Project CARS Review

Being responsible for titles such as Need for Speed: Shift and Test Drive: Ferrari Legends, Slightly Mad Studios is no stranger to racing games. Project CARS however aims to be a high calibre racing simulator catering to the most hardcore of racing fans and is easily their most ambitious project to date. With storied franchises such as Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo already well and truly established, the hardcore racing simulator is a genre that is a tough nut to crack for newcomers – especially on a limited budget. So how does Project CARS stack up against its rivals? Let’s find out shall we?

The first thing to note about the title is that the game is unique in that everything is pretty much unlocked from the very beginning. Unlike Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo players are not forced into a career mode and players are not required to spend hundreds and hundreds of hours unlocking new cars, equipment and races.  This is a fresh approach to content delivery and upon unlocking everything almost immediately, because of genre norms it almost feels as though the title lacks focus. This may irk some who have been conditioned to accept such things, until they realise just how liberating being able to choose any car in any tier of racing on any track of their choice at any time really is.

All manner of racing is available from the lowest tiered go karts all the way up to road cars, GT racing – heck you can even take part in a full 24 hours Le Mans race should you desire. There are 110 different race tracks to experience (although some are variants of others) and scores of different cars and modes to play around with. The game supports up to 35 cars on the track at once, making for some intense work your way through the field action and a dynamic weather system that will constantly keep players on their toes.

Project CARS takes its tilt at being a hard-core racing simulator quite seriously and its rigid control schemes, realistic car handling, damage modelling and unpredictable weather effects make it a game that will feel incredibly challenging to begin with for those fans of Burnout, Need for Speed or GRID who are used to a more arcade-style racing experience. Whilst there are several difficulty options and assists that can certainly tone down the game’s hard-core nature, it can still pre pretty tricky until you get the hang of it.

It wouldn’t be a proper racing simulator without letting you play around under the hood and Project Cars gives you a plethora of options to do just that. The menus features a tonne of sliders that allow you to adjust all manner of your current car’s attributes from tire pressure to downforce, wheel bias, suspension, differential and a range of other aspects I had to consult Google about to decipher (I’m really not a car tuning type of guy!)). Being able to tune specific attributes of a car and then test driving it to see the difference that it makes, whether it actually benefits players in terms of handling and lap speed is one of the lures of the game and boy it can be addictive if you get stuck into it.

Project CARS features several modes to keep players entertained. The offline mode features racing staple of time trials, practice, single races or a career mode. The open approach to gameplay means that all tiers of career mode are available from the start and that players can start multiple careers in multiple racing tiers at once. Whilst the game lets you do pretty much anything you want, there are three fairly challenging goals to work towards over a career and they  include: Zero to Hero which require players to work their way through the profession by starting in the lowest tier of racing and moving through the various tiers to reach the best available in the fastest time possible, Defending Champ on the other hand has players attempt to win the same championship title over three consecutive seasons and Triple Crown challenges players to achieve championship victories across three different motorsports in a short timeframe.

In addition to the fairly run of the mill offline modes, Project CARS also features a fairly robust online element that is broken down into multiplayer in which you can create and participate in events built around any combination of races, tracks and tiers on offer, complete with lobbies, qualifying sessions and practice runs if you so desire. There are also community challenges in which participants take part in a time trial event during which the playing field is even – everyone gets the same car and track and competes for the best overall time. The online is a great deal of fun and it handles the visuals, players and various settings admirably with minimal lag and maximum fun.

Presentation wise Project CARS looks sublime. The various automobiles and the various tracks in the more than 30 different world locations on display are gorgeously detailed with some excellent modelling, particle effects and lighting. The real draw however are the fantastic weather effects that take your immersion to another level – rain will spray up onto your windshield from the tires of cars in front, fog will appear and burn off over time, the various angles of sunlight reflecting through the car’s windshield at different angles depending on cloud cover – it’s all very pretty, incredibly well done and really adds a great deal of authenticity to the experience.

Unfortunately, Project CARS has its fair share of issues. The game is prone to the occasional framerate issues, the initial lack of focus can be a little intimidating due to the massive number of options and the absence of any real ‘easy’ difficulty will lead to a lot of frustration for those not patient enough to learn the ins and outs of the various cars and tracks. I also encountered an issue in which after winning a race, in the post-race results the game had changed its mind and decided that I had come last, needless to say expletives flowed freely at that point. I found however, that the biggest issue with Project CARS was the AI drivers, these fellows can be incredibly aggressive and in a game where the slightest mistake can cost you dearly, being forced off the track multiple times by the overzealous AI is really not conducive to fun.

Project CARS is essentially a racing enthusiast’s racing car s play set. There is enormous potential for fun to be had through the game’s various tiers of racing, an open-ended career and tonnes of customisable racing both online and off. As Project CARS is a good racing simulator it is definitely not for everyone. Without spending some solid time getting to know a little about the tracks, how to tune your cars and to adjust your style of driving to compensate for weather conditions, Project CARS is an exercise in frustration. If you commit some time, prepare for races and learn how to tinker with the car’s innards to bring out your vehicle’s best performance and it is an experience that is as rewarding, or more so than any other racer out there.

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