Project CARS 2: review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
  • Players: 1 (offline), 2-16 (online)
  • Site: https://www.projectcarsgame.com/
  • Game code provided by the publisher

If you love the whiff of diesel, and the roar of a car engine as you hurtle round a track, Project CARS 2 is a game designed lovingly for you. The original was a hardcore sim that almost makes Gran Turismo look as arcadey as Mario Kart, and this sequel ups the ante with lots of extra content. Perhaps Project CARS 2 is a little too hardcore for the masses.

The game’s developers Slightly Mad Studios are obviously passionate about cars and racing, and this sequel has an astounding amount of content, with various motorsports featured. From whiny Karts and Touring Cars, to the thrill of the dirt tracks of Rally Cross, there is plenty for avid petrol heads to get stuck into. The original Project CARS was criticised for making it really difficult for console owners without steering wheels to compete, but this sequel gives you plenty of options to alter the handling and controls to whatever you feel most comfortable with. We tried turning on all the aids we could get at the start, as we struggled getting to grips with the controls; but we found that it overcompensated for our incompetence, and basically slammed on the brakes at most corners, like you were sitting beside an extremely nervous driving instructor. Eventually we found settings that felt just right for us and threw away the L plates, and this customisation really helps make the game more accessible for new players; although not for those used to arcade racers.

The Career mode sees you competing in a wide selection of motorsports.

The Career mode has six tiers of motorsports to work through. You can start off at the bottom tier, which is either Karts, Ginetta Juniors or Formula Rookie, and work your way through the ranks of five different disciplines, until you reach the pinnacle of the sport; or you can choose to start at a higher level (up to tier 3.). We started at the Ginetta Juniors, and once you make it onto the podium (top three) at the end of the season, you are then given the option to sign for a team, and choose which of the five motorsports you’d like to compete in. As you rise through the ranks, some of the larger car manufacturers, like Porsche, Ferrari and BMW begin to notice you, and they set up race challenges that, once completed, give you the option to become a factory driver. Invitational Events also open up as you progress through the ranks, and give you even more events to take part in over the five different disciplines.

Dynamic weather adds an extra dimension to the gameplay.

When it comes to the actual driving itself, each car you take control of feels very different to the last, and it can take some time to adjust to your new vehicle – especially if you’re changing motorsports. Dynamic weather also plays a part in adding an extra challenge for racers. A race can start off with a sunny and dry climate, but as clouds gather, and it starts to rain, the extra water on the track makes conditions a lot harder to negotiate. Your car starts to slide around corners, and visibility is reduced with spray from other cars, making it hard to see what’s ahead on the track. It’s essential that you avoid the puddles and stick to drier areas of track, as hitting pools of water really affects the handling of your car (can you say “aquaplaning”?). The weather conditions add an extra tactical element to the race, as they can vary from sunny, misty, and hazy to rain, thunder, and even snow. These dynamic conditions along with a day and night cycle on tracks like Le Mans make the races seem more alive.

Day and night cycles add atmosphere, and look rather pretty too.

As well as the Career mode, there is a Custom Race option that lets you test out the various cars and tracks that the game offers. You can also setup an online race with your friends and you can see how your race times compare on the online leaderboard. Online multiplayer works well, with no obvious lag; and even though one of our friends had a wheel, we managed to compete admirably with them. You can also tweak a race to Truman Show levels, and have four seasons in one race, along with day to night cycles on any of the tracks. Project CARS 2 also has a new system called Competitive Racing License, that tracks players stats and matches them up accordingly to like-minded players. This helps prevent players who just want to cause carnage, rather than race, from ruining your game. For the ultra competitive, the game also features esports facilities like broadcasting and streaming.

Now we know what those Ice Road Truckers felt like!

While the game plays well, there are a few glitches and annoyances that hamper the experience somewhat. At times cars went through each other like ghosts, which was off-putting (and no, these weren’t time trial ghosts). The AI can sometimes lose the plot, with your opponents losing control and vehicles littering the track like a demolition derby. At other times you really struggle to keep up with them, as they glide effortlessly around the track as if they’re on rails. There was also a time when during a qualification round, we were pretty happy with our lap times, and were sitting pretty in first place on the grid – but as soon as we went to the actual race, we found ourselves in last place, being beaten by some ridiculous times. Also, if you crash into a barrier or wall, it takes ages for the controller to register that you want to reverse, which can see you drop down the leaderboard pretty quickly. Most of these problems could be fixed by patching, but at the moment they are annoying and frustrating.

Project CARS 2 is a love letter to petrolheads, with enough content to keep you happy for hundreds of hours. The option to tweak almost any setting is a welcome one, and the dynamic weather effects add an extra dimension to the gameplay. However, the current bugs and AI problems do hamper the experience on occasion. We can say though that under the hood there’s a beast of a racing game here, with some very tense racing that can be punishing, but oh so rewarding.

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Written by Kevin M

I’ve been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70’s. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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