Project CARS 2 Review – A new benchmark for racing sims

Platforms:
PS4Xbox OnePC
Released:
September 22, 2017
Publisher:
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer:
Slightly Mad Studios

Review

Prepare to make room for the arrival of Slightly Mad Studios’ amazing and likely to be hugely successful game, Project CARS 2.  Many of you are soon to be spoiled as Project CARS 2 boasts exciting new features, an insanely well developed game engine, and a whole lot of amazing visuals to boot.  If you’re a GT fan, prefer the LMP’s, or even if you fancy a Drift or Rally – this game has got you covered.

It’s a large feat to be able to deliver so many race styles, with a plethora of beloved cars available at your controller, and so seamlessly, into one game. But Project CARS 2 has managed to do it. Dedicated fans and even those racing sim-curious need to prepare their racing helmets and brake fluid as Project CARS 2 is about to take the end of this year by storm.

“Ed, aren’t you tired of racing sims?”  I hear many of you ask. No, not at all, and Project CARS 2 is a perfect example of why. It has done what all great racing simulation games need to do these days to stay relevant, and that is to break the stigma that “it’s just another racing game”.

All the fan favourite track types and conditions are here, but with some innovation and different iterations to spice things up. With a career story-line that challenges you to work your way from a rookie to a pro, Quick Play for those quick hits of racing goodness, and online multiplayer options which include an eSports hub that keeps you up to date with all the happenings in the eRacing world, you’re well taken care of as a driver right from the start.

I knew right from the get-go that Project CARS 2 was going to be the exciting and amazing experience I hoped it to be. I knew this to be true because my non-gaming partner (who was sat on the couch) was in awe of the graphics and realness presented on screen as I cornered hair pin turns during my debut race. I couldn’t have agreed more.

The benchmark for quality graphics continues to push insane boundaries and Project CARS 2 is that new benchmark. The look of the cars you can access and drive is a big win. I couldn’t fault the amazing effort and detail that went into the car models, and furthermore the surrounding locale, changing weather and even the grass and gravel detail was reputable! I was constantly spinning out during my debut test of Project CARS 2 but I didn’t care because it looks so good! I was hooked and was lost to the world of racing again.

The positives I experienced weren’t limited to the amazing graphics of the game either. Given I had just spent a lot of time building my career on F1 2017, I found myself a little burned out on qualification racing after an initial stint in setting up my driver and going for a spin in the first practice race. So I decided to spend my initial hours of gameplay driving the cars that capture my interest and imaginations in Quick Play. My first stop was the LMP cars; known for their famous 24 hour race at Le Mans – and an all-time personal favourite. It took me mere moments to select the Ferrari 333 SP and find the Le Man’s track so I could start running laps around the 12.8 KM circuit. Hitting top speed on the Mulsanne Straight in the Ferrari 333 SP felt great, almost as if you were there.

“…the control and feel of the cars and the insurmountable level of effort that went into detailing and replicating the complex engineering of each vehicle…”

Needless to say my experience with Project CARS 2 has certainly reignited a deeper interest in racing car simulation, not simply due to the amazing visuals, but due to the control and feel of the cars and the insurmountable level of effort that went into detailing and replicating the complex engineering of each vehicle to elevate the overall racing experience.

A small but amazing detail in the game is that Project CARS 2 allows its racers the ability to manage the different sides (Left and Right) of the car’s tuning separately or in sync. I found this feature extremely handy for race tracks which had more turns which placed more pressure on one side of the car than the other. Being able to manage this prior to races certainly shaves microseconds if not seconds off your race time which as we all know is the difference between winning and losing. The attention to detail here is commendable if not beyond!

A bit of frustration I have with Project CARS 2 is that the default settings pre-loaded in the game assume that the driver is well experienced. The AI is set to a higher difficulty setting than I thought necessary for new players and the car controls don’t have any of the assists a new player would need to get use to the game. I felt like this was a major mistake because to turn on the driving assist, brake assist and steering assist (which is highly recommended for new players) is all but mandatory and well and truly hidden in the plethora of settings options in the options menu.

I spent a lot of time swearing at tight corners and barricades as my car aquaplaned or brake-locked into them. I also found the default settings for brake, acceleration and steering on a handheld controller to be very savage. Again, not at all friendly to players not familiar with racing sims. Even players like me who are familiar and comfortable with the genre will probably need to adjust these settings to find your comfort zone. It took quite a while to find settings I was comfortable with and I still don’t feel like they are exactly where I need them to be to get the most out of my car during races. This made me stay away from the online gameplay because it’s bad enough losing to AI when you’re learning to control new cars with different physics engine, and it’s even less fun when you lose to real life players because you’re not comfortable with the controls.

That being said, I found very little else wrong with Project CARS 2.The main menu is a little laggy (but that could also be because my PS4 is almost 3 years old now) and if you’re planning on downloading Project CARS 2 rather than purchasing the disk be aware it’s a 60gb download. You can launch the game once it reaches 16gb and race a Lamborghini in Quick Play while you wait for the rest of the game to download though, which I thought was a nice touch, but you can’t do much else until the rest of it has installed on the PS4.  For anyone more serious about their racing simulations I would also highly recommend using a steering wheel set-up as I think Project CARS 2 is far better optimised for this style of gameplay.

The Bottom Line

I can’t really get past the beauty of this game. For many games out there, graphics aren’t a make or break component of the game. But I’ve since developed the view that for racing games, it’s very important, as is the performance and feel of your drive. Project CARS 2 does not under deliver on either of those features and I think fans should prepare for an absolutely thrilling car racing experience.