Absolute Drift originally launched back in 2015 for the PC before arriving on PlayStation 4 in 2016 with a Zen Edition subtitle. Described as a “driving game like no other”, now Xbox One users can get in on the action. The question is, is this a fun game? Whilst it does indeed offer a fresh take on the genre, there’s really nothing outside of beating your own score that will drive this experience forward. The game comes without any story whatsoever, instead relying on replay value and repetition in its place. Unlike most racing games, Absolute Drift: Zen Edition isn’t about high speed and quick thinking, it’s all about control over both your vehicle and the environment, which is something that’s simplistic to get to grips with, but much harder to master.
Visually, the game borrows the same plain and clinical theme as Race the Sun or SuperHot. That’s not a bad thing by any means because it sets a very relaxed mood for what lies ahead. Your viewpoint is top-down, which gives you a solid line of sight in almost everything that you do. Obstacles are marked bright red, with your tyre tracks scorching black lines as you move around each location. This design choice alone makes it easy to fully grasp exactly where you’re coming from and where you’re going to go, which for a drifting game, is something that you’ll need to heavily rely on in order to make it through. Needless to say, the developers clearly have a winning formula when it comes to how Absolute Drift looks, it’s just a shame I cant commend the rest of the game quite as much.
Absolute Drift does well at feeding you the basics of play via some effective yet short tutorials. Control over your car is simple, being that you only need to tap your brakes and manipulate the steering to feed your vehicle into a drift. It’s a very straight forward system, and one that always feels fair. You never collide or fall short of that elusive perfect drift without feeling like it was entirely your fault. Should you gently turn, counter-steer and pull back some speed? Or throttle the speed and aggressively turn? Getting the angle that’s just right is something that’s going to take heaps of practice, regardless as to what car you feel most comfortable with. Here is where the experience will either make or break those that invest in the game.
Despite the focus on drifting, you main overarching objective is to gain as many points as you can. With that being said, it’s every bit as irritating to lose your multiplier regardless as to why it happens. This game is all about risk vs reward, but for any game that houses such a feature, it really should be fun regardless as to where you rank or how well you come off. Unfortunately, I couldn’t honestly say that I was having any fun at all with Absolute Drift, as opposed to just going through the motions. To progress in this game, you’ll need to unlock new worlds. This is achieved by completing set tasks that are dotted around each world. When you complete all of your missions, you’ll be rewarded with a new world to traverse, but again, it never truly feels as exhilarating as I suspect was intended.
Missions can range from jumping over drops, weaving between obstacles, and many more. You’re never forced into taking on a specific task at any given time, leaving you free to cherry pick which missions you want to try out first, before taking on the rest. I found it more enjoyable to just rally around the environments and observe what the developers have set out for me to achieve, which hardly speaks favour of the overall package. You can select from a small portion of vehicles, each of which feel unique in their own way. There’s also the option to edit them, but this tends to be cosmetic differences only, which is a big kick to the teeth.
Absolute Drift supports leader-boards, which adds more replay value if anything. The ability to reset your progress is also present, which will allow you to take on all of your tasks from scratch. There’s certainly some appeal to this game, and the unlocks you can work towards are certainly worth the time you put in, but for me, it just didn’t leave a lasting impression. Much like Race the Sun, Absolute Drift is a game that too heavily relies on the patience of those that pick the game up. I think the inclusion of online multiplayer and possibly a map editor would have been fantastic implementations, and certainly something that would make the game all the more enticing. As it stands however, regardless of the solid gameplay, the clean visuals, and the decent soundtrack, Absolute Drift is a game that intends to separate the wheat from the chaff. Whether you stick around long enough to find out what you are, depends entirely on how much of the ‘same old same old’ you’re willing to endure.
Absolute Drift: Zen Edition is an okay game that dishes out some challenging moments. It doesn’t offer much in regards to content, but there’s certainly enough replay value within to justify the impressive price tag. The clean visuals are upheld by a solid soundtrack, which is further bolstered by the decent and reliant gameplay. With that being said this game hardly does much to captivate you, but instead relies on how much of ‘the same’ you’re willing to put up with. Chasing unlocks and seeking out new worlds is fun enough in its own way, but to do so you’ll need a hell of a lot of practice and a good deal of patience. Absolute Drift will either frustrate you or entice you, there’s just no middle ground. Make of that what you will.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.