Project CARS is as much a racing game as it is a passionate celebration of all things automobile.
Make no mistake, there is a lot of racing in Project CARS. In fact, it’s the best racing game I’ve played in years that doesn’t involve nitrous, rocket launchers or Spiny Shells of any colour. London based Slightly Mad Studios, who were once at the helm of Electronic Arts’ “ambitious” SHIFT games, have now found themselves a publisher in the form of Bandai Namco, who’ve taken a chance with the promise of a racing simulator unlike any other. Project CARS appears to have delivered on that promise for the most part, but it’s not without its flaws.
Gentlemen, start your engines
It’s clear right from the get-go that Project CARS is all business. Fire it up, and you’ll find yourself behind the wheel of a Le Mans Prototype screaming through the first straight in Dubai’s Autodrome circuit. As you get a feel for the game’s controls and somehow make it through a few corners without spinning out thanks to the immensely helpful guiding race line intended to help driving sim amateurs such as yours truly, you can’t help but notice the crisp visuals, realistic sound, the smooth 60 frames per second gameplay and ridiculous attention to detail. It certainly helps when the difficulty in a game like this is so scalable to accommodate both casual players looking to drive a few laps as well as petrol heads.
Then there’s the tremendous freedom in terms of course and car selection (all of which are unlocked right from the beginning), as well as customisation options which let you tweak tire pressure, brake temperature and cooling, and tuning options that will make any car enthusiast drool. Head over to the game’s forums and you’ll be able to download custom tuning setups for each car, circuit and weather conditions and share yours as well. However, my only complaint would be that the car collection feels limited compared to other games. With several manufacturers conspicuously absent (there’s not a single Ferrari, for instance), there’s a strange sense of restriction, despite the game’s sandbox approach to gameplay.
This doesn’t mean that there’s not enough to sink your teeth into –with 110 courses in 30 different locations and a car collection that features a mix of different classes including Supercars, Karts, Retro Touring, Le Mans Protypes, Modern Open Wheel, Road Cars, as well as exotics such as Furious 7’s Lykan HyperSport (free DLC), there are enough vehicles to drive and master. It’s just not as extensive as Gran Turismo or Forza’s lineups.
Life in the fast lane
While playing solo, you can mess around in general activities such as time trials, free practice or race weekends; Project CARS’ core single player experience remains tucked away in its Career mode. By removing traditional character progression from the equation, CARS will let you jump straight into any category, championships or series. Fancy yourself an endurance driver? Star with Le Mans. Want to follow in Schumi’s footsteps? Prove yourself in a Kart first. Progression in CARS is entirely tied to your own sense of accomplishment. Having said that, the AI will offer you contracts and send you invitations for special events and such, but you’re not going to be gaining XP or unlocking cool stuff on your journey. The game attempts to simulate the racing world you’re in with fan feedback, news, faux magazine articles and such in an attempt to add to the atmosphere as well. This sort of approach to the career mode is both appealing and off-putting depending on the sort of player you are.
Playing online in Project CARS could yield one of three results. In the first scenario, you’re in a friends-only lobby with a bunch of guys or gals who are looking to have some fun. You mix it up, pick a bunch of different cars, crash into every corner, bump into each other, and end up proudly with a DNF. Then there’s the serious lobby, chalk full of dedicated players who each own a Logitech or Thrustmaster wheel, follow race discipline, don’t overtake unless an explicit opportunity presents itself and set lap times that are likely to end up on online leaderboards –champagne cork-popping to top it all off. Then there’s also the public online lobby that ends your race in the first corner. Project CARS, when played as “intended”, can deliver a special racing experience, but like in real life, mileage may vary.
It’s strange that we live in a time where racing games themselves have so many sub-genres. Game makers are still trying to find the balance between realism and accessibility, often getting stick for incorporating difficulty scaling. Project CARS, I would argue is a game that does enough to keep all interested parties happy from a gameplay and design philosophy standpoint. Its solo play can feel lacklustre, but it is fully capable of delivering a special racing experience when it counts. It’s also possible to spend your entire time with the game tuning cars and checking lap times at Catalunya or attempting to race a 250cc cart against a Caterham Superlight R500 in the Nurburgring. You’d be surprised at the results.
Be the first to leave a review.