Drifting is cool, there’s no argument about that. It doesn’t matter whether you’re watching Tokyo Drift or pulling off an exceptionally difficult corner in Forza Horizon 3, there’s nothing quite like it. Developers must understand the appeal too, seeing as a handful of drift-specific games have been released on Xbox One, such as Absolute Drift. Drift Zone welcomes you to the roar of 500 bhp engines as it tasks you with taking part in two types of competition in an attempt to win some cash, in-game of course. The big question here is, is Drift Zone worth your time? Or is it merely another cheap cash-in on a game that never really took off during initial release elsewhere? Sadly, it’s the latter.
Drift Zone comes with a total of three modes to take to, all of which are as simple and straightforward as needs be. Circuit Drift is likely where the most time will be spent. Here, you drive through a range of checkpoints and complete laps while drifting, gifting you with more time based on how well you perform. Sprint mode on the other hand is described as ‘classic drift’, which is to say that you will have a single lap to achieve the best score that you possibly can. That leaves us with the Freestyle mode, a place players can go to sharpen their skills without worrying about time restrictions.
Regardless as to what mode you dive into you’re still going to suffer from the same result. Drift Zone is an ugly game that houses poor animation and effects. The game looks like an early Xbox 360 game and doesn’t pack nearly enough detail and design to stand out, or even stand up for that matter. The tracks are diverse enough to hold your interest and the content you will be getting in return for the price is matched fairly well, but that means very little when the game just isn’t interesting. Drifting is suppose to be exciting and rewarding, but Drift Zone only manages to nail one of those aspects, irregularly might I add.
There were times in which I felt like I had achieved the impossible, and moments like this are arguably where Drift Zone shines at its brightest. It’s unfortunate however that these moments are often fleeting. Sure, there’s nothing quite like finally nailing a stage that you’ve been playing time and time again to beat a high-score or earn those fabled three stars, but it just never feels exciting. It doesn’t help matters that Drift Zone doesn’t really relay the sensation of drifting. Instead you’ll simply tail wag your car to keep chaining points, which almost entirely removes that aforementioned energetic component.
This form of play isn’t exclusive to a single mode. In fact it applies to all three of the modes. Circuit Drift is the best mode on offer in terms of structure, because here you at least feel like you’re making progress due to the extended length and the different requirements needed to complete each run. Some tracks will have you simply drifting from A to B, whereas other tracks will throw in cones or offer a wide open area in which you have to stick to the indicator marks on-track. Sprint is almost entirely the same as Circuit Drift, but as mentioned above, is restricted to a single lap. Once again you will simply chain up your points and constantly tail wag your car until you reach the end.
It’s as basic as a drifting game can be, but with much less innovation and depth when it comes to the fields of play. Players will earn more money as they progress through the game, which can then be spent on new cars and car parts. Mercifully the game does manage to excel when it comes to car customization. Each car comes with presets, but you can indeed go one step further and jazz your vehicle up in a number of different ways. Options include altering the body-kit, hood, rims, spoiler, bumpers, and so on and so forth. There are also several paint options that players can utilize to perfect their look, which is a nice touch. The suspension of each vehicle can be adjusted too via a wide selection of tools, as well as overall tuning to optimize even further.
Drift Zone does come with a multiplayer component but this is limited to local-play only. Honestly speaking, this was a wise choice on the developer’s part. I highly doubt online play would have taken off with the likes of Project CARS 2 and Forza Motorsport 7 still dominating the racing scene. Still, it’s a nice implementation nevertheless, but not something I suspect will help to keep the game alive in the long run. The actual play is decent enough to see the experience through, with intuitive controls and easy to learn mechanics holding up the journey. It’s just a shame that all of this rests upon shoddy visuals and a concept that just isn’t as fun and energetic as it should be. Drifting fans in particular may enjoy this for what it is, but if you’re looking for realism, you wont find it here.
Drift Zone offers up deep customization and a diverse selection of tracks and missions. It’s unfortunate, however, that this rests upon an experience that just isn’t as innovative and exciting as it should be. It doesn’t help matters that the game looks both dated and bland throughout the entirety of play. Drifting should be fun and rewarding, but Drift Zone fails to truly nail those targets.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.