Every photo mode since DriveClub just hasn’t nailed all the angles.
I’m a photo mode fiend; I love them. Stuff your procedural generations and your always-online; I can say with certainty that the best feature to appear this generation is the photo mode. Brand new titles are launching with them, they are being retrofitted into remasters, and some new titles put them in after the fact with patches.
Of all the games I’ve played with a photo mode though, no other has been as well thought-out and optimised for visual clarity as the photo mode in Evolution Studios’ DriveClub. The simple way that the photo mode optimises itself for better visuals when the camera is still has bizarrely been absent from other photo modes.
Once you stop moving and are looking at a still frame, framerate is no longer an issue, so DriveClub gets rid of some jaggies, sharpens up the textures, and takes time to render the image better before you finalise your screenshot.
It’s more than just that, though. No game has the same ease and control of aperture and depth of field as DriveClub. It’s so intuitive in how it communicates to the player exactly where the focus will be, and what areas of the image will be out of focus. Once the player stops making changes DriveClub loads that focus. Altering the aperture and focal distance with clear definition has been lacking in other photo modes.
The sheer level of freedom that DriveClub included in its photo mode has yet to be fully replicated in any other title. Uncharted developer Naughty Dog seems to fixate its photo modes around the playable character, and you have to constantly wrestle with the controls to get shots of anything else. Yes, you can hide all characters, but the camera still behaves strangely. Other photo models ares often too concerned with Instagram-style filters and borders at the expense of decent camera controls.
At times, some shots taken in DriveClub can genuinely look like real life – clichéd, but look at them! Rain on the bodywork of vehicles is especially exemplary. The tracks themselves also can look beautiful. And what would an article about a specific photo mode be without countless photos — as many as my editor allows (All of them! – ed) — I took within the game itself?
These beautiful photo modes keep coming, too. The very recent Shadow of the Colossus remaster has a photo mode, as did Assassin’s Creed Origins. It gives players a very personal way of experiencing the art direction of a game, or spotting the little touches put in by the game’s designers that usually go ignored by players. Give me more photo modes in all the games, please, while I continue to search for one that tops DriveClub’s iteration.
All images: Jack Bampfield via DriveClub