Driveclub Bikes was a DLC that we knew anything about before this week. Evolution Studios managed to keep a tight lid on it, so it's simultaneous announcement and release came as quite a surprise. It's not a small cosmetic DLC either, but rather a full blown add-on with lots of new content.
The main stars of this DLC are the bikes, and there's a dozen of them, from manufacturers such as Ducati, Kawasaki, Yamaha, KTM, Honda, Bimota, MV Agusta and BMW. Most of them are locked at the beginning, and to get them you have to race with specific bikes. A dozen might sound like a decent amount, but unfortunately all of the bikes are nearly identical in their stats, and they're all pretty much maxed out. On the other hand, you don't have to think about a bike's characteristics when choosing one, instead you can just jump on a ride built by your favourite manufacturer right from the start (or, at least, once you've unlocked it).
The driving model is quite arcadey, and it's near impossible to fall over when driving normally. The rear wheel stays glued to the road, even when you hit full throttle on a tight turn on wet asphalt. The only times we managed to fall over were when we hit a wall too fast, when making an overly ambitious wheelie attempt, or landing awkwardly after a jump. Basically you don't have to worry about falling off, which might be a bit of a let down for fans of bike racing games.
Evolution Studios has taken some time over the visual side of this DLC, and all of the bikes look great. They have also paid attention to the new camera angles, and there's a crazy sense of speed when racing from the driver's perspective. When taking corners the world turns on its side and your head seems to be just inches away from the ground. We couldn't focus on driving from this view, but luckily there were other alternatives.
What's also nice is that the new bikes offer up a fresh experience on all of those worn out tracks. Even driving in India felt nice because of the physical characteristics of speeding through the twists and turns on a motorcycle. It takes time master the requisite amount of lean, so basically you'll have to relearn all the timings for all of the corners, which breathes new life into old content.
There's no drifting on the bikes, and therefore there are no drifting competitions either. They are replaced with skill competitions. The idea is based on the one we know from drifting, so the tracks have their own areas where you'll have to pull stunts. There are wheelies, stoppies (braking so that the back wheel doesn't touch the ground), and driving through checkpoints fast enough.
There's also a brand new campaign with over forty new races. You'll have to collect stars to unlock new races, but now there's an extra twist to it; some of the stars can only be opened in conjunction with others. E.g. in one of the skill races we had to hit a certain speed during the competition and finish with maximum points. If you don't succeed in both of these, you don't get the star at all.
Driveclub Bikes integrates well into the main game. All the experience points collected on it count towards your driver and club levels. There are also new accolades for bikes, which appear alongside the old ones. The ideas are familiar; you'll have to drive enough on a specific manufacturer's bike to gain levels, pull a kilometre of wheelies and so on. There will be also daily online challenges from Evolution, but as we write this they haven't appeared yet.
All in all Driveclub Bikes is a nice add-on, one which offers something new, even for veterans. Racing with motorcycles takes a bit of time to get used to, and the cornering is a bit tricky at first, but they make even the most tired tracks feel like new again. Plus the new campaign has so much to see and do that it takes many hours to collect all of the stars. However, if you want to experience a realistic motorbike simulator, this is probably not going to be for you.