Drive Any Track: as fast and furious as your music collection

Drive Any Track featured image

The future! A world composed of bright lights, dehumanising urban density and, if Drive Any Track is any measure, some frankly ridiculous transport networks. But worry not, because even if they’re intricate deathtraps for commuters, they’re pretty bloody good for yoot racers fond of musical time trials.

So, yes: Drive Any Track is the latest in a line of games using music to generate the courses on which you race. In contrast to this field’s big dog – Audiosurf and its follow-up, of course – the gameplay spin is that it’s an arcade racer rather than a high-speed version of Columns.

Gameplay is kept pretty simple: there’s no acceleration or braking, just steering, and weaving from side to side doesn’t effect your velocity. Progress is only hindered by striking obstacles, bashing into the side of the course or – if a jump goes particularly badly – falling off the side of the track and waiting for Lakitu to rescue you*. Taking such knocks means you ‘lose sync’ with the song, and the further behind you drop the lower your score multiplier becomes. Doing particularly well and overshooting the current point in the song earns you a nice fat bonus multiplier. This can feel a bit arcane in places, in that I don’t fully understand the calculations Drive Any Track is performing to cover for my ineptitude – and it must be doing something because I usually seem to finish tracks around the same time as the song ends. It may be that your vehicle’s speed is subject to some rubber-banding, but I don’t particularly mind when the end result is fun.

And fun Drive Any Track is. That was clear to me early in my first session when I realised, whilst driving my third song, that I had a bit shit-eating grin plastered across my face. It’s hard not to like a game which makes you smile like that, eh?

People with more musical minds than mine will probably be able to make more of the way that Drive Any Track‘s “MEGA”** technology works. To this end I’ve included a few videos so that you can check out how Drive Any Track handles a few different songs from my collection; I’ve recorded myself playing a Nordloef chiptune, a song by Welsh alt-rock band Future of the Left, and a couple of punk tunes courtesy of Dillinger Four and Leatherface. Tempo changes are particularly cool in the FOTL song; meanwhile the chiptune is full of big sweeping melodic corners that are great for drifting. The tracks for both punk songs are fast and difficult, full of unexpected surprises. I’ve also found that more sonically constant songs – including, surprisingly, metal-inflected hardcore punk like recent Propaganghi – make for easier, more sedate tracks, but I’ve not uploaded any of those as they’re less fun to watch.

At present the game’s far from perfect, but then it’s far from finished. Drive Any Track launched on Early Access just last week and final release isn’t expected until October this year. That said it’s playable, fun and largely problem free – at least in my experience thus far***. It does seem to think my favourite genre is dance, which is… not true. I have played a song from Daft Punk’s Homework, so perhaps that’s why it’s confused. To be honest, I’m not clear on how it’s identifying genre at all – it may be something clever, or it may just be scraping ID3 tags.

I’ve also run into a few minor physics and collision oddities, but each has been in fairly esoteric circumstances. You can see one or two in the videos below if you watch closely.

Drive Any Track screenshot

At present I’m in the dark as to how different the various available cars actually are. Certainly the handling feels a little different between some of them, but in the absence of any stats or description it’s tough to say with any confidence – particularly as I’m usually changing vehicles as often as I’m changing songs. Hopefully this will become more clear as the game progresses through Early Access. The game’s website suggests that different vehicles are associated with different genres, but I’m not sure what if any actual meaning that has in the context of the game.

I’d also give my eyeteeth for a better way of selecting songs; anyone with a sizeable MP3 collection is going to become irritated with Drive Any Track‘s awkward file browser very quickly. It’s usable, but it’s easily the least slick and most objectionable part of the game as it stands.

As development continues we’re promised some polishing to Drive Any Track‘s visuals, better integration of “music linking / purchasing” (the latter makes me shift a little uncomfortably), a survival gameplay mode (not sure how this will work but perhaps pitting you against a playlist?) and, most excitingly to me, some new stunts (I love the barrel rolls at present and would like more cool tricks like that to pull off).

So: a bunch of problems still to address, and a few criticisms made, but the core experience of Drive Any Track is bloody brilliant. It’s already a game that’s made it onto my party playlist; what better endorsement for a music racer could there be?

Two final notes for you. Firstly, I played Drive Any Track with an Xbox controller. You can use the keyboard if you like, but I’ve not tried it. The last PC racing game I played with a keyboard was probably Screamer 2 in 1996. It’s not the best (using a keyboard for racing games, that is – Screamer 2 was great). Secondly, at present MP3, WAV, OGG and AAC/M4A files are supported. I don’t think other formats like FLAC, vinyl or cassette tapes are covered. Developers FOAM have currently neglected to mention supported formats on their Steam page.

‘Nuff said. On with the videos!

 


 

* Lakitu does not appear in this game :(

** What does it stand for? I don’t remember and don’t care. It’s just MEGA, generating tracks in a world that looks like TRON.

*** Obviously, this review will be updated if I find otherwise further down the line.