Can’t Drive This PC Review
Can’t Drive This is a co-operative game where one player builds the track the other players are driving on in real-time and it has undergone some massive transformations over its five-year life. Starting out as a 72-hour game jam effort, the developers continued to work on it as they submitted it to (and were accepted by) Steam Greenlight, way back in 2016. It wasn’t too soon after this success, however, that they realised the codebase they were working on wasn’t going to be able to support the project long-term. It was something they had made in a rush and had subsequently piled more and more on top of over time – a classic house of cards project. ‘Spaghetti code’, we like to call it. Since then they have completely rebuilt the thing from the ground up, giving themselves a chance to do it the right way – making it scalable and extendable, should they ever want to do so in the future. Still, I can’t shake the fact that even if it had been rebuilt several times (which may have been the case), there is just so little to the game that it feels more akin to a jumping off point than a full release.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge co-op fan. A fan of local multiplayer in general, actually, which is what Can’t Drive This is meant to be; the ability to play online is mostly there as a bonus. There’s nothing quite like huddling up with some friends and bashing out a few games, whether it be in someone’s living room, an empty University classroom, or a local bar. There’s a sense of camaraderie and closeness that can’t be replicated online, no matter how much you want it. This game simply doesn’t fit that scene. The hook isn’t deep enough to keep players engaged for very long and everything it has to offer can be experienced in mere minutes. The lack of a competitive side or interesting goals for teams to strive for makes every game feel identical – keep building and driving on the repetitive pieces until eventually somebody makes a mistake or RNG-sus decides to bestow too many crappy tiles to the builder one after the other, causing the whole thing to collapse in on itself.
Well, to be fair, there is a competitive side to the title – a capture the flag mode is said to be available. The problem is I never got to play that as it requires four people, which for some reason the online doesn’t allow. Instead, online only pairs you up with a random so you can play the two standard modes (without any way to communicate vital information). So, to play what is likely to be the most hectic and exciting mode means you’re probably going to be breaking current COVID-19 lockdown rules…
The other modes are the main Yardage – how far can you make it whilst also trying to break off to the left and right to collect ‘holocubes’ for bonus points, and a level-based thing about collecting an increasing number of holocubes in an open area whilst drones try to stun you with EMP mines. The latter is a slight variation on the main concept and the single player mode is actually exactly Yardage, with the twist being that the player must switch between building and driving on the fly. That’s it really. It’s all about working together and communicating to try make it as far as possible, high-score style. It’s just not much fun after the first hour or so and there’s absolutely nothing to pull players back in. There’s not even leaderboards for anything outside of multiplayer Yardage!
There are different tiles that the builder is randomly given to create the track with; some of them not being ideal for the current situation, meaning the players must make-do with what they have available; and some of them being completely unusable at any time, such as screen-covering fog tiles and giant turbines that just don’t really work the way they should. None of them are particularly interesting and the lack of decent variation is pretty sad. There’s not a single loop-de-loop, spinning disc, or power-up tile. And because of the awkward way the builders’ top-down view is locked to the vehicles, it’s only possible to build a few spaces ahead (even less so to the left and right), meaning the drivers never get to floor it like they want and instead have to start making small donuts to keep from exploding, which is what happens if you move too slowly. It’s just not designed very well. It’s a fantastic concept but was clearly never seriously pulled apart or updated from the original 72-hour game jam version, besides adding a few more misguided tile types.
If only there was more to it. Currently it feels like a tacked-on bonus mode for a real driving game. The only progress to be made is in the form of aesthetic unlocks and they are all rewarded by accomplishing the same task over and over – have four near-misses with obstacles in a single life as the driver, or by catching the car as it falls off the track as the builder (although this may also cause the car to become glitched into the floor, ending the run). There aren’t even any other maps to mix things up, it’s all the same skybox. The lack of content is deeply disappointing, but the worst part of all is how interesting the idea is. I want to like it. I want it to be better. I wish it was just being released into early access in its current state so it could be greatly expanded on with the help of the community but it looks like this is all we’re going to get. Hopefully we’ll hear some good news from the team in the future or see the approach used elsewhere. Until then, however, I think I’ll leave Can’t Drive This uninstalled.