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PS4 'Drive Club' Vs Real Life: I'm Better At Racing In Real Life

07/10/2014 10:46 BST | Updated 07/10/2014 10:59 BST

I didn't think I was a bad driver.

(This is British for, 'I reckon I'm a great driver'. I've never crashed and I've always imagined that in another life I would have made a really good project for some wealthy oligarch's vanity F1 team.)

So it was with this utterly warped perspective on my own driving ability that I trudged through the appalling October weather to Surrey, for a go on Sony's flagship social driving game, 'Driveclub'.

But that wasn't all. I was also there for a go on the real thing.

Mercedes-Benz World in Weybridge provides just that opportunity. Essentially a mini theme-park for Top Gear fans, it has a range of tracks and 'experiences' designed to let you test some of the best Mercs in the world.

I immediately took this opportunity as a way to find out which I was better at: racing in real life or racing on a video game. As I discovered, real life doesn't come with any driving assists.

mercedes benz weybridge

I arrived at the venue and we were promptly split into four 'crews', our driving would be scored both in the real world and in the game and the winning team would get a certificate along with the right to be pretty smug.

I was in the team that would be driving the real cars first: this was not part of my plan as the weather had taken a decidedly large turn for the absolutely cack, and I was pretty sure it'd all end in tears.

Despite this mild anxiety I not only ended up being the first into the wilderness but also the first in the most-powerful car we'd be driving today, the C63 AMG Black.

mercedes c63 amg black

Those last two words 'AMG Black' are significant, it denotes the extreme tuned version of an already tuned AMG car. It's almost as though AMG's top designers went to a bar, got really drunk and just decided to make the car again, but entirely out of space craft parts.

Turns out that driving a car made entirely of NASA off-cuts is actually pretty tough, especially when there's a professional touring car driver who's also called Tom sitting right next to you watching your every move.

And yes, it wasn't my finest moment. I spent much of my time on the wet circuit facing literally the wrong way, and apologising profusely to anything and everything for my ineptitude.

Eventually I accepted I was never going to be the new Button, and headed back to the centre, frustrated.

I figured that at this point I'd be far better at Driveclub than driving in real life, I mean for starters I'm in a social game that's designed for everyone to pick up and play but for a select few to truly master. What can go wrong?

driveclub c63 amg black

I immediately picked the in-game C63 AMG Black, it may have crushed me in real life but now was the time that I would master the animal and prove that once and for all I could drive the car that gives Jeremy Clarkson bad dreams.

driveclub mercedes c63 amg black

Well it turns out that's impossible as well. The car was twitchy, impossible to launch well from a standing start and almost always flying towards a giant boulder. The results were, well, not great.

driveclub mercedes c63 amg black

I decided to try another car instead, the slower more humble Mini Cooper JCW 56. This was far easier to control and while I still managed to remove most of the paint I was pleased with my result.

By the end of an hour though it became clear that while Driveclub is certainly shaping up to be a beautiful game, it's sadly still a bit too realistic for me to even hope of becoming a pro.

We'd reached the end of the afternoon and I'd given up all hope and being considered 'good' at either real life driving, or make believe driving. It was at this point that one of the team wondered if we wanted to just have a bit of a zip around in the cars again, have some fun and make use of the track.

Why not? We had some time left and there were plenty of other cars to drive. Perhaps it was just the C63 that was the problem, maybe if I tried something that wasn't currently considered so fast it could be an F1 Safety Car.

With this new found optimism I chose what I thought would be the safest option, Mercedes' newest three door hot hatchback.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

mercedes a45 amg

The A45 AMG is a £40,000 2.0-litre 'family car' on steroids. It sounds like a Nordic god stubbing his toe and drives faster than a cheetah on speed. At 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds it's actually only slightly slower than the C63, and manages to cram in a boot and some space for two seats in the rear.

It was a revelation, there was no screeching, no sliding and more importantly, no boulders.

As I plummeted round the track in this car I listened to the new instructor (who wasn't called Tom, alleviating the pressure) and was soon doing something known as 'steering through acceleration'. Which is to say that I was no longer steering into the corners but using acceleration to steer out of them, it's a fantastically difficult thing to do and requires you having the faith to focus your sights on the end of the corner before you've even started it.

I was easily distracted and at various points would panic and revert back to 'normal driving' but by the fifth lap I was actually driving faster than I had been in the game.

Why?

Well for starters there's the ever-impending fear of death that comes with real-world driving, it forces you to be absolutely exact in your actions. In Driveclub you can theoretically drive faster, but driving faster doesn't mean driving better with the chances of you over-shooting a corner or just loosing it being much higher.

By the end of 30 minutes with that three-door force of nature I had come to the surprising conclusion that while there are some people that can make the transition from racing games to real life racing, for the rest of us, it's the real thing that'll teach us to be better in our games.

Nothing promotes discipline like the fear of actually dying. Not something Playstation should implement in Driveclub, perhaps, but something to think about.