all about marginal gains. 

Driftwood

Applying my new-found knowledge to the setup and taking the car back on the tracks, I quickly found that the engine sound was much better, the handling more to my liking, and, something to be impressed about – completing the objectives. With each new win, I could buy more parts for the car.

Drift21 - Beemer
BMW’s rule! Source: Steam

By now I’m hoping you’ve read more than three posts on the site to know that I’m a slave to customisations and Drift21 doesn’t disappoint. While you can’t pimp your car so it looks ludicrous, the paint jobs are excellent, you can customise the number plate to say things like M1 NG3 or 4RS3, buy various body kits and even change the gear knob, steering wheel and handbrake cover.

It’s quite an impressive game so far and managed to turn things around once I got a bit more into it. Of course, it won’t be to everyone’s liking as this is exclusively drifting. Additionally, the mechanic side is a little bit overwhelming to non-engineers, and it might slow down your progress to hopping back to the wheel for a hoon.

Regardless, Drift21 is out now in Early Access in Steam with the new BMW added to the roster and the awesome RX8. Watch this space; I may still get one…

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